By Dr. Lisa Kellett M.D., F.R.C.P. (C), D.A.B.D.
The most important issue for the skin on the legs by far is sun protection for a number of reasons.
The sun is the primary cause of the number one cancer in North America, skin cancer. It is also the cause of photoaging, namely wrinkles, brown spots and uneven skin tone.
Malignant melanoma is a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. In women, one of the most common body sites to develop malignant melanoma is the calf. As a result patients are instructed to examine their own skin once a month looking for any new moles or brown spots or any change in these lesions.
Other common skin cancers seen on the legs are precancerous spots called actinic keratoses, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas.
Thus, when legs are exposed to the sun, even when wearing stockings, the skin should be protected. The best way to do so is to use a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and sun protective clothing of UPF 50 or higher.
Another common concern on the legs is brown sun spots called lentigines. These are benign in nature and are as a result of sun exposure. The treatment for these is the Lumenis One light source which targets pigmented lesions and effectively removes them.
For women one of the most common complaints is cellulite on the legs. It is characterized by an irregular, dimpled appearance of the skin. Treatment of this is with the Synergie which improves the appearance of the skin making it smoother with a more even texture.
Women and men often complain about a long standing, common skin condition characterized by small bumps on the back of the thighs called keratosis pilaris. For many people the look of this is quite disturbing as it can be quite red and often irritated. One effective treatment for this is the diamond peel, which removes the keratin plugs resulting in smoother, softer, more even toned skin.
No discussion on summer skin care on the legs would be complete without mentioning the self imposed problem of tattoos. In women these are often found on the lower legs and for many they inhibit their choice of clothing. The gold standard for tattoo removal is the Q switched Ruby laser which removes tattoos using specific wavelengths of light to effectively remove tattoos.
Folliculitis is an inflammmation around the hair follicle which manifests as irritated red bumps on the legs. It can be caused by a number of thing including lake water, hot tubs and shaving. Blue Light therapy can be used in addition to a topical antibiotic wash.
Dermatofibromas are firm papules found mainly on the legs and are as a result of ingrown hairs or insect bites. These are found in both men and women and can be treated with surgery.
Age spots called seborrheic keratoes are warty – like lesions found on the legs of patients over the age of 35 and can be easily removed by a procedure called electrodessication which carefully removes them to result in smooth, flawless skin.
Finally, regardless of your skin ailment the first step is to consult with a dermatologist for a medical assessment so that a proper diagnosis and management plan can be made.