Strawberry legs: The name might sound cute, but for most, the look isn’t as charming as it sounds. Like the namesake fruit, if you’ve had what looks like freckles or spots all over your legs, especially after shaving, you may be prone to strawberry legs.
Meet the Experts
Rachel Day is a P.A. dermatologist.
What are strawberry legs?
“It’s a common phenomenon where the hair follicle openings on the legs get filled with dirt, dead skin, oil, and bacteria on the skin appearing dark in the background of someone’s normal skin tone,” says P.A. dermatologist Rachel Day. She explains, “it’s a harmless condition but very bothersome in appearance.
As a teen growing up, I noticed that my brown skin tended to have hyperpigmented dots more than my lighter friends. It seemed like most of my other friends with deeper skin tones also had strawberry legs. “Depending on what’s causing the strawberry legs’ appearance, there may be a component of skin inflammation driving the condition such as irritation from shaving, folliculitis, keratosis pilaris, dry skin, or eczema, says Day. Clogged pores could also be the culprit, as removing hair from your legs oxidizes the oil trapped in your pores when exposed to air, which may turn pores into a darker color that looks like strawberry legs.
For women of color, “when there is inflammation, the pigment in the skin gets displaced deeper into the skin, making it look even darker. This ‘pigment incontinence,’ as it is called, contributes to the stubborn hyperpigmentation that occurs in individuals with heavily melanized skin,” Day explains. So whether you have light or dark skin, if you’re not into the look of strawberry legs, you can do a few things to help their appearance.
Instead of just lathering up with your typical body wash, Day recommends using a mild exfoliating cleanser with 2% salicylic acid to help reduce build-up in hair follicles and the dark appearance of the pores. Just like salicylic acid helps prevent blemishes on your face, it’ll exfoliate legs to keep them smooth and clear. Use it 2-3 times a week instead of your go-to wash; try Naturium The Perfector Salicylic Acid Body Wash. The day before shaving, you can also try using a fine ground body scrub like Charcoal Smoothie Jelly Body Scrub. A combination of salicylic and lactic acid helps gently exfoliate, while coconut water and avocado oil nourish the skin.
When you go to shave, make sure you’re not sudsing up with a heavily scented formula. “Use unscented shaving cream to avoid traumatizing the hair follicles while shaving and apply a hydrating moisturizing right after are helpful steps to avoid this condition,” says Day. Glance at your razor head to ensure that you’re using a sharp, clean razor (rule of thumb: Disposable razors should be swapped out about every seven shaves). Also, make sure to shave with the grain of your hair instead of against it. “If you’re not sure which direction your hair grows, you can graze the surface of the skin area with your fingers, and it will feel rougher against the grain and smoother with the grain,” says Day. She explains that shaving against the grain gives you a closer shave, but it’s also more likely to create micro-nicks in the skin surface, leading to increased irritation and the likelihood of ingrown hairs.
I have found that waxing my legs helps keep those little spots at bay. Waxing removes the hair from the root, so the hair is completely removed from the follicle, whereas shaving cuts the hair right at the edge of the skin’s surface. [It] also removes the dead top layer of dry skin along with the hair, providing a light exfoliation. Over time, waxed hairs may grow softer and slower, which can help you spread the time between hair removal and minimize the strawberry legs effect.” Using an ingrown hair solution can also help keep down inflammation, try Truly Beauty Cooka Concentrate, which uses lavender to calm irritation.
Following shaving or exfoliating, always make sure to moisturize. Look for rich moisturizers like shea butter and ceramides. Make sure to up your moisture by using a lotion or cream post-shower while the skin is damp to seal in moisture. A luminizer or shimmering body oil can also help hydrate and create a more even-looking appearance. Sunday Riley Fairy Godmother Shimmering Body Oil Gel is loaded with hydrating grapeseed and coconut oil. Besides using a mega hydration lotion, try an exfoliating body lotion with ingredients like lactic or glycolic acid (like Kopari Body Bumps Be Gone) a couple of times a week to keep your legs smooth and clear.
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