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Leg Acne (pimples): Causes, Prevention & Treatment


Leg acne, medically known as folliculitis is a common skin condition that can occur anywhere on the body where hair follicles are present, including the legs. It can be itchy, uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful

In this blog post, we'll explore what leg acne is, its causes, symptoms, and effective treatments to help you understand and take control of your skin.



What causes leg acne?


Folliculitis is an inflammation of hair follicles, which are tiny openings in the skin where hair grows. When these follicles become irritated, they can become red, swollen, and infected, leading to the development of small, pimple-like bumps that tend to be confused with acne. It is a common skin condition that many refer to as leg acne.



Razor bumps or Ingrown Hairs


Curly or coarse hair is more likely to become trapped inside the follicle, leading to inflammation and folliculitis. It is the most common cause and it can be widespread if you shave the wrong way or are sensitive to shaving mechanisms.




Friction and Irritation


Tight sports gear is a common cause in athletes.

  • - Modern athletic clothes bring a lot of benefits like sweat absorption, compression to prevent muscle soreness, and style.
  • - The downside is that the pressure it generates interferes with your hair growth and it can lead to ingrown hairs. It also traps sweat causing it to block the opening and lead to inflammation and eventually folliculitis.


If you are experiencing breakouts not only on your legs but in all the places where sweat accumulates you can read our blog post: How to get rid of Sweat Pimples? Guide for Athletes.  


Poor Hygiene


Skipping your post-workout shower results in accumulation of sweat and build up which blocks your hair follicles in your legs and can lead to leg pimples.


For more information on the benefits of showering after a workout read our blog post Showering After Workout and learn how this simple step might be the answer to all of your troubles.



Hot tub rash


Is a type of folliculitis caused by a water-loving bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The itchy bumps can appear 24-48 hours after exposure to the hot tub. It is common in hot tubs, water parks, and heated pools in which chlorine and pH levels aren’t correct.


For more information on this skin condition you can read – Healthy Swimming an article by the CDC.



Bacterial Infection


Bacteria can enter hair follicles through small cuts or wounds, causing infection. Staphylococcus aureus, a normal skin bacteria, is a common culprit. This skin condition typically clears on its own if proper skin hygiene is implemented.



Fungal Infection


Fungi like yeast can also cause folliculitis. This is more likely to occur in warm and humid environments. Active people are more prone to fungal folliculitis as sweat creates a high-humidity environment.



What does leg acne look like?


The signs and symptoms of folliculitis on the legs may include:

  • - Small, red, pimple-like bumps near hair follicles.
  • - Itching, burning, or discomfort.
  • - Pus-filled blisters or sores.
  • - Pain or tenderness around the affected follicles.
  • - Redness and inflammation.




For more information on what folliculitis looks like you can visit this Mayo Clinic article – Folliculitis.



How to prevent leg acne (pimples)?


Leg acne can result from a combination of factors, and these factors can differ from one individual to another depending on their practices. If you suffer from leg acne you can experience one or more of the causes that are explained below:


Shower after your workout – (practices and games). 


Washing up right after a practice or game reduces the amount of time sweat lingers on the skin, allows cuts and scrapes to be cleaned up, and prevents the growth or spread of bacteria.

For more information on why sweat causes pimples in athletes you can read our blog post: Does sweat cause acne and sweat pimples?


Don’t share personal care items. 


  • - Don't share your towels or washcloths.

  • - Don’t share any personal items (razors, bar soap) as they can all facilitate the spread of harmful bacteria or fungus.



Wash regularly athletic clothes, gear, and towels.


  • - You shouldn’t repeat your gym clothes as they are sweat-soaked and harbor bacteria that can damage your skin.

  • - Wash your towels every week and hang them daily to prevent moisture. If you are experiencing bacterial or fungal folliculitis you should change them regularly. Use hot, soapy water to clean your towels and kill the germs.

  • - Wash your sports gear when possible or use disinfecting wipes between practices or workouts.



Avoid shaving, if possible


If you are experiencing folliculitis or leg pimples, avoid shaving the area until it is healed.



Shave with care. 


  •  - Before shaving wash your skin with warm water, it will dilate your pores and make it easier and less irritating to remove the hair.
  • - Using a washcloth or cleansing pad in a gentle circular motion to raise embedded hairs before shaving
  • - Using a clean, sharp blade and rinsing it with warm water after each stroke
  • - Avoiding shaving the same area more than twice
  • - Try hair-removing products (depilatories) or other methods of hair removal. Though they, too, may irritate the skin.

  • - Once healed, take precautions to prevent future occurrences, such as using a clean razor and shaving your legs with water and not on dry skin.



Use only clean hot tubs and heated pools. 


After swimming, remove your swimsuit and cleanse your body with a body wash. Then wash your swimsuit too. Per CDC recommendations if you own a hot tub or a heated pool, clean it regularly and add chlorine as recommended.



Leg acne treatment tips?


If you are already experiencing folliculitis aka leg acne you can read ahead and learn how to take back control of your skin.


Warm Compresses


Applying warm, moist compresses to the affected area can help soothe itching and discomfort. It can also promote drainage of any pus-filled bumps.


Shower After Sweating


Proper cleansing of the affected area is crucial, by gently washing (do not scrub) the area after working out.


Use an after workout body wash for acne as part of your after-workout routine. It contains salicylic acid, an active ingredient that removes the superficial layer of the skin including your hair follicle openings. It also has a mild anti-inflammatory effect.





Antibacterial or Antifungal Creams:


  • - For mild leg acne you can apply a spot-on treatment like a gel for workout acne. It reduces swelling and redness, by keeping pores open, clean, and bacteria-free.

  • - For severe leg acne, you can apply over-the-counter creams containing antibiotics (like Neosporin) or antifungal medications can be applied to the affected areas as directed.

  • In cases of more widespread folliculitis you can buy an OTC benzoyl peroxide and apply it to affected areas. Benzoyl peroxide tends to dry your skin, to prevent any skin rash use an after workout body wash for your post-workout cleansing.




When to see a doctor?


If your leg folliculitis is severe, recurrent, or doesn't improve with over-the-counter treatments, it's essential to consult a dermatologist.


They can determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatments, which may include prescription medications.


If you experience recurrent episodes talk to your health care provider, you might need to control bacterial growth in your nose.




Leg pimples can be bothersome, but with proper care and treatment, it's manageable. 

Understanding the causes, symptoms, and effective treatments for this skin condition is the first step in achieving clear, healthy skin on your legs. Remember to practice good hygiene, avoid tight clothing, and seek medical attention if needed. By following these guidelines, you can minimize discomfort and enjoy smooth, bump-free legs once again.  


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