If you’re someone who suffers from dark, noticeable spots on your legs, you're probably familiar with the term “strawberry legs.” The bad news is that strawberry legs can be caused by multiple factors, including a specific skin condition or crappy razors. The good news is that there are a handful of ways you can treat and prevent strawberry legs from developing, no whipped cream required (although shaving cream might help).
Read ahead to learn more.
Meet Our Experts: Sapna Palep, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City, Leonard Bernstein, MD, board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center in New York City
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What are "strawberry legs"?
"Strawberry legs" are dark spots that resemble small black dots. “The term comes from the dotted or pitted appearance that resembles the skin and seeds of a strawberry,” says Sapna Palep, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City.
The open comedones that cause the appearance of strawberry legs are hair follicles or enlarged pores that contain a trapped mixture of oil, bacteria, and dead skin. “When the follicle or pore is exposed to air after shaving, it may darken,” explains Dr. Palep.
What causes "strawberry legs"?
Strawberry legs can be caused by a skin disorder called keratosis pilaris. "It occurs mostly on upper outer arms, anterior thighs, cheeks and rarely on lower legs,” says Leonard Bernstein, MD, board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center in New York City. “This is a condition where there’s an excessive amount of keratin and scaling stuck in the follicle opening or pore—it’s mostly a seasonal or episodic eruption in 10-15% of the population.”
It's also possible that old or cheap razors might be causing those pesky black dots to develop in the first place. “Shaving improperly with old, dull razors or without shaving cream can sometimes cause strawberry legs,” says Dr. Palep. “Razor burn can lead to strawberry legs and may cause folliculitis to develop.”
Another cause: Ingrown hairs. “In some people with thick body hair, these ingrown hairs may be what’s causing the appearance of strawberry legs,” says Dr. Palep. “In some cases, the skin around the follicle may darken in response to the irritation from shaving, which then increases the dark appearance.”
How to treat "strawberry legs"
For starters, you can treat strawberry legs by first swapping out your razor more regularly. Always use shaving cream or bar soap when shaving to ensure the area is moisturized before it comes into contact with a razor. Dr. Bernstein suggests using an antibacterial soap such as Dial or Lever 2000 to decrease bacteria on the surface of the skin. After shaving, make sure to always moisturize your skin. Dr. Palep suggests using moisturizers with lactic acid or urea that will exfoliate the skin as well to help prevent ingrown hairs.
If that isn’t working for you, you might want to consider investing in laser hair removal. “Anything that kills the hair at the root like laser hair removal (which is a permanent solution) or an epilator (which can be painful)" would help prevent strawberry legs, says Dr. Palep.