Have Bumps On Your Legs That Look Like Pimples? Here’s What To Do

Written by Ramona Sinha

Do you often notice reddish bumps on your legs? Do you think they are pimples or acne? Well, acne on the legs is a rare occurrence. The red bumps you see on your legs might be due to inflammation caused by issues like folliculitis or keratosis pilaris (chicken skin). These acne-like bumps may produce pus and cause an itching and burning sensation. These are easy to treat at home unless caused by an underlying issue. Keep reading to understand the exact reasons behind the red bumps on your legs, treatment, and prevention methods.

Causes Of Pimple-Like Bumps On The Legs

The red bumps on the legs are caused by several underlying factors and may differ as per a person’s age and existing health condition. The most common causes include:

1. Keratosis Pilaris

Keratosis pilaris or chicken skin is a condition that causes acne-like bumps on the skin. It is caused by excess keratin production in the hair follicles, which plugs the follicles, causing inflammation. However, one study published in the International Journal of Trichology concluded that a defect in the hair shaft causes it.

2. Folliculitis

Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles and is commonly caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. However, some other forms of folliculitis are triggered by fungal (Malassezia furfur) and viral (Molluscum contagiosum) infections. Even Demodex folliculorum mites can also cause folliculitis. It appears like red bumps or pus-filled pimples around the follicles.

3. Eczema

Eczema often causes red pimply and itchy rashes on the legs. It may make the skin dry and scaly and cause fluid-filled blisters. The most common triggers of eczema include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Cosmetics, including skin care and makeup
  • Certain fabrics, such as wool or animal fur
  • Excessively hot or cold conditions
  • Stress
  • Soaps and detergents

This is an auto-immune condition and does not have any cure. However, you can manage the flare-ups with regular treatment.

4. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic condition and can often appear like red, scaly patches and may also cause pimple-like rashes on the legs. Certain factors can trigger psoriasis, including:

  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Skin injury
  • Certain medications such as beta-blockers or anti-malaria drugs
  • Increased stress levels

Pustular psoriasis often appears like pus-filled bumpy rashes on the skin.

While you cannot treat eczema and psoriasis, you can manage the flare-ups with proper treatment and doctor-prescribed medications. If you have eczema or psoriasis, it is best to consult with a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.

However, if the red bumps on your legs are formed due to keratosis pilaris or folliculitis, or accumulation of dead skin cells, you can follow the tips to manage them.

Pimple On The Legs: Treatment

1. To manage folliculitis, use topical antibiotics like clindamycin and mupirocin. The doctor may also prescribe other antibiotics like:

  • Cephalexin
  • Dicloxacillin
  • Ampicillin
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Itraconazole and fluconazole (for fungal folliculitis)
  • Cantharidin (topical cream for viral folliculitis)

2. Exfoliate your legs regularly. This may help with bumps caused by keratosis pilaris or clogged skin pores. Use salicylic acid or glycolic acid-based cleansers and chemical exfoliators (AHA-based) to clear away the dirt and dead skin, blocking the pores.

3. Use OTC creams containing benzoyl peroxide as a spot treatment. It exfoliates the skin and reduces inflammation and swelling.

4. Always moisturize the legs with oil-free and non-comedogenic products to prevent clogged pores.

5. You may apply topical retinol products to reduce swelling and inflammation.

6. Always apply sunscreen on the legs if you are going out and the legs are exposed. UV exposure can worsen the bumps of the legs.

7. Use a warm compress on the bumps to loosen the dirt and sebum. You can take a warm shower and then exfoliate the area. This can soften the bumps and reduce inflammation.

Pimple-like inflammation on the legs is not uncommon and is manageable. However, follow these tips to prevent their occurrence.

Prevention Tips For Acne On Legs

  1. Consume a healthy diet to nourish your skin from within and keep it healthy.
  2. Maintain optimum hygiene. Exfoliate the legs regularly and follow up with a non-comedogenic moisturizer. Avoid applying chemical-laden products like fake tanners and similar products, as they can irritate the skin.
  3. Always apply sunscreen to prevent UV damage and inflammation.
  4. Do not try to squeeze any zit on your legs, as it can contribute to further inflammation.
  5. Avoid wearing tight, skin-hugging clothes as they cause friction and may irritate the skin and intensify the bumps.
  6. Wear breathable fabric and comfortable clothing to prevent sweat and sebum accumulation on your legs.
  7. Certain detergents can also irritate the skin and cause pimple-like bumps. Use mild detergents to wash your clothes.
  8. If you shave your legs, use a sharp razor and always moisturize the skin before shaving. Often, improper shaving techniques can cause bumps on the legs.

To Conclude

Acne-like bumps on the legs are common and caused by multiple underlying and lifestyle-related factors. If you have conditions like eczema and psoriasis, consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. If the bumps are caused by other minor factors, you can follow the tips discussed in the article to manage and improve their appearance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are sunspots the same as acne on the legs?

No. Sunspots are flat brown spots caused by excess melanin production. They do not have a bumpy appearance like acne.

Is it a good idea to pop any acne-like bumps on the legs?

No. Popping and squeezing the zits may cause pain and inflammation. They may also cause spots and scars.

How long does it take for leg acne to heal on its own?

They may not heal on their own as the bumps on the legs are caused by clogged pores, ingrown hair, or follicle infection. You have to use OTC products and exfoliate the skin regularly to get rid of them.


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