Can’t Bare Your Strawberry Legs? Causes, Prevention and Treatments
- Strawberry legs are extremely common, affecting millions of women every year.
- The term “strawberry legs” is colloquial and generally describes darkened pores or small bumps at the site of each hair follicle.
- There are several possible medical explanations for this condition.
- Home remedies may work, but in most cases dermatologists recommend laser hair removal as the most efficient and only permanent solution.
Every summer millions of women are reluctant to expose their legs as the skin is covered with darkened pores. “Strawberry legs,” which refers to visible dark spots at the site of each pore or hair follicle, can leave legs with a rough, uneven texture and can be quite difficult to get rid of.
Like countless others, you may have tried some home remedies, lotions and creams in an effort to rid your legs of “strawberry skin.” However, if nothing is quite working and you’re still keeping your legs under wraps, stay tuned.
We’ll discuss which home treatments may work better than others, as well as available clinical options that currently offer the best long-term solutions.
What causes these darkened pores?
Although the visual appearance is relatively consistent, the cause of strawberry legs can vary from person to person.
Strawberry legs is a very colloquial term that can refer to many things — open pores, keratosis pilaris, folliculitis, or razor burn,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rhonda Klein of Norwalk, CT. “Most often it’s actually keratosis pilaris or chicken skin that is common on the legs & arms. Keratosis Pilaris causes keratin plugs, and rough surfaces. Folliculitis from shaving is also very common.”
Keratosis pilaris leads to tiny raised bumps on the skin in dry, rough patches. There’s no itching associated with the condition and while it may be aesthetically unappealing, it isn’t considered a ‘disease’ but rather a basic variation of normal skin.
Some of us are more genetically prone to keratosis than others, and the condition may be more visible on some skin types, depending on one’s natural pigmentation.
» For a more complete guide to getting rid of keratosis pilaris, refer to Zwivel’s in-depth look at keratosis treatments.
Folliculitis, on the other hand, is commonly caused by bacteria or a fungal infection and presents as a patch of raised bumps or even tiny pimples above each hair follicle. Typically, mild cases of folliculitis clear up within a matter of days. More stubborn cases may warrant a visit to the dermatologist.
Folliculitis can also be the result of ingrown hairs from shaving. Individuals with a history of acne or dermatitis are more prone to the condition. In some cases, the pathogenic varieties of folliculitis can be transmitted in poorly maintained hot tubs.
» Take a look at Zwivel’s guide to folliculitis home remedies to see which ones work.
Other common explanations for strawberry legs include open comedones and enlarged pores containing dead skin, oil and bacteria. So, the term “strawberry legs” encompasses a wide variety of conditions that all present themselves with a similar pattern of raised bumps, visible skin pores or black dots beneath the surface layer of skin.
Do home remedies work?
While there are multiple remedies for strawberry legs, they are not all created equal. Their mileage may vary depending on the underlying cause. For instance, if the cause is a stubborn bacterial or fungal infection as in folliculitis, a prescription antibacterial or antifungal may be necessary.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ home treatment but since these remedies are all relatively simple, they’re certainly worth a try:
Exfoliate to prevent strawberry legs
Probably the simplest remedy for anyone attempting to erase their strawberry skin is to exfoliate. Removing the surface layer of dead skin cells opens up pores and discourages the formation of keratin plugs. While there are hundreds of commercial skin care scrubs available, you may opt to use one of the following natural exfoliant preparations:
- Brown sugar, aloe vera & lemon juice
Mix 2 parts brown sugar and aloe vera gel with 1 part lemon juice. This fine sugar scrub can be worked into the skin by making small, circular motions with a gentle brush, face cloth or a loofah.
- Baking soda and buttermilk
Mix equal parts baking soda and buttermilk into a smooth paste. Work this paste into the skin and let it set for a few minutes. The natural cleansing action of baking soda helps to unclog pores and exfoliate the skin.
- Natural salt and milk
Prepare a natural scrub with equal parts milk and fine grained salt then massage your legs with the preparation. As you gently scrub your wet legs with fine salt granules, you’ll loosen dead skin and clear your pores.
None of these remedies are a quick fix for strawberry legs — you’ll need to keep using them for a few weeks until you see results. Remember to rinse with lukewarm or cool water after each application and use a commercial moisturizer or glycerin following exfoliation.
A smoother shave to prevent ingrown hairs
Improper shaving techniques or the use of old, dull razors can lead to ingrown hairs. For a more effective shave that results in less skin damage, try soaking your legs for 10 minutes prior to shaving. Moisturize your skin with coconut oil or olive oil beforehand for an extra smooth end result.
The simplest way to avoid skin damage from shaving is to use a sharp, clean razor and not to skimp on shaving cream by swapping it with normal bath soap instead. Soap dries the skin and doesn’t produce nearly as smooth a shave.
When you’re done shaving, rinse with cold rather than warm water and consider applying an aftershave to keep pores clean.
Salicylic acid soap for a deeper cleansing
Keeping your legs clean with normal soap is important but it may not be enough. Using soaps with salicylic acid can help remove the surface layer of dead skin cells and unclog pores.
An alternative to salicylic acid soaps are ones that contain benzoyl peroxide, which kill bacteria as well as exfoliate the skin.
Use an electric epilator to remove hair at the root
Electric epilators do a wonderful job of removing hairs from the root rather than trimming them at the surface level. The downside to electric epilators is that while they may do an excellent job of hair removal, they can be extremely painful to use.
If the pain of using an electric epilator prevents you from using one or if you have particularly sensitive skin, consider using a skin numbing product like lidocaine prior to epilating.
Another pro-tip for reducing the pain is to take a very hot shower beforehand. Hot water helps to open your pores, allowing hairs to be pulled out more easily.
What are the clinical options for strawberry legs?
If home remedies fall short of providing the desired results, the first step is to consult with a dermatologist for some insight into what’s causing that spotted, rough texture.
If the spotted skin is caused by bacterial or fungal folliculitis, your dermatologist may recommend a prescription solution.
Prescription solutions for bacterial folliculitis include topical preparations of Clindamycin, Erythromycin and other antibiotics. Prescription solutions for fungal folliculitis include topical antifungals like Ciclopirox and Ketoconazole.
If the problem is everyday keratosis pilaris, dermatologists recommend light chemical peels and laser hair removal for a more permanent solution.
Chemical peels to remove dead skin
Chemical peels, including salicylic acid and glycolic acid, offer the combined effect of reducing pore size, evening out skin tone and removing the surface layer of dead skin cells. Chemical peels also improve circulation within the skin and can help prevent pores from getting clogged.
» There’s more to know about chemical peels than we could ever cover here. For the A to Zs on the art and science of the latest chemical treatments, take a look at Zwivel’s complete guide to chemical peels.
Laser hair removal for a more permanent solution
Laser hair removal uses pulses of concentrated light to destroy the hair follicle beneath the surface of the skin. Laser treatment typically achieves a permanent reduction in hair growth after 3 to 8 treatments. Note that some stubborn hair follicles may grow back and require touch-up work at a later date.
There are multiple types of lasers, each with their own specific strengths, weaknesses and uses. Your dermatologist will make a recommendation based on your specific case, natural level of skin pigmentation and the severity of the problem.
» For more information on laser hair removal, see Zwivel’s complete guide to laser hair removal.
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