You’re ready to walk out the door in your new dress — until you notice you’ve got strawberry legs. Sound familiar? The condition isn’t as sweet as it sounds. It’s when your legs are lined with small, dark dots, similar to the seeds on strawberry skin. Yep, that’s where the name comes from.
The darker bumps can appear almost anywhere on the legs, though more common places are right above your knees to your thighs or on calves. To get the full scoop, we turned to Alicia Yoon, esthetician and founder of Peach & Lily, to spill how to get rid of strawberry legs and exactly what they are.
What causes strawberry legs?
There are a few different causes for the common skin condition. “One cause could simply be that the hair that hasn’t grown in yet is dark and causing a shadow,” Yoon says. Another could be that the hair follicles are actually clogged with dirt, oil, and sweat, which oxidizes and creates little dark dots, she adds.
The final cause could be keratosis pilaris (KP), which is a very harmless condition that is caused by the buildup of dead skin and keratin protein in the hair follicles. “I have KP on my chest and a little bit on my arms,” says Yoon. “It’s something that happens in around 60 percent of adults and up to 80 percent of adolescents.”
Who is more prone to strawberry legs?
Strawberry legs can happen to anyone, since certain skin types aren’t more susceptible to it. “It’s like the great equalizer,” Yoon says. “So many people struggle with these types of skin issues. I think sometimes we don’t talk about it as much.” Strawberry legs can appear on more places than just your legs, too. Keratosis pilaris can happen almost anywhere, most commonly on the upper arms, and you may notice clogged follicles on your chest and/or back.
How can you get rid of strawberry legs?
Depending on the reason that you’re seeing strawberry legs, the solution is different. “If it’s just the color of the hair underneath that’s a little bit darker and not clogged pores or follicles — you can usually tell when the legs are completely smooth at all times and very uniform — you may want to consider laser hair removal, or sometimes waxing can help,” Yoon says.
But if there is some texture to the dots and your legs feel bumpy, that means it’s either keratosis pilaris or clogged pores, and the solution to both is the same: exfoliation. “I like using both a physical and chemical exfoliator; with the chemical exfoliator, the acids loosen up the dead skin cells while the physical exfoliator works to manually slough them off so you get that smooth texture,” says Yoon.
But it’s important to be gentle with it, she notes. Yoon’s go-to is the KP Bump Boss Microderm Body Scrub ($28, peachandlily.com), a body product that delivers instant results with the combination of chemical and physical exfoliants, courtesy of fruit enzymes and micro-crystals that are finely milled so they’re not abrasive on the skin.
How can you prevent strawberry legs?
If you know you’re prone to strawberry legs, there are steps you can take to stop it before it even happens. Exfoliating frequently is key — Yoon recommends starting three times a week and adding more sessions as needed — and so is keeping your skin properly hydrated. Immediately after you get out of the shower, use your favorite body cream to seal in moisture and soften freshly-exfoliated skin. Look for a non-comedogenic body lotion with ceramides, like Curel Fragrance-Free Hand and Body Lotion ($8; amazon.com).
Also, rethink the way you are shaving your legs. “Make sure that you’re shaving with the grain, aka in the direction the hair is growing versus against it,” Yoon says. “Always use a really good razor, too, because when you’re using a razor that is a little bit dull, you have to go over an area over and over again, which can inflame the skin. When you are dealing with keratosis pilaris or clogged pores, this can lead to inflammation.” Additionally, always use a hydrating shaving cream or gel — and never dry shave.
In order to keep KP or strawberry legs away, Yoon says it’s all about making this part of your regular routine. “I think of it as like washing my hair or brushing my teeth — it becomes a part of our maintenance ritual,” she explains. “The good news is that like washing your hair or brushing your teeth, it’ll actually work when you stay on top of it. You can really visibly manage how your legs looks.”