12 Dermatology Terms Defined By Dr. Pimple Popper

Viewers of Dr. Pimple Popper's YouTube channel won't be surprised that their favorite dermatologist—whose real name is Dr. Sandra Lee—is taking the world by storm. Not only does she have an explosively fun game, her SLMD Skincare line, and a new season of her TV show, she also just released a book, called Put Your Best Face Forward: The Ultimate Guide to Skincare from Acne to Anti-Aging. Dr. Lee stopped by the Mental Floss offices to define 12 dermatological terms that you'll often hear her discuss with her patients.

1. Comedone

This word, which comes from Latin, once referred to what people in the 18th century believed were little worms in the skin. Now, Lee says, a comedo or comedone is "the medical term for a blackhead or a whitehead. It's essentially a pore that's clogged with dirt and debris, dead skin cells, oil."

2. and 3. Blackhead and Whitehead

A closeup image of blackheads on the nose.
iStock.com/artorn

Open comedones are blackheads and closed comedones are whiteheads, according to Lee. "The fact that a blackhead is open means that it's more exposed to oxygen, so it oxidizes, it turns darker—that's why it looks black," Lee says. "But a whitehead has a fine layer of skin over it so it stays unexposed to the sun. It stays a whiter color."

Whether you have blackheads or whiteheads, Lee says, the treatment is similar. One route is extraction: Blackheads can be removed at home, with the aid of a comedone extractor, which is Lee's preferred method; you can get the one she uses here. "It's a Schamberg type extractor and I use it because I think it does create less trauma,” she says. "I can go around the area and just extract the blackhead like that." Whiteheads can also be extracted, but because the skin must be pierced, Lee advises having a dermatologist handle that—if you try to do it yourself, "you can traumatize your skin," she says.

There are also products that will eliminate blackheads and whiteheads—look for ones that contain salicylic acids or retinol. You can find products containing those ingredients in Lee's SLMD Skincare line.

4. Hard pop

Viewers of Lee's YouTube channel will be familiar with this phrase, "a term that I sort of made up to describe pops or procedures that I do that are a little more invasive or a little harder, a little more advanced, maybe," she says. "I usually use it to describe the surgeries we do, something that requires a scalpel, maybe some stitches, there may be some blood involved." Hard pop compilation videos on her channel feature excisions of cysts, for example.

5. Soft pop

On the opposite side of the dermatological spectrum from hard pops are soft pops. "A soft pop is usually something that involves a comedone extractor or even your finger," Lee says. Think things like blackheads. "There's usually no blood or knicking or using sharp objects. And those are usually the most popular [videos] and really the gateway drug, so to speak, of popholicism."

6. Pilar Cyst

According to Lee, this type of cyst—which is also called a trichilemmal cyst, and is filled with keratin—occurs on the scalp 90 percent of the time, but "they can occur in any hair-bearing part of the body," she says. "It is derived from a hair root sheath, or part of the hair follicle, and it's a common growth—it can run in families, so it has a hereditary basis to it. This type of pop is really kind of cool to see visually because the wall or the lining of this cyst is thicker. It's almost the consistency of an olive." Because of this, Lee says, pilar cysts typically pop out whole, making them satisfying to see—"and satisfying for me as a surgeon, because I know I got rid of the whole thing."

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7. Epidermoid Cyst

As with pilar cysts, epidermoid cysts can occur wherever there's a hair follicle (though it comes from a different part of the follicle). They're the most common type of cyst, according to Lee. "It's essentially just a balloon under your skin," she says. "Your skin sort of gets tucked under and it's now shedding into this closed space. That's why it grows, because there's just macerated keratin under there." On her YouTube channel, Lee describes the texture as having a "'cheesy' consistency, and there can be a pungent odor."

While pilar cysts have a thick wall, the lining of epidermoid cysts is thinner. Because of this, Lee says, an epidermoid cyst "tends to break easily, and more commonly gets inflamed or infected, because if you traumatize it and it breaks under the skin it elicits a reaction from your body. Your body tries to destroy this foreign body under the skin." This also complicates matters for her, because if she leaves any bit of the cyst behind, it can recur.

8. Dilated Pore of Winer

In her book, Lee calls the dilated pore of winer "the king of the comedones." They are, she says, basically giant blackheads. "It's dilated to such an extent that it changes the topography of the skin," she says. "They're particularly satisfying to see because they're usually huge and you can't imagine someone has something this size on them, and when you remove them they often come out entirely whole."

9. Keratosis pilaris

An image of keratosis pilaris.
iStock.com/IHUAN

Colloquially called chicken skin, Keratosis pilaris is "a form of dry skin, it's a form of eczema," Lee says. The condition is characterized by tiny, red or brown colored bumps that typically appear on the upper arms, but it can also show up on the face, the butt, or the front of the thighs. "People don't like the appearance of it, and the feeling of it, because you see these little bumps, it's like your hair follicles are more pronounced—it's very bumpy. It's almost like a keratin plug, a skin plug there," she says. "It's really a self conscious thing—you don't want to wear things that bare your arms or your shoulders because you feel like people can see it, and also when people rub up against your skin, it doesn't feel soft, it feels prickly."

To get rid of the bumps, Lee says, you should use products that exfoliate your skin. "My skincare line, SLMD Skincare, has products specifically designed to help exfoliate the skin and to help improve this feeling, this roughness that you feel," she says. You can find them here.

10. Lipoma

In the season two premiere of her TLC show, Lee removes 68 lipomas from a patient's forearms. "A lipoma is a collection of benign fat cells in that space in us that has fat, it's called the subcutaneous space," she says. "I say it's as if one fat cell decided to divide upon itself and create its own little utopia under the skin, because a lot of times it's sort of walled off and separate and looks different than the regular fat under the skin."

According to Lee, lipomas are benign, and "they don't have to be removed, but they are bothersome to people because they can grow to pretty big sizes and really be a source of embarrassment," she says. Her patient had familial multiple lipomatosis, which causes many lipomas to form. "She was very self-conscious about it, and that’s very understandable. Because even though they're benign, they're pretty disfiguring," Lee says. "It makes you realize how often we expose our forearms. Most of us don't even think about it, we take it for granted."

11. Steatocystoma

Fans of Lee's channel will know steatocystomas thanks to her patient Momma Squishy, who has a number of these cysts, which form in the sebaceous glands. According to Lee, steatocystomas aren't as common as pilar or epidermoid cysts. "These cysts have oil glands lining the wall of the cyst, so these are particularly satisfying to pop because they kind of come out like melted butter," she says, also comparing them to linguine noodles. "The sac is very thin-walled but very strong and so you can usually pull it out with a tweezer and forceps and take it out in its entirety."

12. Milia

An image of milia under the eye.
iStock.com/vchal

These tiny, keratin-filled cysts are "pretty common," according to Lee. "They kind of come out like little pearls. They're really pretty. They look like little birdseed, almost. We mostly get them around our eyes because it's a very thin-skinned area. They're deep enough under the skin that you can’t really squeeze them. You definitely have to nick the surface of the skin, which is again something that I don't advise a person does. They should see a dermatologist to do it. And it's nice to get them removed because they can drive us crazy. You can feel this little pebble, this little ball under your skin."

13 Words That Changed From Negative to Positive Meanings (or Vice Versa)

grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images
grinvalds/iStock via Getty Images

One of the main reasons for the existence of slang is to keep the outsiders from understanding the insiders. Making up new words is one way to achieve this, but it’s not the only one. A favorite trick for the young to play on the old is to take an established word and completely change its connotations from bad to good. In recent decades we’ve seen sick, wicked, ill, and bad recruited to the “hearty positive endorsement” side. While some would lament the decline of language suggested by such wanton disregard for word meaning, this kind of meaning switch is nothing new. Here are 13 fine, upstanding words that long ago switched from negative to positive (or vice versa).

1. Fun

Fun was first a verb meaning "to cheat or hoax." It came from fon, an old word for "fool." It still retains some of that sense in “make fun of,” but now also means "a merry good time."

2. Fond

Fond also goes back to fon, and it once meant "foolish and weak-minded." It came to then mean over-affectionate in a negative, cloying way. Now it’s positive, but at root, being fond of something is basically being a fool for it.

3. Terrific

The root of terrific is terror, and it first meant terror-inducing. It then became an exaggerated intensifier (“terrifically good!” = so good it’s terrifying) and then a positive term all on its own.

4. Tremendous

Like terrific, tremendous has its roots in fear. Something tremendous was so terrible it caused trembling or shaking. It also became an intensifier (“tremendously good!”) before it went all the way positive.

5. Awe

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, awe originally referred to “immediate and active fear.” It then became associated with religious, reverential fear, and then to a feeling of being humbled at the sublime. While awful retains the negative sense, awesome took on the positive one.

6. Grin

To grin was to bare the teeth in a threatening display of anger or pain. It then became the term for a forced, fake smile, before settling into an expression of happiness.

7. Smart

Smart was first used in Old English to describe things that cause pain. Weapons, nails, and darts were smart. Shakespeare’s Henry VI has the phrase “as smart as lizards’ stings.” It took on connotations of sharpness, quickness, intensity, and, through smart, pain-causing words or wit came to stand for quick intelligence and fashionableness.

8. Egregious

Egregious was a positive word that turned negative. It used to mean "eminent and distinguished," but because people started using it sarcastically, it came to mean "bad and offensive."

9. Sad

Sad started with the meaning of "satisfied or sated," also sometimes "steadfast" or "firm." It then went from meaning "serious," to "grave," to "sorrowful."

10. Smug

Smug first meant "crisp, tidy, and presentable." A well-dressed person was smug in this way, and it later came to mean "self-satisfied and conceited."

11. Devious

Devious comes from de via, "off the way." It once meant "distant" or "off the road." It took on the meaning of wandering—there were devious comets, devious minnows—and, because to do wrong was to stray from the right path, it eventually came to mean "scheming and deceitful."

12. Facetious

To be facetious was once to have elegant, gracious, high style, and to be jokey and witty. It came from a Latin term for playful humorousness. It is still connected with a type of humor, but with an unproductive or annoying connotation.

13. Bully

Bully used to be a term of endearment for men or women. A bully could be a good friend or a sweetheart. It then came to stand for a swaggering braggart and than a coward who picks on others.

This list was first published in 2015 and republished in 2019.

22 Weird Jobs From 100 Years Ago

Metal Floss via YouTube
Metal Floss via YouTube

Before everyone started working in tech, people actually had their choice of eclectic and strange vocations that put food on their old-timey tables. Discover what lamplighters, lectores, and knocker-uppers did back in the day as Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy runs down 22 Weird Old Jobs from 100 Years Ago.

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