Why Is My Neck Aging Faster Than the Rest of Me?
Psst. The area just south of your face needs love too.
As a 50-year-old woman, I had anticipated eyelid droop. I had anticipated crow’s feet and forehead lines. (Anticipated and eradicated with Botox Cosmetic, thank you very much.) However, as a person who takes pretty meticulous care of my complexion, not just with injectables but with sunscreen and other skin-saving products, I did not expect to wake up to find that my prized part — my long, lean and evenly pigmented neck — had aged seemingly 20 years overnight. How, after a year of minimal sun exposure and all the time in the world for self-care, had my neck suddenly gone from swan to turkey? I turned to several of my favorite sources to help me figure out the hows, whys and, more important, what-to-dos about the wobbly wasteland below my chin. Here's what I learned.
Is the computer to blame for our nation’s current saggy neck crisis?
It’s certainly not helping. Recent research shows that in the wake of the pandemic, individuals report a 33-185% increase in their screen time. And the simple act of looking down at a device can add anywhere between 10-60 pounds of weight on the delicate neck area. This, coupled with factors like collagen loss and the thin texture of the skin surrounding the neck area, makes the neck more vulnerable to premature signs of aging. Furthermore, the platysma — two plate-like muscles which run up the sides of the neck — is prone to sagging and susceptible to the effects of gravity. “Dermatologists are seeing an uptick in aesthetic concerns from our patients because, as we work from home, many of us are staring at ourselves all day long on video calls. As a result, we are not only more conscious of our physical appearance, but the action of looking down at our phone or computer can also exacerbate 'tech neck,' which in addition to the musculoskeletal issues, is characterized by skin laxity and sagging and deepening of the horizontal neck lines,” says Shari Marchbein, M.D.
Why did my neck aging seem to creep up overnight?
“I think it’s because so many of us either ignore or forget about our neck entirely, and don’t use skincare products in that region like we do on our face ... until it seems that, suddenly, we’ve aged a decade and now we have sagging neck skin,” Dr. Marchbein says. Like eyelid skin, neck skin is thin and delicate and requires special care. It also has fewer oil glands and is, therefore, more prone to showing the signs of aging, including sagging, sunspots and fine lines.
When should you really start taking care of your neck?
We know that after age 25, our bodies start producing collagen at a rate of about one percent less per year in the skin. This means that by 50, there is almost no new collagen being made — and the collagen that remains becomes broken down, fragmented and weaker, according to Dr. Marchbein. In our mid-to-late 20s (and certainly by our 30s), most of us begin to notice some looseness of the neck skin, particularly close to the jawline, a deepening of the horizontal neck lines and more pronounced platysma. By our 40s and 50s, as we have more significant sagging, skin laxity and volume loss, the signs of aging will become more evident especially if these areas have not been addressed and maintained throughout the years. The laxity of the neck and thickening of the strong muscular platysma also contributes to the downward pull on the face and jawline, and the appearance of jowls. All of this to say that by our mid 20s, at the latest, we should be focusing some of our anti-aging efforts on our neck. You can start by doing things like applying your facial products down to the base of your neck.
Uh-oh. I’m 50. Is it too late for me to get a nicer looking neck?
“It's never too late to start taking good care of your skin,” says David Shafer, M.D., F.A.C.S. “The most important thing is a healthy diet, not smoking, protection from the sun and using effective daily skincare products that help hydrate and restore.” To that end, get in the habit of applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to all exposed neck skin daily. And stop terminating your skincare regimen at your jawline! Seek out products specifically designed to treat the thin skin on the neck, such as Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum and SkinMedica Neck Correct Cream. Both of these formulas contain peptides, which can help boost the production of collagen and elastin and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the neck.
Neck skin has fewer oil glands and is, therefore, more prone to showing the signs of aging, including sagging, sunspots and fine lines.
Is there more than one way for a neck to age?
"In short, yes," says Dara Liotta, M.D., F.A.C.S. "I say that platysmal banding — a pronounced platysma — is a 'thin person problem.' If you had extra padding, you wouldn’t see it. Heavier people tend to have the same platysmal banding in addition to excess fat, which pulls the fat forward and gives more of a sloped neck effect, according to Dr. Liotta.
Do facial exercises, such as tilting your head back and trying to cover your upper lip with your lower lip, help tighten the neck area at all?
The most important movement for the neck is to keep it upright and avoid prolonged periods of time looking down, such as when you're using electronics, advises Dr. Shafer. But in reality, the neck skin is going to age and sag just as the facial skin will so it’s important to start a skincare routine early and, just as with our face, use preventative treatments.
And if I wanted to get slightly more “aggressive” with my neck care?
Botox Cosmetic and fillers can be used separately and in combination to improve the look of a saggy or lined neck. One solution is the so-called “Nefertiti” lift, which is done by injecting Botox Cosmetic into the platysma as well as along the jawline, says Dr. Marchbein. But at a certain point, it may make more financial sense to consider a lower face lift, says Dr. Liotta. “A lower face lift and neck lift — often combined with a chin implant, depending on the patient’s natural chin projection — can yield the best and most long-lasting results."