Strawberry Legs May Be Embarrassing, But Are Treatable
No, strawberry legs aren’t some fancy tan you get from watching tennis at Wimbledon. On the contrary, it is a skin condition that affects women worldwide. And while it’s not dangerous, for many whose legs have strawberry legs, it can be a bit of an embarrassment. The term is relatively new, and these dark, sometimes raised dots on the legs – sometimes also known as chicken skin – have only gotten attention in recent times.
Do you need to be worried about strawberry legs?
Strawberry legs are caused by
- open pores
- keratosis pilaris
- razor burn
Speaking to Well + Good, Purvisha Patel – a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare explains that the colloquial term ‘strawberry legs’ refers to the condition of the legs when the skin has darker dots in a follicular distribution – making them look like strawberries. “There may also be swelling of the skin and the hair follicles can look slightly indented or raised, like the surface of a strawberry.”
You are suffering from strawberry legs if you have the following:
- Irritated, red dots on your legs after shaving
- Dark or black spots on your legs
- Small, reddish bumps on the skin of your legs
- Clogged dark pores on the legs
Why does it appear?
Strawberry legs happen as a result of the body’s natural processes and can be attributed to the presence of keratin. This is an important protein building block, vital for healthy hair, skin, and nails. But it can also cause a build-up in the skin, creating a blockage plug inside and on top of the hair follicle. In other words, your body creates a “cork” for the hair – and it’s not too pretty. Rachel Nazarian, MD is a dermatologist based in New York and is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. “The [keratin] plug can also trigger inflammation in the skin, which is what causes redness around each hair follicle,” she says.
On top of that, sweat and tight clothing can aggravate the condition. In many cases, the pores can become inflamed and clogged, according to Joshua Zeichner, MD. He is the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. When this happens, many women start to pick at the pore, creating further irritation. If prolonged, this can result in permanent scars on your legs.
Although it is considered a genetic condition, we don’t know why some people get keratosis pilaris and others don’t, Dr. Nazarian points out. We also don’t know why it happens in some areas of the body and not others. She does note that people with sensitive skin, like those with eczema, are more likely to have and show symptoms of keratosis pilaris.
So what to do if your legs aren’t even-toned or perfectly smooth?
1. Laser hair removal
With strawberry legs, you’re facing two primary problems: dark hair that keeps coming back and discolored pores. Laser hair removal can treat both of these. So how does it work? Well, laser hair removal basically uses light energy to gradually heat your hair follicles until they die out. The energy from the laser is attracted to the brown pigment, melanin, found in your hair follicle. Leaving the surrounding skin tissue unaffected. (1)
Why is laser such an effective hair removal solution? These are the primary benefits:
- It reduces hair growth permanently
- There was minor discomfort during the treatment
- The process is quick and easy
- You face little to no side-effects following the treatment
- There is complete versatility in where you want to laser
While there are various types of laser hair removal methods available on the market today – and most reliable brands continuously develop their machinery to be faster, more efficient, and less painful – the treatment is still not very effective on blonde, red or grey hair. This is because the laser itself is attracted to melanin; so if there is little melanin present, it won’t work nearly as well. (2)
Many lasers, such as IPL (intense pulsed light), are not suitable for dark skin as they can cause discoloration. (3) The most important thing to research in advance is what types of lasers are available for hair removal, and what would work best for your own hair and skin tone.
2. Change the way you shave
If you’re struggling with shaving cuts, irritation after you shave or red bumps, your shaving routine may need to be changed up a bit if you want to beat strawberry legs. Depending on your hair growth, you can use your razor a few times before it needs to be replaced, says Dr. Ava Shamban, MD, of Ava MD.
Especially if you have sensitive skin, you will need to pay attention to how you shave. Regular exfoliation is important, and you should take care to soften the hair before you shave. Avoid dull razor blades, as they can aggravate the situation. If you’re dealing with a razor bump situation at the moment; use some tea tree oil, aloe vera or a hot compress to soothe and clean the area.
3. Exfoliate, moisturize, repeat
If you wax or use an epilator, chances are you’re leaving the pores open for dirt, dead skin cells and sweat once the hair has been removed. To avoid that, follow the above steps every time you need to remove the hair. By exfoliating regularly, you help to avoid ingrown hairs and dead skin cells accumulating on your legs. Implement a daily moisturizing treatment, and you ensure that your pores stay healthy and your skin stays well hydrated. Repeat this process over and over again, and you’re working to deal with the unsightly appearance of strawberry legs. See where we’re going with this?
4. Check your ingredients
Because this condition is primarily due to the nature of your skin cells, you can counter it better by implementing certain ingredients. Dr. Shamban recommends using a 1% hydrocortisone cream after shaving and using a moisturizing shaving cream instead of soap that will dry out your skin.
You can also apply a product containing benzoyl peroxide in the shower before shaving. Salicylic acid is another ingredient that will exfoliate your skin and deal with excess sebum.
And always remember, if you’re worried about dark spots or any other skin conditions on your body, talk to your healthcare provider before making any purchases or serious decisions.