Pimples on legs: Causes and treatment – Medical News Today

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.

Keratosis pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is another common skin condition that causes small, red bumps to appear on the skin. Similarly to folliculitis, keratosis pilaris may itch, feel dry, or feel rough to touch.

The American Academy of Dermatology report that approximately 40 percent of all adults and up to 50-80 percent of teens experience keratosis pilaris.

Keratosis pilaris occurs when a protein called keratin and dead skin clog the skin’s pores. Keratin is found in the nails, hair, and skin. While anyone could develop it, keratosis pilaris is more likely to occur in people with eczema or dry skin.

While keratosis pilaris is a harmless condition, some people may want to speak to their doctor about treatment. In some cases, doctors may recommend moisturizing ointments or creams to help alleviate the symptoms.


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.


Eczema, which is also called atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition where itchy patches appear along with red bumps. These patches may form pimple-like blisters that ooze a clear liquid, or they could be dry and scaly.

A person with eczema tends to go through periods where rashes appear, often referred to as flares. Between flares, the skin may return to normal.

There are many potential triggers of eczema flares. These can include:

  • contact with certain fabrics, such as wool
  • various cleaning products
  • perfumes or cosmetics
  • heat and sweat
  • soaps
  • detergents
  • stress

Researchers are still not sure of the causes of eczema. However, they have started to take note of certain patterns in eczema’s occurrences. Some observations include:

  • It is more common in cities with higher pollution levels and cooler temperatures.
  • A child born to an older woman is more likely to develop eczema.
  • Eczema tends to run in families.
  • Females are slightly more likely to get eczema than males.
  • There appears to be a connection between eczema and the person or their family having seasonal allergies.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggest that approximately 90 percent of eczema cases are diagnosed before a child’s fifth birthday, and the condition is far less likely to start when a person is an adult. However, an adult has about a 50 percent chance of still showing some symptoms as they age if they had eczema as a child.

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