The oily substance called sebum is meant to lubricate hair and skin, keeping it smooth, soft and healthy. But excess sebum becomes a problem when it clogs pores and mixes with bacteria and dead skin cells to create pimples.
The face, neck, chest, back and shoulders are the most common sites of acne, but pimples can pop up anywhere on the body -- including the legs. The prescription for getting rid of pimples on the legs is the same as getting rid of them anywhere else on the body -- keep them clean, treat them and don't irritate them.
Practice Good Hygiene
To prevent the bacteria that causes pimples from collecting on the skin's surface, it's important to bathe regularly. Shower or take a bath daily, especially after you exercise and sweat. Use a mild fragrance-free soap and a soft washcloth. Be sure to rinse your legs off well, and pat your legs dry when you get out of the shower so as not to irritate the skin.
Irritating your skin by rubbing, scratching or picking at it can make pimples much worse. Don't pop pimples no matter how strong the urge. You can spread bacteria and risk infection if bacteria gets into an open sore.
In the shower, don't scrub or use a coarse sponge such as a loofah. That can break open the pimples and lead to further infection, and it can cause sensitive, acne-prone skin to breakout. Avoid touching your legs; if the skin is itchy you may try an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
Wear loose-fitting clothing that breathes and wicks sweat away from the body while exercising to prevent irritation from rubbing and moisture.Wear light, breathable fabrics on your legs if you must wear pants, and wear shorts or skirts around the house to allow your legs to get some fresh air. Avoid wearing scratchy materials such as wool, which can irritate the skin.
Treat the Pimples
For mild to moderate pimples on your legs you can try an over-the-counter topical medication for treating acne that contains benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide helps to kill bacteria and prohibit oil production.
The percentage of benzoyl peroxide is unimportant, although you may want to start off with the lowest percentage you can find to see how your body will react to it. Follow the manufacturers' directions carefully as to how much and how often to apply.
Salicylic acid is another potentially effective treatment. Salicylic acid increases cell turnover which can help clear pores and prevent acne. You can find body washes with salicylic acid; however, a topical gel or cream that stays on the skin is likely more effective.
Choose soaps and lotions that are fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, meaning they don't contain ingredients known to clog pores.
Apply a non-comedogenic sunscreen if you plan on wearing shorts or a skirt outside, and limit your exposure to the sun as much as possible. Sunburns and tans can dry out the skin making acne worse, and some medications including benzoyl peroxide can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and keep your system flushed. Maintain a healthy diet, eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits and staying away from fatty and sugary foods, refined grains and other potential acne triggers such as caffeine and dairy products.
If you see no signs of improvement after attempting to eliminate the acne on your own, speak to your doctor or a dermatologist about solutions that may work for you.