You may have noticed small, dark spots on your legs, especially after shaving. Maybe you’ve heard the term “strawberry skin legs.” What exactly is strawberry skin — and is it a cause for concern?
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What Is Strawberry Skin?
Strawberry skin isn’t a medical term. Rather, it’s an umbrella description for the appearance of brown, black, or red spots on your skin that resemble strawberry seeds. They typically appear on the legs.
The “strawberry” spots happen when your hair follicles or pores get clogged. Dirt, dead skin, oil, and bacteria can all clog pores. People with any skin color can get these clogged pores, but the lighter your skin, the darker they appear.
The good news is that the conditions that cause strawberry skin usually aren’t serious. Sometimes, strawberry skin will get better on its own, with no treatment. And many times, strawberry skin will clear up with home treatments.
What Causes Strawberry Skin Legs?
Several different skin conditions can contribute to the appearance of strawberry skin. They are:
- Ingrown hairs. These happen when the hair grows back incorrectly after shaving, plucking, or waxing and gets trapped under the skin. It’s more likely to occur if you have coarse or curly hair. Ingrown hairs can cause red, often itchy bumps.
- Acne. The dark spots on your legs may be like blackheads on your face. Breakouts happen when dead skin and oil get trapped in your pores. Hormonal changes, sweating, and wearing tight clothes can contribute to acne anywhere on the body.
- Folliculitis. In this common condition, hair follicles become inflamed and infected. Folliculitis may start as tiny red bumps that become darker over time. Shaving, waxing, wearing tight clothes, and spending time in a hot tub or pool can cause folliculitis.
- Keratosis pilaris. This common skin condition appears as bumps the same color as your skin, often on the thighs. The bumps are plugs of dead skin cells that can feel rough and itchy. They aren’t harmful and sometimes go away on their own.
- Dry skin. In general, when your skin is dry (especially in winter), it’s more likely to become irritated. Dry skin is also more susceptible to razor burn and infection, which can lead to strawberry skin.
Strawberry Skin Treatment
Home treatments are usually enough to get rid of strawberry skin legs. You should:
- Moisturize with a cream or ointment instead of a lighter lotion. Creams that contain jojoba oil, glycerin, lanolin, or shea butter are especially effective. Apply the cream when your skin is still damp to lock in moisture.
- Exfoliate with a clean washcloth, loofah, or body scrub. Exfoliating gets rid of dead skin particles that can clog pores.
- Apply products with salicylic acid. These products come in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription strength. Salicylic acid softens and loosens dry skin and can unplug blocked skin pores.
- Use mild, unscented bath products that won’t further irritate your skin.
- Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it hard after a bath or shower, which can irritate delicate skin tissue.
- Avoid hot baths or showers, which can dry out your skin.
- Don’t pick at or scratch your skin. If you have a skin infection, you might cause it to spread.
- Use a clean, sharp razor every time you shave. Use a creamy shaving cream, and shave with the hair growth, not against it. Don’t leave your razor in the shower, where it can pick up bacteria in the moist, humid environment.
- Consider permanent hair removal (by laser or electrolysis) instead of shaving. Talk to your dermatologist about the pros and cons of these procedures.
When Should I See a Doctor for Strawberry Skin Legs?
If you’re not seeing results from at-home treatments, you should make an appointment with a dermatologist. If your strawberry skin is due to an infection, they can prescribe an antibiotic to clear it up. Of course, it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist once a year for a complete skin checkup as well.
American Academy of Dermatology, Keratosis Pilaris: Diagnosis and Treatment, Link
American Academy of Dermatology, Hair Removal: How to Shave, Link
American College of Dermatology, Folliculitis, Link
NHS, Ingrown Hairs, Link
Healthgrades, How to Get Rid of Strawberry Legs, Link
National Library of Medicine, Salicylic Acid Topical, Link
The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.