What Are Strawberry Legs?

Legs that have a dotted or pitted appearance to the skin

Strawberry legs refer to a dotted or pitted appearance to the skin of the legs, which can happen for a variety of reasons. The tiny black bumps, which resemble the seeds on a strawberry, are skin pores and hair follicles clogged with dirt, bacteria, or oil. Fortunately, they are usually harmless and you can get rid of strawberry legs with a few tweaks to your shower regimen and shaving routine. 

Young woman shaving legs

PhotoAlto / Jana Hernette / Getty Images

Strawberry Legs Symptoms

The main symptom of strawberry legs is tiny black or red dots on your legs. The bumps are sometimes raised as well. Strawberry legs are usually not accompanied by pain or itching. If you’re experiencing skin irritation that is uncomfortable, it may be due to another skin condition. In that the case, schedule a visit with your dermatologist to identify the cause of your symptoms. 

What Causes Strawberry Legs?

Strawberry legs are not a specific condition but a symptom. They can be caused by several different skin issues. Clogged skin pores or hair follicles place you at high risk for developing strawberry legs. When the clogged pores or hair follicles, also known as comedones, are closed, they’re called blackheads and create the appearance of strawberry skin. When you open the comedones, such as by shaving your legs, the pore or follicle is open to the air. Once air mixes with the oil inside, it oxidizes and turns black. 

Shaving

Shaving can open comedones, exposing the dirt, oil, and dead skin cells to air. Shaving with an old or dull razor can sometimes cause strawberry legs. It often leads to razor burn, which can appear as strawberry legs. Dry shaving or shaving with a dull razor can also cause folliculitis, an infection of the hair follicles. 

Folliculitis

Folliculitis occurs when the hair follicles in your skin become infected. It usually appears as tiny red bumps, but they can darken and resemble strawberry legs. Folliculitis is caused by damage to the hair follicle that allows dirt and bacteria to enter. This damage can be caused by shaving, waxing, wearing tight clothing, or rubbing the skin.

It’s not uncommon to see folliculitis after spending time in a hot tub and after working out, especially on occluded areas like where your skin is covered by a bathing suit. Our skin is more prone to damage when it’s wet, so when your swimsuit rubs against the skin in the water, folliculitis can occur on any areas on the skin covered by the suit. 

Clogged Pores

When the pores on the skin of your legs are clogged, your skin will naturally produce more oil. When you shave and open your pores, the oil is exposed to air and turns black. This then leaves you with tiny black dots all over your legs. Those with thicker hair or larger pores are more at risk for developing strawberry legs from clogged pores. 

Overly Dry Skin

Overly dry skin cannot cause strawberry legs on its own, but it does put you at higher risk. Dry skin tends to be more sensitive and is more likely to develop razor burn or irritation. This could lead to folliculitis and the appearance of darkened pores. In addition, when your skin is dry, it shows comedones more easily. 

Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris spread over the trunk - stock photo


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Keratosis pilaris is a benign skin condition that causes tiny red bumps to cover the skin. Sometimes referred to as “chicken skin,” keratosis pilaris usually appears on the upper arms and thighs. The tiny red bumps resemble goosebumps and are caused by plugs of dead skin cells. When the thighs are covered by these tiny red bumps, they can resemble strawberry skin.

Keratosis pilaris is a genetic condition and usually does not require treatment. If the bumps become itchy or irritated, a dermatologist may be able to help. 

Folliculitis
  • Infected hair follicles

  • Sometimes red rings around the bumps

  • Can be itchy or painful

  • Resembles pimples or pus bumps

  • Caused by an infection

Keratosis Pilaris
  • Plugs of dead skin cells

  • Tiny red bumps

  • Appears as goosebumps or “chicken skin”

  • Look like small pimples

  • Genetic condition

Diagnosis

Experiencing strawberry legs does not usually involve a trip to the doctor. This symptom is relatively common and can usually be treated with home remedies. If you are concerned about the appearance of your skin and feel there may be something more serious going on, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. Your doctor will be able to examine your skin, take a detailed history, and possibly obtain a skin sample to provide you with a diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Treatment

To get rid of strawberry legs, it’s helpful to focus on the underlying cause. 

Swap Out Your Razor More Regularly

Shaving with an old or dull razor can easily lead to strawberry legs because of razor burn and folliculitis. If you have been experiencing strawberry legs, a great first step to tackling the issue is switching out your razor more frequently since this is an easy thing to do that can make a big difference. Using new razors can also help prevent strawberry legs from reoccurring in the future. 

Use Moisturizing Shaving Cream

It’s best to shave once your hair and skin have been softened in the shower. Using a moisturizing shaving cream can help prevent skin irritation. Start by washing your skin with a gentle soap or body wash. Once you have washed away dirt and bacteria, apply a layer of shaving cream; look for labels that say “for sensitive skin.” Avoid any products that have dyes or fragrances. 

Exfoliate Your Skin Regularly

Regularly exfoliate your skin to remove dead skin cells that could clog pores and hair follicles. Use a gentle exfoliating method like a washcloth or loofah and moisturize afterward. 

Moisturize Your Skin Consistently

Moisturize your skin regularly to prevent dry skin and irritation. Apply a gentle moisturizer after showering, especially if you just shaved. This will help lock in moisture. Skip any moisturizers with self-tanning lotion in them; they tend to make the pitting appearance more pronounced. 

Try an Epilator

If you have been experiencing skin irritation from shaving or waxing, an epilator may be the answer. Because shaving and waxing can lead to folliculitis, an epilator is a good choice for those prone to strawberry legs. It’s an electrical device with mini tweezers that rotate and pull hair out from the root. While it sounds painful, it is usually well tolerated and only needs to be done every two to three weeks. 

Shave With the Grain

Shaving with the grain refers to shaving in the direction of your hair’s growth. Make short, light razor strokes down your legs. Shaving with the grain is less irritating to the skin and can prevent common causes of strawberry legs like razor burn and folliculitis. Shaving less frequently may also help.

Use a Chemical Exfoliant

Chemical exfoliants are able to remove dead skin cells without scrubbing your legs. Even gentle physical exfoliation can damage skin, so chemical options can give you the benefits without the downsides. Exfoliants such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid dissolve dead skin cells on the skin’s surface and wash them away when rinsed with water. These products can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to use sunscreen if you’re going out after using chemical exfoliation. 

Consider Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is a professional, long-term hair removal option that is becoming more popular. It uses lasers to deliver small amounts of radiation to hair follicles. Laser therapy may be a good fit for an individual with fair skin and dark hair since the laser targets dark colors. 

Prognosis

Strawberry legs refer to the symptom of tiny black dots appearing on your legs. For many people, strawberry legs are easily managed with at-home treatments and changes to their shaving or skincare routine. For those with darker or thicker hair, bigger pores, or darker skin pigmentation, the condition may need more aggressive management. Professional treatment is often the most effective option and saves time as well. Never hesitate to reach out to your dermatologist if you’re concerned.

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Article Sources
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  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Acne-like breakouts could be folliculitis.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin: overview.

  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Keratosis pilaris: diagnosis and treatment.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Treating acne? Is it time to see a dermatologist?

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Keratosis pilaris: Self-care.

  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hair removal: how to shave.

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