Here’s how to prevent neck wrinkles. (Photo: Getty)
Neck sag and wrinkling used to be a concern strictly for women of a certain age. See: Nora Ephron’s bestselling collection of essays on aging, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman, penned when the late writer was 67.
But this year, when dermatologists released research conducted for Yves Saint Laurent Beauty, the issue seemed to move beyond the AARP set and include all generations — thanks to the way we use technology. Pointing to increased neck wrinkles in women aged 18-39 who own an average of three devices and peer down at screens up to 150 times a day, the researchers postulate that frequent downward head tilt is creating perma-creases on the neck — what the research’s dermatologists called “tech neck.”
So should we all feel bad about our necks and invest in creams or treatments specially targeted for that part of the body? We talked to a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon to learn more about how to care for this often-neglected section of skin.
The first thing to note about preventative neck care? It demands sun protection, just like the face. “Our necks get almost as much sun as our faces every day,” says Dr. Jessica Krant, a dermatologist and physician at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “We remember to protect our faces, but hardly ever think about our necks.” She says that while the front of the neck is generally protected by the shadow of our chin, the sides are not, so we should expand daily sunscreen application past the face to cover the skin below.
Secondly, Krant says moisturization is key in preventative neck care since the skin on this part of the body is thinner, drier, and more prone to irritation than the skin on the faces. While our complexions are equipped with sebaceous glands (particularly in the T-zone) to protect and moisturize, the skin on our necks are different. “The lack of these glands on the neck is a reason it can be difficult to use the same anti-aging products in both places,” she says.
Those who use simple moisturizers, like Kate Somerville Dilo Oil ($65) (made without active ingredients that irritate — like retinoids and alpha and beta hydroxy acids), can use the same product on the neck, says Krant, and skip the need for a dedicated neck cream or serum. However, if active ingredients in a face moisturizer are too irritating on neck skin, then a formula devised for the neck itself can help provide hydration without redness or itch.
When looking for a neck hydrator, Krant suggests formulas stocked with emollients (like petrolatum and ceramides) and natural oils, like Algenist Firming & Lifting Cream ($95), which includes avocado and olive oils. Those looking to blur fine lines may benefit from a formula like La Prairie Anti-Aging Neck Cream ($240), which boasts light refraction polymers aimed to blur imperfections seen by the naked eye. Meanwhile, a non-greasy option like Orlane Paris Firming Serum Neck and Décolleté ($120) hydrates with glycerin, dimethicone, and jojoba and won’t stain clothes.
While many neck creams and serums are touted to firm the skin, Krant admits that, “truly firming the skin with a cream alone is difficult.” Instead, newer in-office treatments can help to resurface neck skin. “Just a few years ago, our only treatment options were surgical, but we now have non-invasive technologies that can provide improvement in both skin laxity and tone and texture,” says Dr. Haideh Hirmand, a cosmetic surgeon and clinical assistant professor of surgery at Weill-Cornell Medical College. Hirmand points to ultherapy, intense pulsed light therapy, and high-impact carbon dioxide lasers, which tighten and lift tissue, minimizes lines and wrinkles, and delete dark spots, respectively.
Tech neck, turkey neck — whatever you call it, everyone can benefit from treating the neck before the unsavory nicknames come into play. “Often, as we get older, we are better at taking care of our faces than our necks, and the neck looks old while the rest looks fine,” says Krant. “Don’t let that happen.”