WHAT’S GOING ON WITH OUR NECKS?Photos Bogdana Ferguson | Words Kristin Limoges | Model Michelle Phanh
Bestselling author, revolutionary director, and gone-too-soon and all-around extraordinary person Nora Ephron once wrote in her wry 2006 book I Feel Bad About My Neck, “You can put makeup on your face and concealer under your eyes and dye on your hair, you can shoot collagen and Botox and Restylane into your wrinkles and creases, but short of surgery, there’s not a damn thing you can do about a neck. The neck is a dead giveaway. Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth.”
Ephron was right–particularly about the age-identifying tactic that is our neck. But in the 14 years since Ephron wrote those words, we’ve had a lot of neck-defying advancements via lotions, electronic devices, and in-office procedures–but also some huge setbacks in the form of “tech neck” from our obsession with technology and phones.
Ephron would hopefully feel inspired (and maybe a touch horrified) by all the options to help us feel a little less bad about our necks. From at-home tools to lab-perfected lotions to in-office procedures, here’s everything we know about Neck Care 101.
Why and How Our Necks Age Faster
Aging is a beautiful gift, a privilege. But, with the “passage of time comes cosmetic changes such as the loss of collagen, reduction of fat pads, increased elasticity, fine lines, wrinkles as well as skeletal changes that do affect how we see ourselves,” says New York-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum. All perfectly natural, but still a tad frustrating. You might be doing all the things too: slathering on SPF like no one’s business; swearing by retinols, lotions, and eye creams–but while we’re young and spry, we all tend to forget about preventative neck care.
From muscular to skeletal to skin type–your neck is very, very different from the rest of your face and body. For starters, the “neck has no bony support, so laxity is more of an issue than on the face,” says Dr. Macrene Alexiades, Associate Clinical Professor at Yale University School of Medicine, Director and Founder of Dermatology & Laser Surgery Center of New York, and CEO and Founder ofMacrene Actives.
Even the skin on your chest and neck is very different from the skin just inches above it on your face. “The skin from the jawline down has 30 percent less sebaceous glands, so the lipidic layer is thinner and that is why the skin on the neck and decollete tends to age faster and be much more reactive,” says renowned celebrity esthetician Joanna Czech.
If our skeleton and skin structure wasn’t already plotting against us, pair that with our poor posture, electronic obsession, and overall neck care. You’ve got yourself a recipe for accelerated neck aging.
“In today’s world, we use our necks a lot… I think it may be the hardest working (often overworked), body part,” says acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, and founder of Treatment by Lanshin, Sandra Lanshin Chiu.
From the new phenomenon known as “tech neck” to overall poor, slumping posture, our necks weren’t meant to be used–or overused–like we do every single day. Here are all the ways in which we accidentally pull a number on our poor neck–and what to do for each woe.
How could your posture possibly affect the fine lines of your neck? Think about how often you’re hunched over your phone, computer, or desk. A lot, right? “Even when we’re not working, our neck and head spend a lot of time bent in a forward position, says Chiu. Now, multiply that by years. And because we spend so much time with our head forward and straining, our neck muscles are required to work really hard. “One consequence is that the skin will very frequently crease at the location of the bend. Over time, that creasing will result in deeper, more fixed lines or wrinkles.”
A lot of Chiu’s recommendations for neck care is focused on improving posture because she considers it to be one of the root causes of neck aging. “If you can maintain a somewhat relaxed neck with good posture, it will positively impact the health of your neck, and thus the appearance of your skin,” she says.
Adjust Your Desk
Make your desk work for you by perfecting it to accommodate for the best posture possible. “For many people that will mean raising their computer monitor or laptop to eye level so that their neck doesn’t need to hunch forward to see the screen,” says Chiu.
Chiu also suggests taking regular breaks to remind your body that hunching over is not normal. “Try setting a timer (ideally every 30 mins if possible) to remind yourself to look up, move your neck and shoulders a bit, and maybe do some mild stretching,” she says.
Adjust Your Hand
“I am seeing horizontal creases more than ever before,” says Dr. Macrene. A shocking fact that she contributes to “tech neck”–the literal pain-in-the-neck curiosity caused by looking down at our phones and electronics all day every day.
Lines from “tech neck” aren’t just for your later years either. “I’m seeing an uptick in young people with a neck and jaw that is absolutely tied to constantly looking down at phones and laptops,” says celebrity electrical esthetician and founder ofZIIP Beauty, Melanie Simon. “The continuous looking down wrinkles the neck and it starts to have a lasting effect.”
Experts agree that holding your phone at eye level rather than looking down at it is vital. “Avoiding excessive muscular creasing (by avoiding looking down) prevents the horizontal creasing,” she says. Simon has personally seen a big difference in the aging of her neck by just keeping her phone and laptop at eye level.
If push comes to shove (or you’re just curious), bring in reinforcements–in the form of a ‘training device.’ The UpRight Go sits at the top of your spine and gently vibrates to remind or “correct” your posture. “A little body retraining goes a long way,” says Chiu.
Lotions, Potions, and Creams
Esthetician Czech has famously been a long-time advocate of skincare that begins at your nipples and ends at your hairline. “Treat your neck and decollete exactly as you treat your face during your evening and day skincare routine, including products and massage–and treat it the same way you treat your body, so it gets double treatments,” she says.
While most skincare products will accomplish adding much-needed moisture, neck and decolletage-specific products can help reduce and improve pigmentation, fine lines, and skin texture. Here are a few of our favorites.
Often ‘clean beauty’ is synonymous with less-than-effective results–but that couldn’t be further from the truth with Macrene Actives. Designed by Dr. Macrene (whose accolades are nearly as long as this article itself), this hyper-clean line was created to replicate the results you get from lasers and injectables in her office. The three-time Harvard degree graduate has targeted and bottled natural superstar actives (many come from her upstate New York farm) that undo the damage on a DNA level, and when this treatment serum is used twice a day, it can rapidly help reduce the signs of skin aging and texture, as well as pigmentation.
This beloved neck cream just got a brightening update, thanks to a trio of extracts that help reduce the look of discoloration common in aging skin. Don’t worry though, it still has the patented NIA-114TM, an optimized form of Niacin (also known as Vitamin B3), which strengthens the skin barrier to prevent moisture loss.
Bonus Czech tip with any and all neck creams you might utilize: Massage the product into the chest and neck in an upward motion, which speeds up circulation and brings more oxygen to the tissue so skin is brighter and tighter. Plus it helps for better absorption of products.
You’ve heard it time and time again–so allow us to repeat it once more for those in the back: SPF! It is inarguably the most important product in your facial regime, and the same goes for your neck, too. “While we are usually good about sunscreen and wearing hats to protect the face, the neck is an area that gets a lot of sun exposure and damage,” says Dr. Macrene.
This Supergoop option is wonderfully hydrating and wonderfully easy to use. Just swipe the stick on face, neck, and chest–then massage in.
If you want to amp up your neck routine, the addition of a facial tool or device is the way to go. Whether it be ancient (a la Gua Sha) or high-tech (like microcurrent treatments), here are a few we recommend.
Gua Sha has exponentially spiked in popularity recently, so you might assume it’s a fairly new invention, but Gua Sha is actually an ancient and formal Chinese Medicine technique. It has a plethora of benefits, including releasing muscle tension, contouring, and, yep, reducing fine lines and wrinkles. “Facial Gua Sha and massage is helpful for keeping neck muscles supple and aiding circulation (this helps maintain a healthy “glow” too),” says Chiu.
Chiu has a very in-depth, step-by-step, 15-minute video that guides you on how to Gua Sha your neck. Using a Gha Sha routine consistently can tremendously help with neck pain and tension, but also skin’s elasticity and strength.
If you like the idea of neck care, but want to add a 21st-century, high-tech twist to it, grab an electronic device, like ZIIP or NuFace. These nano-current devices promote collagen and elastin–two things wildly helpful for aging necks. They are very pricey, but if used consistently, a nano-current device can replicate the results of in-office treatments in just a few weeks.
“The best way to protect the neck is to work the area under the ear, jawline and the entire face up to the hairline at the farthest points of the face,” says Simon. “The ZIIP treatments I recommend for this are the Energize, Lymph & Lift, and Instant Gratification. They tighten the skin around the face, which in turn has a direct effect on the neck.”
If you recall Ephron’s soliloquy at the start of this article: “…but short of surgery, there’s not a damn thing you can do about a neck.” And up until recently, she was correct. Necks are a sensitive area that has historically proven challenging to address, as it does not respond well to conventional methods of in-office treatment.
But, there is hope for those desiring more aggressive results. There are a handful of non-surgical procedures that are showing promising results. One, in particular, is even impressing Dr. Macrene, a celebrity-beloved dermatologist famously known for her conservative, light hand when it comes to treatments and procedures.
“Profound is the most powerful nonsurgical device for the neck,” she says. It’s a microneedle radiofrequency treatment that significantly tightens the neck. “Other devices have less downtime but are a bit less effective,” says Dr. Macrene. If your interest is piqued, ask your dermatologist if the treatment is a good fit for you.
No matter how you feel about your neck, know that it’s doing its best, given all the technology-based woes we’re throwing at it. But hopefully a few of these ideas, products, or tools will help you feel more confident. “One of my biggest regrets…is that I didn’t spend my youth staring lovingly at my neck,” said Ephron in the opening chapter of I Feel Bad About My Neck. So maybe tonight (and hopefully beyond that), if you can, be grateful for your lovely neck–if only to honor Ephron.