The skin on our necks is thinner than the skin on our faces and it’s exposed to the same wear and tear. So what are you doing about your neck?
You have your anti-aging skincare routine down to a science, you never leave the house without wearing vitamin c serum and sunscreen, and at night you refuse to let your face touch the pillow without applying under-eye treatment and moisturizer. But what are you doing about your neck?
Americans spend so much effort preventing signs of aging like creasing and wrinkling in the space between their chins and foreheads. In reality, the neck often starts to look older long before crow’s feet enter the picture. The skin on our necks is thinner than the skin on our faces and it’s exposed to the same wear and tear. Unfortunately, it also tends to get a lot less TLC, if any at all.
“Over time, skin loses collagen and elastin,” says New York City plastic surgeon Benjamin Paul, MD. Dr. Paul explains smoking and sun damage can also further accelerate aging of the skin on the neck. Those aren't the only causes of neck aging. As we get older, laxity in the neck occurs due to a loss of support from connective tissue and muscle. This leads to what we commonly call a “waddle” or “turkey neck" and looks like loose skin under our chin.
The appearance of sagging skin on the neck can affect everyone. Repeated pulling of the platysma muscle, which is the muscle men often flex while shaving, tugs on the overlying skin and causes it to wrinkle over time. According to Dr. Paul, thyroid or neck surgery also loosens the neck and can contribute to an older appearance.
While there’s not much we can do about getting older, it is possible to slow down the physical signs of aging. Here are some ways you can prevent future sagging skin and promote a younger-looking neck.
Protect Your Skin From the Sun
It’s common knowledge that sun exposure causes major damage to your skin. This includes the delicate skin on your neck, which is one of the first places the signs of aging can take hold. According to Dr. Paul, the single best thing you can do to preserve a youthful neck and prevent sagging skin, age spots, and fine lines is to wear sunscreen.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of at least 30 because it blocks 97 percent of the sun’s damaging UVB rays. Apply sunscreen to your face and neck every morning before putting on your makeup, whether you’re spending the day indoors or outside. Remember to reapply every few hours to make sure your skin is always protected.
Add a Retinoid To Your Skincare Routine
If you’re an anti-aging veteran, your medicine cabinet is likely stocked with skincare products that promise to reduce wrinkles and give you a smooth, tight complexion. There is a huge variety of creams, for instance, that help moisturize the neck. Do they actually work? “In my experience,” says Dr. Paul, “the benefit of neck creams is quite limited.” Unless it contains a retinoid.
Retinoids, a class of ingredients that includes retinol, retinyl palmitate, and retinoic acid, can repair sun damage by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, smoothing the skin texture, and evening the skin tone. They do it by boosting collagen production and stimulating cell turnover deep within the skin.
“Retinoids are potent, but they may be irritating,” says Dr. Paul. To minimize irritation, apply a retinoid to clean skin at night and wait a few minutes before layering on moisturizer. Because the skin on the neck is thinner than it is on the face, start with a small amount of retinoid and build up slowly. If you've never used one, a dermatologist can guide you in selecting the right product.
Shrink Your Double Chin
If you’re worried about a double chin, a non-invasive treatment called Kybella® could help restore the youthful neck you desire. Kybella® is a non-surgical treatment that involves a series of deoxycholic acid injections which target and destroy fat cells in the chin. There are no incisions with Kybella® and most patients experience minimal downtime.
While the acid in Kybella® does destroy fat cells, which are metabolized and eliminated by the body naturally, it won’t help with turkey neck. “Kybella® does not change the skin of the neck or laxity that may be present in the platysma,” Dr. Paul explains. To remove sagging skin after Kybella® treatment, a skin-tightening or surgical procedure may be necessary.
Reduce Wrinkles Caused By Aging and Sun Damage
We know Botox® works to reduce lines and wrinkles on the face. Similarly, Botox® can be injected into the submental area and jawline to give a “lift” to an aging neck. “Botox® may reduce vertical cording or banding on the neck that is caused by platysma muscle contraction,” says Dr. Paul. The treatment promotes a more youthful neck by relaxing the muscles that pull on the overlying skin and create wrinkles. The results of Botox® last between four and six months, and the treatment can be performed in as little as 15 minutes. It's best on vertical lines, though. Botox® will have little, if any, effect on horizontal lines which are formed on the neck through skin creasing.
Embrace Technology to Improve Sagging Skin
It can be challenging to treat sagging skin with topical products alone. At the same time, many patients are hesitant to go under the knife to correct loose neck skin. Luckily there are several professional skin tightening options that can give them the results they desire without surgery.
“Radiofrequency and ultrasound devices aim to tighten the neck with energy,” says Dr. Paul. The treatments have been shown to tighten loose neck skin by using energy to heat the skin and boosts the production of collagen and important proteins. However, Dr. Paul cautions that the effects of these devices is limited and patients may need multiple treatments to see results.
Go Under the Laser, Not the Knife
We know lasers can reduce unwanted hair and remove tattoos, but these incredible devices can also be used to rejuvenate the skin and promote a more youthful look. Laser resurfacing involves directing short, concentrated, pulsating beams of light at the face or neck to remove damaged skin layer by layer.
With laser resurfacing, “the goal is to improve lines, texture, and surface irregularities,” says Dr. Paul. There are two types of lasers commonly used in skin resurfacing: ablative CO2 lasers and non-ablative (fraxel) lasers. “There is more tightening with ablative lasers, though there is a higher risk of neck scarring,” Dr. Paul cautions. “Choose your laser doctor carefully.”
Try Intense Pulsed Light Therapy For Dark Spots
If you have dark spots on your neck, you’re looking at the results of sun damage. Luckily, you don’t have to live with age spots forever. Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) is similar to a laser treatment in that it uses energy to treat wrinkles, dark spots, and sun damage. But it’s different because it releases many different wavelengths of light, so is more scattered and less targeted. During an IPL treatment, pigment in the skin absorbs the light, which is converted to heat. The heat then destroys the unwanted pigment to fade the appearance of red and brown spots. According to Dr. Paul, it may take between three and five IPL treatments to see results.
When Surgery is The Best Option
Non-invasive treatments can dramatically improve the appearance of a double chin and wrinkles, age spots, and fine lines on the neck. If you have loose or sagging skin, however, you might be best treated with surgery. Options for cosmetic neck surgery include liposuction of the neck to reduce fat or a neck lift to tighten the skin and muscle (platysmaplasty).
According to Dr. Paul, a neck lift in conjunction with a deep plane facelift is the gold standard in restoring a youthful neck and jawline. In this procedure, the deep tissues of the neck are dissected and supported to lift sagging skin on the neck and jowls. A deep plane face and neck lift is performed under general anesthesia in an operating room. The results are natural looking and can last up to 10 to 12 years.