By Genevieve Monsma and Erin Reimel
The rise in video calls has meant you’re probably spending a lot of hours straining — and staring at — your neck. Plus, you bow your head over your phone and laptop countless times a day, which can cause the horizontal neck wrinkles aptly called tech neck, says David Shafer, M.D., a plastic surgeon in New York.
Yet as you dutifully apply anti-aging serums and lotions to your face, you might be skip the area right below it — even though that thin skin usually start to slack off first. With neck wrinkles and concerns front and center (and some interesting new products and treatments) perhaps it’s time to give this neglected skin its due.
The At-Home Neck Skin-Care Routine
The neck’s skin is thinner than almost anywhere else on the body (except for undereyes and the backs of hands), and it has almost no hair follicles and oil glands. This makes it susceptible to dehydration. Plus, gravity, frequent movement, and simply getting older break down the collagen and elastin, causing a crepey or saggy appearance. “Because of the lack of hair follicles and oil glands, there aren’t stem cells there to replenish the skin as it gets damaged,” says Shape Brain Trust member Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D.
The skin-care plan for this thin, fragile neck area is simple: Duplicate your face treatments, prioritizing collagen-building ingredients like peptides and an anti-ager like retinol in the evenings. “But if you use a prescription retinol on your face, apply it very sparingly on the neck or try an over-the-counter serum or cream that won’t cause as much irritation,” says Dr. Hale. “And never skip sunscreen. As we know, sun exposure is the primary cause of skin aging. Unless you live in turtlenecks, your neck is exposed all year.”
The At-Home Devices
“Incorporating these into your routine can help with ingredient absorption and promote blood flow,” says Shape Brain Trust member Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York. She recommends NuFace Trinity, which uses microcurrent technology to stimulate muscles, strengthen the underlying structure, and help with lymphatic drainage.
She also likes the Conture Kinetic Skin Toning Device, which has a setting designed for the neck. “The device combines isometric compression and low-frequency vibrations to prep the skin for up to 300 percent more absorption of active ingredients,” she says. This ensures that any skin-care products to ease neck wrinkles are more effective after using it.
The Exercise Moves
Gently massaging your skin with a gua sha stone, a face roller, or FaceGym Multi-Sculpt stimulates blood flow, helps clear out toxic substances, and delivers oxygen to the skin, says Dr. Hale. It also eases muscle tension that can cause neck wrinkles, says Madalaina Conti, a training manager at FaceGym. First, apply a face oil to add extra slip to your skin. Using your tool, gently trace the fine lines you want to target, warming up the area. Once warm, hold your skin taut and move the stone or roller in the opposite direction.
“It’s as if you’re ironing out the line using very gentle pressure, letting the tool do the work,”she says. Repeat for a few minutes every day. “Think of your neck like any other body part you would exercise at the gym. The more consistent you are, the better and longer lasting your results will be,” says Conti.
The In-Office Treatments
“Skin care is essential for cell health, but it alone can’t remove loose skin, contour the jawline, or reduce hyperdynamic muscle bands,” says Dr. Shafer. “For those changes, you may need non-invasive neck procedures, like injectables and ultrasound energy treatments.” The right procedure for you is based on your concern.
To Curb Neck Wrinkles
“To reduce vertical lines, which are caused by a muscle called the platysma, we inject a neuromodulator like Botox or Dysport,” says Shape Brain Trust member Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, M.D., a dermatologist in New York.
The side-to-side, tree-ring-like lines “are much more prominent these days because we crease our necks looking down at our phones for so many hours,” she explains. It’s called tech neck, and your derm can iron out those neck wrinkles with a nonablative resurfacing laser. “I like to use Fraxel on neck lines because it boosts collagen production, tightening and smoothing the skin,” says Neal Schultz, M.D., a New York City dermatologist.
On the other hand, Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin turns to fillers. “If you have faint horizontal lines, I’ll use a thin, flexible hyaluronic acid filler like Juvéderm or Restylane to fill the wrinkle. But if it’s a deeper line, I’ll use a biostimulatory filler like Sculptra or Radiesse, which spurs the fibroblasts in your body to produce more collagen and elastin.” These fillers typically last six to 18 months. Plus, Dr. Idriss says she has seen some success with skin-tightening therapies like Ultherapy ($1,500 to $3,500). “It’s like tightening a loose, draping dress; everything gets smoother,” she explains.
To Tighten Neck Skin
Wondering how to tighten neck skin? For starters, you need to tone muscles (which tightens skin), and for that, Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin recommends Ultherapy. This treatment uses ultrasound energy to reach the muscles deep under the skin while also promoting collagen production. One session on the neck takes 45 minutes. It hurts, but your derm can use a topical numbing cream or a pain medication, and it requires no downtime — your muscles may just feel achy, as if you did a workout. Over time (two to six months) this increase in collagen should result in firmer skin, and results for 30- or 40-somethings typically last a few years.
If you have a lot of loose skin, you may want to add on a Genius RF by Lutronic treatment ($750 to $1,500) as well. This uses a combination of radio frequency technology and microneedling. “Microneedling causes controlled trauma in the skin with fine needles that trigger a wound-healing response,” says Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin. “While these microinjuries aren’t enough to tighten skin on their own, combining them with radio frequency, a form of heat energy, helps speed up elastin and collagen production.” The treatment takes 20 to 30 minutes, done after skin has been numbed with a topical cream. You’ll be red and swollen for a few days and back to normal after 10 days. Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin recommends that patients start with a series of three treatments spaced four to six weeks apart, followed by annual maintenance.
Or doctors can inject hyaluronic acid fillers (such as Restylane or Voluma) along the jawbone to pull slack skin taut, says Dr. Schultz. It’s as if you’re refilling a saggy balloon. “You can also inject a neurotoxin like Xeomin, Botox, or Dysport into the neck to help relax the platysmal bands, which run from jaw to clavicle and can tug down on the skin,” says Jeremy Brauer, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City.
To Get Rid of Neck Fat
Doctors may employ a targeted fat-dissolving technique, like Kybella or CoolSculpting. The first is a synthetic form of bile acid that breaks down the fat that’s making your skin look slack (the dissolved fat is eliminated in urine). It’s injected (typically 20 to 50 pricks), and most patients require two or three treatments spaced six to eight weeks apart. You’ll see initial results about a week after your first treatment, once swelling subsides.
CoolSculpting gets rid of fat cells by freezing them. (The lymphatic system disposes of the frozen fat cells.) To target the chin area, Dr. Idriss uses the CoolSculpting Mini, a handheld vacuum-like device. Expect two to three treatments spaced about eight weeks apart.
To Even Neck Skin Tone
The sides of the neck are most likely your problem areas because they’re regularly exposed to UV rays, says Dr. Idriss. Mottled skin here is typically red or brown and is best treated with light therapy or pigment-targeting lasers. “Try IPL [intense pulsed light] first because it’s the least painful and has minimal downtime. If the color isn’t fading enough, then upgrade to a pulsed dye laser,” says Dr. Idriss. Both target-and thus erase-red (hemoglobin) or brown (melanin) color. You may need a few treatments at around $475 each. If you have dark skin, apply a topical brightener like hydroquinone or kojic acid first, then consider treatment with a fractional resurfacing laser, which is more targeted than IPL.
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