For anyone who cares about not looking the age they really are—or, god forbid, even older—there’s an area you may want to pay a little more attention to protecting from the sun, year-round. “The decolletage is one of the most neglected areas of the body,” says skincare guru Sonya Dakar. “We spend years pampering our complexions only to let our chests give us away.” Indeed, “The neck and decollete area is even more delicate than skin on the face, so it can show the evidence of sun damage and aging even faster,” says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, codirector of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery. “It’s more prone to sun damage than the face.”
The moral of this story? SPF is a must, daily, all the way down to your breasts. “Your skincare regimen shouldn’t stop at your jawline,” says Dakar. “Too much sun combined with the natural thinning of the fat under the skin can result in all sorts of problems, from crepey or leathery skin to cleavage wrinkles and age spots.” None of those are attractive, perhaps least of all cleavage wrinkles, and all can make someone young appear much older prematurely. Damage here is also difficult to reverse.
“The area on the décolletage is usually exposed on a daily basis to the sun and environmental factors,” says Dakar, whose Beverly Hills spa sees the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Drew Barrymore. “It shows lines, gets discolored and can get into a constant red state from too much sun or too many sunburns.” Her point is that taking care of the area from the get-go pays off in the long run by staving off these many unattractive signs of aging.
When selecting an SPF, opt for moisturizing formulas since the skin on one’s chest has fewer oil glands and thus is more prone to dehydration. It is also a thin area that can burn quicker, leaving behind extensive and severe damage. A high SPF is important: a minimum of 30 should be used daily, reapplied every two hours when in direct sun. Tanzi prefers physical sunscreen formulas with zinc or titanium for the chest and neck, such Skyn Iceland Icelandic Moisture SPF 30, Sonya Dakar Daily Body Shield or SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense 50. But the best plan of attack is really to avoid sun on the area altogether, says Tanzi, who prefers patients use self-tanner.
Don’t forget the power of other products to work in tandem with SPF and after sun exposure. For repair, retinols can be used on the area, says Dakar, who suggests beginning with a product once or twice a week to see how it’s handled; she also likes an anti-aging mask every other night to address damage. Tanzi recommends using glycolic acid pads or Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads overnight, every other night. “If trying to combat hyperpigmentation on the decolletage, use products that contain daisy extract, lactic acid or licorice extract—never glycol acid or hydroquinone. The results will be slower but not as irritating,” says Dakar.
Also, because of the more predisposition to dryness, a heavy moisturizer is appropriate. Antioxidant serums (try iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion in tandem with Extreme Protect SPF 30) can be used on the décolleté to boost the skin’s immune system against toxins and environmental damage. “My favorites are marabou and buddeleja plant stem cells,” says Dakar, “It’s been clinically shown they protect skin from UVA damage—the key UV radiation linked to photo aging. They also boost the skin’s own natural antioxidant system and inhibits collagen degradation.” During the day also try moisturizers with SPF, like Erno Laszlo’s Luminous Intensive Decollete Treatment SPF 20, but be aware of the amount used for it takes a lot to provide adequate coverage. This, and not continuing products beyond the jaw, says Tanzi, “is a reason why most women have a chest that looks worse than their face.”
One more way to keep a younger, prettier décolleté: “Do not apply perfume to the neck or chest [as it] can cause pigmentation issues, spotty skin and irritation, especially when exposed to sunlight,” says Dakar. “Instead, apply to hair and inside the wrists.”