You may have strawberry skin or strawberry legs if you have dark spots on your legs that look like tiny black dots. The name comes from how the surface looks, which is dotted with holes like the skin and seeds of a strawberry.
Having strawberry skin is a common condition in which follicles in the legs damaged by shaving become enlarged and clogged. The result is small dark spots similar to strawberries’ seeds. Hence the name strawberry legs.
In this article, we’ll discuss what strawberry legs look like, what may cause it, and how you can treat and prevent it.
What is Strawberry Skin?
Strawberry skin, also referred to as “strawberry legs,” is a collective term for a number of skin conditions and problems that result in dark patches on the legs at the location of hair follicles and pores. The dark, strawberry seed-like patches on the legs are the signs of this condition.
The term strawberry legs is often used to describe ingrown hairs, keratosis pilaris, or folliculitis, but these are specific skin conditions that should be treated accordingly.
Ingrown hairs are trapped hairs that curl into the skin. Keratosis pilaris occurs when hardened dead skin cells form around the hair follicle. Folliculitis is a condition in which hair follicles become inflamed due to infection.
Strawberry skin is not usually accompanied by pain or itching. But if the presence of blackheads or lumpy skin on the legs is accompanied by discomfort, a dermatologist should be consulted.
The irritation of hair follicles on the body, often caused by shaving, looks like the pitted surface of a strawberry.
Strawberry legs are a completely harmless condition. It’s a natural byproduct of the pores and hair follicles that everyone has and a common side effect of shaving.
Making all the pores on your legs fully disappear is probably only possible through the use of make-up or wearing suitable colors for your skin. Strawberry-colored skin can make those pores more noticeable. Fortunately, it can be prevented and treated with home remedies and some simple adjustments to your shaving and skincare routine.
What Causes Strawberry Skin?
There are usually two causes for strawberry bumps to appear.
Shaved hair in the follicle that is darker than the surrounding skin or clogged pores and follicles where trapped material oxidizes and darkens, also known as an open comedo or blackhead.
Shaving opens the pores and pore follicles, creating an ideal environment for accumulating oils, bacteria, and dead skin cells. This is the reason why you get strawberry-like skin after shaving.
When shaving with a straight razor, the hair is cut as close to the root as the razor can reach, which is not that close. Therefore, if the hair is darker than the surrounding skin, it is not uncommon to see small dark spots all over your legs a day or two after shaving.
If you use a razor that is not as sharp or new, bacteria can easily get into the freshly opened follicles. A dull razor blade can also cut, irritate and inflame the skin, making dark spots even more prominent.
Other improper shaving techniques, such as not using a moisturizing shaving product, multiple strokes over the same area, not rinsing the razor between strokes, shaving too aggressively, and using water that is too hot in the bathtub or shower, can also lead to enlarged and inflamed follicles.
Dry skin and skin that needs exfoliation due to excess dead skin cells are ideal for clogging pores. Dehydrated skin is also more prone to irritation during shaving, which exacerbates the appearance of strawberry legs.
Tight clothing that traps sweat in hot or humid climates, or sweaty leggings after exercise, create an ideal environment for bacteria, which are also excellent for clogging pores.
When follicles and pores are already clogged with oil and dead skin cells and then become even more clogged with bacteria, it can lead to bumps, pimples, or worse, the kind of infection that causes folliculitis.
How Can I Treat Strawberry Skin?
The way to get rid of strawberry skin is to eliminate the conditions that promote it. In this case, that means two things: Exfoliation and moisturizing.
Look for a cleanser or moisturizer that contains salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that loves sebum oil that your skin produces, and start using it where the strawberry skin is visible. Over time, this should remove the buildup in clogged pores and hair follicles.
Other chemical exfoliants can also help clear clogged pores. Alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, are suitable for dissolving and removing unwanted materials from the skin.
AHAs can be a good alternative to salicylic acid, which can sometimes irritate sensitive skin. Lactic acid is an excellent AHA for sensitive skin and has moisturizing properties.
Treating dry skin is the next step to eliminating strawberry skin. A chemical peel will remove the excess dead skin cells associated with dry skin but will not prevent them from reappearing.
It will only improve the overall moisture content of the skin. It does this by absorbing moisture and encouraging the skin to retain that moisture better. A cleanser containing a chemical exfoliant removes dead skin cells that can prevent dry skin from absorbing moisture.
Applying a moisturizer to still-damp skin after showering or bathing prevents water from evaporating from the skin’s surface, allowing the cream to penetrate and better hydrate the skin.
Consider a product that contains ceramides. Ceramides are lipids that naturally occur in high concentrations in the skin and are found as an ingredient in many moisturizers. Sealing them with a layer of oil is an added bonus, as it gives the skin the best chance to retain as much moisture as possible for as long as possible.
Skin needs moisture, even when it’s not freshly washed. So don’t be afraid to apply lotion even when you’re not showering or bathing, especially if you’re trying to get rid of a case of strawberry legs. However, keep in mind that excess product can clog pores, so try not to go too many days without bathing.
If treating strawberry skin with exfoliation and moisturizer doesn’t work, you may not see clogged pores and follicles but only hairs that are darker than the surrounding skin. You may treat this particular strawberry leg with a hair removal method that completely removes the follicle. This means hair removal with a laser, epilator, or wax.
It is important to know that these methods take time to produce permanent results and are likely to cause inflammation of the hair follicle.
If the strawberry skin in question does not respond to increased exfoliation and moisturizing or hair removal at the follicle, you should consult a dermatologist, as it could be a serious infection.
How to Prevent Strawberry Skin?
Preventing strawberry skin, clogged pores, and inflamed follicles, which can be a common side effect of shaving, is relatively easy.
Prepare your skin by gently exfoliating before you start shaving. This is the best way to ensure your skin is as free as possible from dead skin cells that can clog and dull your razor almost immediately.
There are many forms of physical exfoliation, but the most important thing to remember is to be gentle. The goal is to remove dead skin and not cause inflammation that could worsen the appearance of strawberry skin.
Fresh razors shave best, both in terms of hygiene and shaving sharpness. Instead of an expensive razor with multiple blades, a new, sharp razor with one blade may be a better choice.
Of course, this depends on budget, frequency of shaving, and preferences. But a newer, sharper blade will always perform better than one with more shaves. Many people keep their razor in the shower, which makes sense because it’s convenient.
Unfortunately, this also encourages the growth of rust and bacteria that can invade the freshly shaved follicles on your leg. It is best to dry and store the razor outside of the shower.
Be sure to use a moisturizing shaving solution when shaving. Conditioners work amazingly well. It softens and moisturizes the skin and hair and allows the razor to glide over the skin without damaging it. If you prefer shaving cream, look for a moisturizing formula.
Try not to stroke the same area more than once, and shave in the direction of hair growth. This may seem counterintuitive, and shaving this way is not as close as shaving against the grain, but it prevents the hairs from being pulled in the opposite direction and then bouncing back the other way once the razor cuts them. This way, the follicles expand and make room for all the mucus.
Another important step in preventing strawberry legs is a good exfoliation of the legs.
In addition to preparing for shaving with physical exfoliation, regular use of chemical peels ensures that skin doesn’t die, pores remain unclogged, and skin is ready to absorb moisture.
Body cleansers with AHAs such as glycolic and lactic acids and BHAs such as salicylic acid can be used to exfoliate the skin. In addition, there are countless serum and leave-on gel products with AHAs and BHAs, and even body lotions and creams with AHAs and BHAs.
Well-defoliated skin is better primed for hydration, which can prevent strawberry skin. You can try a few more things that aren’t obvious and can help your skin achieve optimal hydration.
Hot water dries out the skin. Keeping water closer to body temperature will prevent the oils needed for skin hydration from being released during bathing. Choosing a cleanser that doesn’t exfoliate, dry out, or foam excessively is also a good idea. All these risks strip the skin of the oils it wants to retain.
After bathing, do not rub your skin with a towel to dry it off. Gently pat it dry, and don’t make sure to remove all the water. If there is still water on your skin when you apply moisturizers, especially if you use body oil, your skin can absorb and retain that moisture along with the extra hydration from the product. So be sure to moisturize your skin as soon as possible after you get out of the bath or shower.
If hair that is darker than the surrounding skin is responsible for the strawberry look on your legs, removing the hair at the follicle’s root is the only way to prevent it. Even then, the hair might come back in many cases.
With waxing, the hairs are removed at the root, which keeps the legs from their strawberry look much longer than shaving.
Laser hair removal uses a concentrated light beam to burn the hair shaft down to the follicle. Although many assume that laser hair removal completely kills the follicle and results in permanent hair removal, there is no data to date to support these claims. However, research has shown that laser hair removal can reduce the number of hairs after multiple treatments.
While home laser hair removal kits are available, they do not have a laser as a light source and generally only work for people with dark hair and fair skin. For a proper laser hair removal treatment, you should see a certified and licensed dermatologist.
The only method of hair removal considered permanent by the FDA is electrolysis. This is a procedure in which a small needle is inserted into the follicle, and an electric current is passed through it to kill the follicle.
Because complete treatment requires the removal of each follicle, electrolysis often requires multiple sessions to completely remove hair from an area of the body.
On a body part as extensive as the legs, where strawberry skin is most common, many longer sessions over several months are required to achieve permanent hair removal.
However, once the electrolysis sessions for a particular area are completed, the follicles are permanently dead, eliminating the problems with strawberry skin and hair regrowth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get rid of strawberry skin?
Gently removing dead skin cells from the surface of the legs should help reduce strawberry bumps and prevent ingrown hairs. When you remove the dead skin on the legs, new hairs can break through the skin surface more easily.
How do you get rid of strawberry legs fast?
Try exfoliation. The legs should be exfoliated regularly. Use a moisturizer. Another home treatment option is to use moisturizers to keep the skin hydrated.
Apply salicylic acid or glycolic acid. A final home remedy to improve strawberry skin is to use salicylic acid or glycolic acid.
Is strawberry skin genetic?
Keratosis pilaris is more common in people with dry skin or eczema and is caused by excess keratin accumulating in hair follicles. In general, most people who have lifelong strawberry legs have keratosis pilaris, which, unfortunately, is genetic.
How long does it take to get rid of strawberry legs?
With constant exfoliation, moisturizing, and proper hair removal methods, it can take four to six weeks to get rid of strawberry legs.