Despite what razor commercials lead you to believe, not getting a perfect shave every time is pretty common. If you use a sharp razor and shaving gel but still end up with small black spots on your legs, just know your technique is not to blame and that you're not alone.
This phenomenon is often referred to as "strawberry skin," and it happens when damaged hair follicles become clogged and enlarged, creating the dark spots that resemble strawberry seeds.
While strawberry skin isn't harmful or a cause for concern, if you're bothered by the appearance of dark spots on your legs, the following dermatologist tips can help you get rid of it.
What Is Strawberry Skin?
Strawberry skin occurs when the hair follicles become engorged with oil, dirt, and dead skin. And while it can be mistaken for a skin condition, it's actually a symptom of keratosis pilaris (KP).
"When pores get clogged with dirt, oil, or skin buildup that traps hair follicles, you see dark dotted skin resembling the seeds of a strawberry," explains Dr. Adazeh Shirazi, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of La Jolla Laser Dermatology. "Strawberry skin is not a skin condition but rather a symptom that's also seen in keratosis pilaris, a common condition where hairs get trapped by overgrowth of keratin and buildup around skin pores."
Strawberry skin can also be a side effect of shaving, which is why it often occurs on the legs, arms, and buttocks. Waxing and wearing tight clothing are also contributing factors. "Sometimes it can be caused by shaving while other times it's just something that you have from the get-go because you have sensitive skin," says Dr. Karan Lal, a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey. "It's very common and is more noticeable in fair-skinned people."
How to Prevent Strawberry Skin:
Dr. Lal says strawberry skin is unfortunately yours to keep, but there are ways of minimizing the appearance of dark spots and preventing them is possible. "The keys to keep it at bay and to be consistent with your chemical exfoliating regimen, moisturize daily, and exfoliate once a week," the dermatologist says.
In addition, Dr. Shirzai recommends using a fresh blade when you shave to prevent clogging the hair follicles with dead skin.
How to Get Rid of Strawberry Skin :
If you do experience strawberry skin after shaving, there are a few ways to help clear the hair follicles, and thus, minimize the appearance of dark spots.
Use a chemical or physical exfoliator: "Exfoliating, whether chemically or mechanically, can be helpful and will make your skin seem less red and bumpy," Dr. Lal says. "Chemical exfoliators like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, urea, lactic acid, can all help shed the bumps seen in strawberry skin." Alternatively, you can use a gentle exfoliating glove once a week to help smooth the affected areas of the skin.
Use a retinol body lotion: In addition to exfoliation, Dr. Shirazi says using a body lotion with retinol post-shower can also help smooth skin. Retinol promotes cell turnover, which in turn, helps clear clogged pores and even texture.
Microdermabrasion: In-office, a dermatologist can treat strawberry skin with dermabrasion. Dr. Shriazi suggests Diamond Glow because "it uses microdermabrasion to gently resurface the skin while a high-powered suction removes dirt and debris from the pores and infuses the skin with hydrating serums." Think of it like a deep cleansing facial for your body.
Laser hair removal: Dr. Shirazi says that getting laser hair removal on the areas prone to strawberry skin can help because it will reduce the density of the hair follicles, and thus less skin, dirt, and oil can get trapped in them.
Pulsed Dye Laser treatment (PDL): Dr. Lal is a fan of using pulsed dye laser treatments in-office. "PDL can help not only shed the thickened skin, but it also reduces the background redness," he says. "It isn't a cure, but it definitely makes things better."
Chemical peels: A medical-grade chemical peel can also help smooth the affected skin. "This is a great affordable management option," Dr. Lal says.
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When to See a Professional:
While strawberry skin isn't harmful and can be managed at home, like any other skin issue, if you have any concerns about getting dark spots after shaving, book an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist. To play it extra safe, you can also consult them before trying any at-home remedies.