Here's How to Treat Strawberry Legs, According to Dermatologists
Every time we shave our legs, we eagerly anticipate the smooth, hairless skin we're going to lather with lotion afterward. But sometimes, getting rid of hair leads to a different issue: little dark spots, aka strawberry legs. Dream of smooth skin: ruined. Particularly if you have a light skin tone, you might know the dots we're referring to here.
What are strawberry legs?
"Strawberry legs is an umbrella term for the appearance of noticeable follicles on our legs seen as red or brown dots," dermatologist and Bio-Oil partner Anna Karp, M.D., tells HelloGiggles. "It's often used to describe a common skin condition called keratosis pilaris."
However, just because the term is coined "strawberry legs," keratosis pilaris can also appear on the upper arms, cheeks, back, and butt, according to dermatologist and founder of KPAway Anar Mikailov, M.D.
So, what are those little dots that resemble strawberry seeds covering your skin? "When the hair follicles get clogged with keratin (dead skin cells), they can appear darker and raised on the skin, making your legs look like a strawberry," Dr. Karp explains.
What causes strawberry legs?
Is it just luck of the draw if your skin is prone to strawberry legs? No, according to board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D.: "Keratosis pilaris is a genetic condition." So, if you've noticed the condition in your family, you might develop it down the line, too. However, Dr. Karp notes that strawberry legs usually get better with age, so it might not be a lifelong condition, fortunately.
Strawberry legs don't just pop up out of nowhere; shaving and skipping exfoliating can bring strawberry legs to the surface. "When hair follicles or pores get clogged with oil, dead skin, or bacteria, these tiny bumps will form," Dr. Jaliman explains. "Shaving and waxing open the hair follicles and allows bacteria to enter and cause infection," board certified dermatologist of Riverchase Dermatology Lucy Chen, M.D. tells HelloGiggles.
How to get rid of strawberry legs:
So, what can we do to kick this unpleasant and sometimes painful skin condition to the curb? Dr. Mikailov admits that there's no guarantee you'll ever completely get rid of strawberry legs. "There will never be a 100% cure, but with time and diligence you should be able to have substantial improvement, at least 50%," he says.
In that case, prevention is key. "Keratosis pilaris evolves with seasonal changes (it's more likely to flare in spring and fall)," board-certified dermatologist Rita Linkner, M.D., tells HelloGiggles. "So, anticipating the flares and targeting them at home is the best way to keep your skin free of these visible bumps that can sometimes look very irritated."
How to prevent strawberry legs:
1. Use proper shaving techniques.
"Reach for a sharp razor and use it on moistened skin, shaving in the direction of hair growth," Dr. Karp advises. "If your razor isn't changed frequently, you can develop Keratosis pilaris where the hair follicles become infected."
Billie razors are touted as some of the best in the biz, offering clean shaves. Plus, the brand's products are Pink Tax-free, which we're all for. This starter kit includes the handle, two blades, and a wall holder.
2. Exfoliate and moisturize.
"Using a body wash with salicylic acid is a great way to exfoliate without scrubbing your skin, which often makes strawberry legs worse," Dr. Karp explains. Dr. Jaliman seconds this notion: "Any lotion with salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent, meaning it encourages exfoliation," she explains. "It causes the outer layer of the skin to loosen and shed. Plus, salicylic acid eases inflammation and unclogs pores."
"This lotion by Glytone contains glycolic acid which exfoliates dead skin and helps with rough, bumpy skin associated with strawberry legs," Dr. Jaliman says of her recommendation.
"At home, I like to recommend patients to use hyper-exfoliating topicals like Rodan + Fields' Micro-Dermabrasion Paste to provide a heavy-duty scrub to even out the surface texture of the skin," Dr. Linkner explains. "The vitamin C and Bisabolol in this product have a great brightening effect on the redness of this skin condition."
"After exfoliating, moisturize with a non-clogging oil like Bio-Oil Natural while your skin is damp," Dr. Karp suggests. "Plant oils are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce redness. If your skin is dry, strawberry legs will be more prominent."
Dr. Mikailov offered his recommendation for the best moisturizer for strawberry legs, too. "Moisturize at least twice per day with a thick coconut oil-based cream," he advises. "One great option that is thick but absorbs amazingly quickly is KPAWAY Organic Coconut Oil emollient."
Strawberry legs treatment:
If you aren't able to prevent strawberry legs from developing, there are some tried and true methods of treatment for keeping the flare-ups as calm as possible.
1. Avoid shaving, waxing, and wearing tight clothes.
"Refrain from shaving or waxing during a flare-up of keratosis pilaris, because they can exacerbate the symptoms," Dr. Chen advises. "Also, avoiding tight clothing and changing out of dirty clothes can prevent the skin from becoming more irritated."
2. Tap your dermatologist.
"For more severe cases, it's imperative to make an appointment with a dermatologist for a more aggressive treatment plan," Dr. Chen says. "This plan may consist of antifungal creams, oral antibiotics, steroids, or in-office procedures like laser hair removal, which can help calm flare-ups since there is no need to shave or wax hair afterward."
Dr. Linkner agrees, calling laser hair removal "the definitive way to eliminate strawberry legs." "Six to eight treatments per month apart will eliminate the textural portion of keratosis pilaris, which is by far the most bothersome issue of this skin problem," she explains.