Saving your neck…

Unless you wear polo-neck jumpers all year round, your neck is one of the few areas of your body which is almost always on show.

necks article

And some say that, along with the backs of your hands, it’s one of the giveaway signs of age.

If you like to wear low necklines, you can add your décolletage to these telltale areas.

So why do the neck and décolletage give away so much?

I think there are two reasons. One behavioral, one anatomical.

What do I mean by behavioural? Well, I mean what you do during your days and how you treat the skin in these areas. If you spend a lot of time outdoors the lower half of your neck and upper chest are exposed to the sun’s UV rays – and unless you’re vigilant with your sun lotion your skin can become permanently damaged – this means drier skin, loss of collagen and pigmentation.

If that itself isn’t bad enough, the skin in these areas tends to be thinner. Around the neck it has to be. Across the upper chest it just is. This is where the anatomical aspects come into play.

If you think about it, your neck is almost constantly moving – you can scan 180 degrees vertically and horizontally without moving the rest of your body – so you need very flexible skin to cover it (plus a bit to spare).

And, unlike your face, the skin on your neck is very loosely attached to allow all those stretchings and cranings.

As we get older, the fat in our head and neck often reduces in volume, leaving the stretched skin a bit loose. Lack of padding under our cheekbones can leave sunken cheeks and jowls which are less resistant to gravity. For the neck, the effects are less obvious but the combination of stretched skin and loss of tissue bulk contributes to the ‘aged neck’ appearance.

So whilst having a good nosey around – and to a lesser extent eating, drinking and talking – contribute to the forces the skin is under, I expect few of us would want to cut down on these activities in the name of a more youthful neck!

Tortoise (with wattle) selfie

Tortoise (with wattle) selfie

Another common sign of age is directly under the chin – known as the wattle.

Though this area is largely protected from the sun, it has very little to attach itself to as the skin becomes looser as a result of repeated stretching as we look up and down.

So that’s the technical stuff.

Now you know why, as you get older, your neck starts to lose its tone and firmness. But the real question is: Can I do anything about this?

The simple answer is yes, you can improve or soften the crépey appearance with moisturisers or foundations, but once the larger wrinkles or lines are visible they’ll be permanent (unless you’re prepared to have some serious cosmetic procedures).

What can I do?

  • Use regular moisturisers and sun protection on your neck and décolletage (pay this area extra attention, as it’s more prone to age spots and drying than your neck).
  • Try exercise and massage, which are all said to help prevent the onset of these signs of ageing.
  • Bust-firming creams can help – these are essentially intense moisturisers and may have added ingredients that give a temporary tightening, tensing effect.  Anti-ageing ingredients like peptides, vitamin C and retinol may also work their magic here.
  • Make looking after your neck and décolletage are as much a part of your skincare regime as cleansing and moisturising your face and body.

You can’t reverse the signs of ageing but you can lessen them. No one wants to spend their life under wraps – and with a little extra TLC your neck and décolletage will soon be ready for those summer tops and dresses!

Steve Barton

About Steve Barton

I'm a skin biologist fascinated by the wonders of this organ that keeps us apart from the outside world. I'm semi-retired, continuing to keep a hand in cosmetic product development by working in consultancy and education. When not talking skin you'll find me listening to or playing music; or I'll be finding hills to walk, photos to take, or sketches and short stories to create; unless I'm distracted by my 2 granddaughters! I can be found on Twitter @Skin_Thinking

  • I never knew about bust-firming creams. Though I don’t need them yet, I think I’d better go get some to keep on hand. Very good information here, a good heads up about areas of skin that we might not think about. Thanks!

  • Deborah

    I use Environ hydrating lotion on mine, hopefully the vitamin A will keep my skin looking good for longer. Not sure if I can stop being nosey!

  • I’ll give the bust cream a go and hopefully prevent the neck area deteriorating before it’s time.