For many of us, hair removal is an unpleasant, yet largely unavoidable, part of life. And no matter what method you choose to employ to rid yourself of unwanted hair, you’re likely to find that there are potential drawbacks. Waxing, for example, is uncomfortable and not always easy to do yourself. Tweezing works well for the eyebrows but is too time-consuming to be employed for large areas. Laser hair removal can be permanent but pricey. That leaves us with shaving. It’s simple, fast, and (in most cases) painless—but it can also be associated with various skin concerns, such as razor bumps, razor burn, and strawberry skin.
Strawberry skin is fairly common—even if you’ve never heard the name, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced it for yourself. And while it’s technically harmless, it’s not ideal (especially if you’re planning to hit the beach or take pictures for the ‘Gram). For help learning how to tackle this shaving-related issue, we consulted board-certified dermatologist Dr. Alix J. Charles. Ahead, Dr. Charles shares about strawberry skin, including what causes it, how to help prevent it, and what you can do if it appears. Keep reading for the Kiehl’s crash course on strawberry skin.
What Is Strawberry Skin?
According to Dr. Charles, “strawberry skin” is the colloquial name for a skin concern characterized by small, dark spots on the skin. The size and distribution of the spots make the skin appear similar to the seeded surface of a strawberry, hence the name. While it can technically occur anywhere you have hair, strawberry skin “tends to occur primarily on the legs,” Dr. Charles says. It is, therefore, sometimes referred to as “strawberry legs.”
While strawberry skin can make your legs appear mottled or uneven, it’s not associated with discomfort. This makes it unique from razor burn, which looks similar but tends to be itchy or painful.
What Causes Strawberry Skin?
Strawberry skin can be caused by any sort of “irritation to the hair follicle,” Dr. Charles explains. However, it’s most commonly associated with shaving. Shaving, especially too quickly or without the right tools (like a sharp razor and plenty of shaving cream) can irritate the skin and hair follicles (and any irritation is likely to look more obvious when the hair itself is removed). In some cases, this irritation can cause the hair follicles (and the hair within them) to become more prominent, which gives the skin a characteristic pitted appearance. In short, strawberry skin is simply “just an accentuation of how the hair follicle presents itself,” Dr. Charles says.
Is Strawberry Skin “Bad”?
Even though you may not like how it looks, strawberry skin in and of itself isn’t worrisome. However, as Dr. Charles notes, there are other concerns that can “mimic” strawberry skin, including some skin discolorations and keratosis pilaris. If you think you have strawberry skin and it’s uncomfortable, Dr. Charles recommends visiting a dermatologist to rule out other potential concerns.
Can You Prevent Strawberry Skin?
Though there’s no guaranteed way to prevent strawberry skin when shaving, the right routine may make it less likely to occur. Ahead, discover four tips for keeping strawberry skin at bay.
Wash With a Gentle Cleanser
When shaving your legs, you should always start with clean skin. However, Dr. Charles notes, it’s important to choose the right cleanser for your skin: Overly-aggressive formulas can “strip the skin [of] oils,” which he says “can contribute to strawberry skin.” We therefore recommend starting your shower routine with a mild foaming body wash, like Bath & Shower Liquid Body Cleanser. The classic body wash with aloe vera and glycerin cleanses the skin while helping maintain its natural moisture. It’s suitable for all skin types and comes in a range of refreshing fragrances for a spa-like start to your shower routine.
If your skin is highly sensitive, try “Made for All” Gentle Body Cleanser. It’s made with 95% naturally-derived ingredients, including aloe vera and soap tree extract, and provides a gentle, soothing clean.* The fragrance-free formula is dermatologist-tested and suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
*We consider ingredients to be naturally-derived if they retain more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source.
After wetting your skin, use your palms to massage your chosen cleanser over your body. If desired, you can also use a washcloth to aid your cleansing routine—just be sure to do so gently, as Dr. Charles notes that rough mechanical exfoliation can irritate the skin.
Don’t Rush Your Shave Routine
If you must shave, it’s important to do so properly, Dr. Charles says. This means taking the time to prepare your skin properly (a gentle shaving cream or gel is a must) and going slowly to avoid accidental cuts or scrapes. You also want to make sure you’re using a clean, sharp razor, as dull blades can cause unnecessary irritation and make strawberry skin more likely to occur. Similarly, shave with the grain (in other words, in the direction of hair growth) to help minimize irritation.
Try an Electric Razor
Classic bladed razors cut the hair at the level of the skin. While this allows for a close, smooth shave, it also makes you more vulnerable to irritation. Razor burn and ingrown hairs are also a greater risk when shaving with a standard blade. To be more careful with your skin, try switching to an electric razor that trims, rather than shaves, your hair. You won’t get the closest shave, Dr. Charles admits, but the payoff is that you’ll also be less likely to experience strawberry skin and other shave-related skin concerns.
Keep Your Skin Well-Moisturized
According to Dr. Charles, dryness “can exacerbate and potentially worsen strawberry skin.” He therefore recommends moisturizing after showering (while your skin is still damp) to help keep your skin soft and hydrated.
The body lotion you use should be tailored to your skin type. If you have normal or oily skin, try a lightweight formula, like Deluxe Hand & Body Lotion. First launched in the 1960s, this Kiehl’s favorite contains aloe vera and oatmeal. It absorbs quickly and leaves the skin feeling smooth and nurtured. The classic moisturizer is available in three refreshing scents—lavender, coriander, and grapefruit—and can be used as often as desired for silky-soft skin.
For those with skin that tends to be on the drier side, we suggest Creme de Corps Body Lotion with Cocoa Butter. The rich, creamy lotion, which boasts cocoa butter, squalane, and shea butter in its formula, absorbs without a heavy or greasy feel. It’s suitable for all skin types (including sensitive skin) and provides long-lasting moisture for skin that feels soft, smooth, and beautifully moisturized.
How To Manage Strawberry Skin
The best way to manage strawberry skin, Dr. Charles explains, is to temporarily stop doing whatever is causing it (usually, as we mentioned earlier, shaving). “If you continue to do things that promote it, it’s going to persist,” he says. “You’re feeding it, essentially.” In short, it’s best to just wait it out. Take a break from shaving, treat your skin gently, and wait for the issue to “self-correct on its own,” Dr. Charles says. Once your skin goes back to normal, you can resume shaving (following the tips we outlined above). If the strawberry skin doesn’t improve after a few weeks of not shaving, then you may want to consider consulting a dermatologist for further assistance.