I think I was 25 when my mother (who has amazing skin) said, “I wish I’d paid more attention to my neck when I was younger. Sunscreen at least.”
Did I listen?
Nope. And now I’m truly understanding what she was trying to tell me.
If you’re like me, you probably pay a lot of attention to your face. Most women do. You wash and moisturize it, apply sunscreen, and at least some of the time, examine it for blemishes, fine lines, or spots.
You probably don’t pay any where near as much attention to your neck.
Until…one day you notice your jaw line isn’t as sharp as it used to be. And what’s that loose skin doing on your neck?
There are three main reasons that our necks really begin to show some age after about 50:
- Muscles that aren’t tight
- Looser skin because of collagen and elastin breakdown. The skin on your neck is thinner and drier than skin on your face and is more susceptible to damage and drying.
- Fat under your skin (subcutaneous fat) becomes thinner in some areas which causes sagging and accumulates in other ones (double chin).
This is definitely a situation where prevention is your best defense against the unflatteringly named “turkey neck” (and why do we talk about ourselves in such unflattering ways? But I digress-that’s another discussion).
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve diligently applied sunscreen to my face and put nothing on my neck. Protecting your face, neck, chest, and hands from the sun is the single biggest thing you can do to maintain youthful healthy skin.
Oh, how I wish I had learned this earlier.
Even if your neck is already photodamaged, being consistent with your sunscreen will prevent even more damage and give your skin a chance to work on healing.
Another preventative measure is to mind your posture. Sitting with your head forward and neck stretched out looking at your phone or computer is not good for you. Not only does this position lead to back and neck pain because it puts a lot of strain on the back of your neck and shoulders, it doesn’t do the neck and lower face any favors either.
Pay attention to your posture after you’ve been on your computer or device. Are you chin forward with your neck stretched out? You’re weakening the muscles in the front of your neck and over working the muscles in the back (that weren’t designed to hold your head in this position for long periods of time).
Stop. Pull your shoulders down and back, tuck your chin slightly and straighten your spine and neck. Breathe. This is the posture you should have most of the time. If you’ve been chin forward for a while, retraining your posture is going to take some persistence and work.
If you’re like me, it’s hard to accept that some of the damage is done and without surgery it’s never going to be as tight and smooth as it was when you were twenty.
But, that’s ok. 20 wasn’t all that great, am I right?
If you have a lot of very loose skin and want it gone, gone, gone, surgery may the option that you’re going to be most pleased with.
If surgery’s not your thing, there’s plenty you can do to make your neck look better.
Like all of your muscles, the ones in your neck shrink and get looser with age. Unless you exercise them.
The (scientific) jury is out on whether facial and neck exercises make a difference. But there have been several very small studies and at least one larger, well designed study done on middle aged women that showed positive results.
I’ve been experimenting with exercises for my lower face and neck and definitely see improvement.
The keys to success are:
- Remembering to do the exercises several times a day, every day.
- Making sure that I’m isolating the proper muscles
- not making expressions like frowning that work against you
A little help from the east
Since at least the 1st century, upper class Chinese women used acupuncture, jade rollers and perhaps gua sha to preserve a youthful look.
Facial and neck acupuncture are effective for tightening skin, stimulating collagen and elastin production, improving circulation and skin texture and color.
In my practice, I’ve used both neck acupuncture and facial acupuncture protocols with great results. Look for a licensed acupuncturist who has advanced training ion cosmetic acupuncture for best results.
Jade rollers and gua sha are also effective (not quite as much or as lasting as acupuncture but you can do them at home) ways to get some lift and improve the skin on your face and neck.
A jade roller is a hand held massage tool that usually has two jade heads that roll against the skin. They are rolled against the skin with slight pressure and feel like a nice light massage.
Gua sha is a scraping massage technique done with a flat massage tool, often jade, that also increases circulation, drains lymph, and stimulates collagen and elastin.
To get the full benefits of jade rolling or gua sha, you need to do them several times a week, and keep doing them. This isn’t a hardship. Both are pretty relaxing.
Products can really help the look and feel of your neck. Your neck has fewer oil glands than the skin on your face so it’s more prone to being dry and sensitive. It’s also more likely to wrinkle.
I know that I’ve been guilty of skimping on products when it comes to my neck. No more.
Step one is be sure to moisturize your neck along with your face. Your neck will love to be treated with your serums (especially vitamin C and retinol) and most importantly, daily sunscreen.
If the skin on your neck is very sensitive, skip the vitamin C and retinol until your skin barrier is in better shape. Twice a day moisturizer will really help your skin barrier restore itself.
There are products that can help firm the outer layer of skin. Peptides are one of the key ingredients to look for in a firming serum or moisturizer. Other ingredients that are associated with firming are vitamin C, retinol, hyaluronic acid and royal jelly and bee propolis.
If you’re interested in learning more about neck and face exercises, jade rolling, or gua sha, let me know in the comments below and I’ll do a post and video.