What Are Strawberry Legs—and How Do I Treat Them?

I see my strawberry legs as a bit of a superpower. When my friends complained about shaving their legs, I could proudly proclaim that I hadn’t used a razor in months. But then months turned into years—and when my sister finally mentioned that the name for the little brown dots where my leg hair should be was “strawberry legs,” their appearance started making more sense. 

Though I’d never seen a brown strawberry before, the hair follicles resembled seeds. Knowing there was a term for them helped it feel normal. I also learned how to treat them. Below, learn more.

What are strawberry legs?

“It’s just those tiny little dots that appear with hyperpigmentation that represent either hair follicles, shaved hairs, or keratin that’s been exposed to air and gets oxidized,” explains Corey L. Hartman, a Birmingham board-certified dermatologist.

No matter how much I may have wanted that even, smooth complexion, the prominence of hair follicles on my legs keeps that from being a reality. They start appearing when puberty arrives and hair starts to grow. Of course, that was perfectly timed with my pre-teen insecurities, and the subsequent Nair-ing of my legs. It can also show up for men, women, and anyone who shaves their legs. Since women tend to shave more, Hartman says, the phenomenon is more common for them.

Despite the name “strawberry legs,” the little dots can appear anywhere you have hair follicles. Your thighs, upper arms, and back are all fair game. The name is a description of several diagnoses, one of the more common ones being folliculitis.

“That is the scientific name for hair bumps and razor bumps,” Hartman says. “Folliculitis is actually the inflammation of the follicle that can come from sweat, heat, and overgrowth of bacteria. It can be exacerbated by shaving.”

How can you treat strawberry legs?

Folliculitis can’t be cured, but the inflammation can be kept under control by managing the way you shave, such as not cutting the hair too short. The only way to really get rid of it once and for all is to have laser hair removal. Hartman recommends seeing a dermatologist prior to considering that option. (And honestly, home laser devices don’t sound appealing to me either.)

Exercising a lot can also worsen folliculitis. If you don’t get your workout clothes off, get dry, and clean up as soon as you’re done, the sweaty clothes trap the bacteria and moisture, which multiplies and makes everything worse. When I’m tired after a workout, I stay in those leggings for hours without moving. So that wasn’t serving my skin very well.

The best thing to do is to identify the reason you have strawberry legs in the first place. It can be normal anatomy, folliculitis, or a dry skin marker similar to eczema called keratosis pilaris (KP for short). 

“[With KP,] the skin doesn’t exfoliate as effectively as it should,” says Hartman. “So you get buildup in the follicles, it hits the air and turns dark. It’s little pieces of keratin that we would ordinarily just wash off, and it accumulates in the hair follicles so it needs help exfoliating.”

Hartman recommends using an exfoliator with salicylic acid or glycolic acid to treat it, along with a ceramide-rich moisturizer, since skin with KP doesn’t trap moisture well. To deal with eczema-like symptoms of redness and itching, a topical steroid like cortisone is best.

Hartman also mentioned that thighs that tend to touch more could have more discoloration. The way strawberry legs manifested for me as a plus-size Black woman really began to click. For my darker skin, inflammation doesn’t equal the redness that may appear in those with lighter skin.

It’s not purely cosmetic, though. You don’t have to treat folliculitis if it’s not symptomatic, but it could lead to infection, per Hartman. Pus bumps should get treated, as more inflammation leads to more significant scarring. KP doesn’t have to be treated immediately either, but drier skin without a regimen to keep it under control becomes eczema.

Rather than be consumed with preventing the hyperpigmentation on my legs, I now take those tiny dots as a warning: moisturize better and start exfoliating.

The best products for strawberry legs:

AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Janae McKenzie is Glamour’s editorial intern.

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