When the sun shines and the days get warmer, it can be a joy to cast off those jeans or leggings and go bare legged. But if you notice a change to the skin after you ‘defuzz’ to get ready to bare those limbs, then you may be suffering a case of ‘strawberry legs’.
This is a condition where the skin on your legs become dotted or has a pitted look that resembles the seeds on the surface of a strawberry skin. And it can be caused by several things. We take a deeper look into what are strawberry legs, how they may be caused and what you can do to get rid of those unsightly marks, once and for all.
What are Strawberry Legs?
‘Strawberry legs’ is the name used to describe a distinct appearance on the legs that follows the pattern of hair follicles in the skin. This dotted or pitted pattern can be created when the leg pores become enlarged due to ingrowing hairs, trapped oil, bacteria or dead skin. Strawberry skin legs can also have a dark appearance to the pores, dues to the fact that when air reaches the trapped oil, it can oxidize and turn a darker color.
The appearance of strawberry skin legs can range from fine dots to more raised lumps, creating a bumpy texture on the surface of the skin. As a result, the skin of the legs can take on the appearance of the outside of a strawberry, which is pitted with tiny seeds.
What Causes Strawberry Legs?
There is no one single reason for the strawberry leg look, as it is a term that covers several different conditions. These conditions can also be further exacerbated by dry, dehydrated skin.
The main causes of strawberry skin legs include:
- Razor burn
The simple act of shaving your legs can lead to razor burn and bring on the strawberry legs look, especially if you are using an old or dull razor, shaving your legs dry or not using a moisturizing shaving cream.
- Clogged pores
Just like your face, your legs are covered by a myriad of tiny pores which allow sweat, toxins and oil to escape through the skin. And these pores can also get blocked by bacteria, oil and dead skin, to cause a comedone, aka a black or whitehead. Blackheads occur when the air oxidizes the oil in a clogged pore, and can give the appearance of strawberry skin, especially if you have thicker body hair.
- Ingrowing hairs
Ingrowing hairs are another localized cause of the strawberry look on your legs, particularly around the shins, calves and top of the legs and bikini line. Ingrowing hairs are caused by the hair growing back in on itself after shaving or waxing, leaving a bump at the follicle, which often goes red.
When a hair follicle gets inflamed or infected, often as a result of hair removal methods such as shaving or waxing, you may see a condition called folliculitis develop. Ingrowing hairs can also lead onto the condition as can friction caused by close fitting clothes against the skin. Folliculitis appears as small bumps or blisters scattered on the surface of the skin and can also develop scabs if left untreated.
- Keratosis pilaris
Typically appearing on the skin of the upper arms as well as the thighs, keratosis pilaris is a relatively common condition that presents as tiny pimples reminiscent of goose bumps but are harder and rough to the touch. The cause of this condition is an accumulation of the protein, keratin, mingled with dead skin cells.
It is a harmless condition that nevertheless can cause the unsightly strawberry legs appearance. Dry to the touch and often itchy, keratosis pilaris is more common during the winter months or if you swim regularly and can be treated by keeping your skin regularly moisturized.
How are Strawberry Legs Treated?
In general, strawberry legs are not serious, and are more of an unsightly nuisance than a serious health risk. However, if there are signs of infection or the condition doesn’t respond to home remedies, you may need to see a doctor or skin specialist for treatment. Otherwise, most cases of strawberry legs can be dealt with at home or at a beauty salon.
The best ways to get rid of strawberry legs are to:
Exfoliate your skin
Regularly exfoliating the skin on your legs to remove any dry and dead skin will help to keep them smooth and reduce the appearance of strawberry legs. Gentle exfoliation will also help to prevent ingrowing hairs by enabling them to easily break through the skin and so avoid those strawberry dots. Exfoliation can be as simple as using a loofa or washcloth to slough off any dry skin or you could use one of the many body exfoliator products and scrubs that are on the market.
Try over-the-counter treatments
For a more thorough skin exfoliation, you can also opt for an over-the-counter treatment which contains salicylic or glycolic acid, which can work wonders on really dry and flaky skin. As a liquid treatment, you simply apply and wipe these treatments across the surface of the skin, to dissolve dead skin cells on the surface, then rinse and gently dry, before applying your moisturizer.
Professional treatment options
For more serious cases of strawberry legs, where folliculitis, infection or inflammation is present, your doctor can prescribe oral or topical antibiotics to get to the root cause. Fungal infections can also lead to the strawberry leg look, and in this case, you may be prescribed an antifungal treatment, such as a lotion or cleanser.
There are also cosmetic treatment options for stubborn or extensive strawberry legs which must be conducted by a trained professional. These include:
- Electrolysis – this permanent hair removal method uses a fine needle to pinpoint low levels of electricity at the hair follicle, to prevent it from growing and leading to an ingrowing hair.
- Laser removal – for larger areas of skin, laser treatment can permanently remove leg hair without damaging the skin. Laser therapy works best on people with fairer skin and dark hair and will require between two and six treatment sessions for the best results.
How to Prevent Them
As with most things in life, prevention is better than the cure when it comes to strawberry legs and there’s plenty you can do to stop those pitted marks from returning. And it can all be done as part of your regular beauty routine.
Review Your Shaving Routine
Shaving with an old, dull or harsh razor will more likely lead to a strawberry rash due to razor burn or folliculitis so if you start to notice those tell-tale strawberry seed marks after shaving, it’s time for a re-think. A good idea is to swap out your razor for one of the sensitive skin razors that are kinder and help to reduce skin rashes due to the pull and tug of shaving.
Always shave in the direction of the hair growth and not against the grain, as this can lead to rashes and irritated ingrowing hairs. And never shave your legs dry or without a lubricating shaving cream.
Swap Your Razor for an Epilator
If your strawberry legs tend to flare as a result of shaving, then it is worth trying out an alternative way to remove body hair – an epilator. As a handheld tool that grabs and plucks out the hair by the root, epilators are an effective way of getting rid of strawberry legs as they remove hair cleanly, reducing the chances of ingrowing hairs plus leaves no razor burn. And you only need to do it every couple of weeks, instead of every couple of days, giving your skin plenty of time to calm and recover between hair removal sessions.
Moisturize Your Legs
As well as exfoliating regularly, you should also moisturize your legs daily to keep them smooth, happy and hydrated, especially after shaving. Choose a nourishing, gentle and skin-kind moisturizer, with no preservatives or harsh ingredients as these can actually inflame and irritate the skin.
And if you do have strawberry legs, it might be a good idea to skip your self-tan routine for a while until it clears, as self-tanning lotions can actually make those strawberry seed marks look more obvious.
Strawberry legs are more of a cosmetic nuisance than a medical emergency, but they can ruin your look, especially if you like to show off your pins. But knowing what may be causing those ugly leg bumps and then taking steps to heal and then prevent strawberry legs is the best way to manage and even get rid of them for good.
But in some cases – where you may have thicker, more stubborn body hair, darker skin pigmentation or an underlying infection – then professional treatments, including antibiotics or permanent hair removal, may be the best way to go.
So, for the general management and treatment of strawberry legs, reviewing how you remove body hair, always moisturizing and seeking professional or medical help where needed means you should be able to banish that red, pitted skin for good.