Pimples on legs: Causes and treatment

Pimples often appear as one or more red or white, potentially itchy or painful, bumps on the skin. In some cases, they form a pink-red rash on the adjacent skin or produce pus. They may also make a person feel uncomfortable, exposing their legs in front of others.

Still, pimples on the legs are often not a major or long-lasting problem. In most cases, the causes are not of significant concern. A person who develops a pimple on the leg can often treat it at home, using over-the-counter (OTC) medications and other home remedies.

Learn about the causes and treatments of pimples on the legs here.


Common causes of small bumps or pimples on the legs include:


Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicles. This can be from a bacterial or fungal infection that makes the hair follicles become inflamed or blocked. Symptoms of folliculitis are red bumps that may appear as a rash.

The most common causes that pose a risk of developing folliculitis include:

  • tight clothing
  • heat and sweat
  • shaving

Almost anyone can develop folliculitis. However, some people may be more at risk of developing folliculitis than others. These risk factors include:

  • being overweight
  • frequent use of public or private hot tubs
  • eczema
  • injuries to the skin
  • underlying health conditions that reduce the body’s ability to fight infection

In most cases, folliculitis will clear on its own and does not pose a major threat. However, if it does not clear up, it could progress into a more serious infection or cause boils to form.

Boils are large, pus-filled bumps that are commonly caused by Staphylococcus bacterial infection.

If any skin infection becomes worse, a person should seek medical attention, as soon as possible.

Hives are described as itchy red or skin-toned welts that are slightly raised above the rest of the skin. When pressed in the center, they turn white. Hives can appear on the legs and nearly anywhere else on the body.

Some people may mistake hives for a pimple on their leg due to their similar appearance.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, approximately 20 percent of people will develop hives at some point in their lifetime.

Hives can occur at any age but tend to be associated with underlying conditions, such as:

  • viral hepatitis
  • colds
  • autoimmune disease
  • bacterial infections, including Strep throat
  • infectious mononucleosis

Also, there are several potential triggers that can cause hives. These may include:

  • insect bites
  • reaction to medications
  • pollen
  • plants
  • foods
  • cold/heat
  • latex

Hives are often not a serious cause for concern unless other symptoms occur with them.

One of the most common causes is insect bites, which are often itchy but not serious.

Folliculitis typically does not require treatment. It should clear on its own within a few days. However, if it progresses to a more advanced form or does not go away, a person should see a doctor.

For folliculitis due to shaving, the best treatment is often prevention. A person can help prevent folliculitis by:

  • using an electric razor rather than a disposable razor
  • using extra shaving cream or soap to lessen skin irritation
  • avoiding shaving for a set period of time after a folliculitis episode

Treatment of folliculitis depends on what causes it to occur. A doctor may suggest:

  • moisturizers that are oil-free
  • topical steroids
  • topical or oral antibiotic therapy
  • antifungal therapy

Keratosis pilaris

Typically, it is not necessary for doctors to treat bumps on the legs that are due to keratosis pilaris. In some cases, if the condition does not clear on its own, a person may wish to speak to their doctor about medicated moisturizing creams.

A doctor may discuss laser therapy as an option in more extreme cases


Treatment for most hives starts with prevention. Insect bites commonly cause hives, which means using repellants and limiting exposed skin when outdoors to stop bites from occurring. If a hive occurs, there are some topical OTC anti-itch creams available.

If other symptoms accompany the hives, a person should seek medical attention. There may be additional concerns, such as a specific allergy or intolerance, that a doctor will need to assess and treat.


A doctor may suggest various treatment options when treating eczema. Some typical treatments include:

  • antihistamines
  • antibiotics
  • corticosteroids

A doctor may be able to suggest strategies for avoiding the potential triggers.

A person with eczema should also be aware of their increased susceptibility to skin infections and should avoid people with chickenpox or cold sores. Exposure to herpes simplex virus can lead to eczema herpeticum, which is a severe infection that spreads quickly.


In most cases, little red bumps on the legs are not a major cause for concern. A person should seek medical attention if they are not sure of the pimples’ origins. Also, they should look out for signs of infection, as these would require medical attention. Signs of infection to watch for include:

  • worsening rash
  • fever
  • pain
  • red streaks coming from the pimples
  • blisters
  • swelling around the pimples

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