Pimples or a pimple-like rash can develop on any part of the body, including on the legs and thighs. Potential causes include folliculitis, keratosis pilaris, and hives.

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, bumps on legs that look like pimples 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 or bumps on the leg can often treat it at home, using over-the-counter (OTC) medications and other home remedies.

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Common causes of small bumps or on the legs include:

Folliculitis

Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicles. This typically results from a bacterial or fungal infection. Symptoms of folliculitis are red bumps that may appear as a rash.

People may damage their hair follicles by:

  • wearing tight clothing
  • touching or rubbing their skin frequently
  • shaving, waxing, or plucking
  • having areas of skin that rub against each other
  • allowing their skin to become damp and hot, such as when spending time in a hot tub
  • using certain medications, such as topical products that contain coal tar

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

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 typically result from Staphylococcus infection.

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

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Keratosis pilaris

Keratosis pilaris is another common skin condition that causes small, red bumps to appear on the skin.

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

While keratosis pilaris often goes away during adulthood, some people may want to speak to their doctor about treatment.

Hives

Hives are itchy red, discolored, or skin-toned bumps that are slightly raised above the rest of the skin. If a person presses them 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 (ACAAI), approximately 20% 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:

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.

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Eczema

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition in which itchy patches appear along with red or discolored 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, or flares. Between flares, the skin may return to its usual state.

According to the ACAAI, there are many potential triggers of eczema flares. These can include:

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

Researchers still do not know exactly causes of eczema. However, a combination of genetic factors, problems with the immune system, and certain environmental factors may play role in the development of the condition.

Treatments for pimples or bumps on the legs will depend on the underlying cause.

The following are some of the common treatments that are used based on the cause of the pimples.

Folliculitis

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.

A person may help prevent folliculitis resulting from shaving by:

  • using an electric razor rather than a disposable razor
  • avoiding shaving for a set period of time after a folliculitis episode
  • applying shaving gel and avoiding soap when using a blade shaver

Treatment of folliculitis depends on the underlying cause. A doctor may suggest:

Keratosis pilaris

Typically, it is not necessary for doctors to treat bumps on the legs that are due to keratosis pilaris. A person may find using an exfoliating sponge or scrub while bathing or showering helpful.

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.

Hives

According to the ACAAI, treatment for most hives starts with avoiding potential triggers. For example, not wearing tight clothes, if a person experiences hives due to pressure on the skin.

Antihistamines may help to relieve itching.

If other symptoms accompany the hives, a person should seek medical attention. If a person has specific allergy or intolerance, a doctor can recommend appropriate treatment. People may require injectable epinephrine (EpiPen) for severe allergies.

Eczema

A doctor may suggest various treatment options when treating eczema, such as:

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

In most cases, bumps on the legs that look like pimples are not a major cause for concern.

However, a person should seek medical attention if the bumps do not go away, worsen in severity, or interfere with a person’s usual activities.

People should also seek medical attention for skin infections. Signs of infection include:

  • pain, tenderness, or warmth when a person touches the affected area of skin
  • skin redness or discoloration
  • swelling in the affected area of skin
  • bumps that contain pus

Causes of pimples or bumps on the legs may include folliculitis, keratosis pilaris, and hives.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause but may include moisturizing creams or topical medications. A doctor can recommend the most appropriate treatment on an individual basis.

People should also speak with a doctor if they notice any signs of infection.