The early and routine use of sunscreen, retinol, and Botox have made forehead wrinkles almost a thing of the past. In actuality, as a dermatologist, I've been seeing more and more patients coming in with concerns about neck wrinkles. Neck wrinkles aren't a new concern from patients by any means, but they're very quickly becoming a big concern among millennials.
Maybe it’s the contrast of our bouncy, sun-protected facial skin that draws our attention to our neck, or maybe technology is doing more than The Social Dilemma revealed. The term “tech neck” is frequently used to describe the somewhat early appearance of horizontal lines on the neck—forged over nights of looking down at your phone and scrolling through Facebook, turned Instagram, turned TikTok.
As a Botoxed, retinolized, sun-protected millennial myself, I have noticed the stark contrast between the texture and laxity of my neck compared to my face. Since I’m also a board-certified dermatologist, I have the luxury of nagging my friends about what I need to do to once again feel more in control of the fine lines on my neck. Today, I’ll share with you pearls from one of my favorite colleagues– Dr. Corey Hartman–on how to prevent and treat horizontal neck wrinkles. As a quick preview, collagen is key.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Corey L. Hartman is the founder and medical director of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. He is Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Dr. Hartman has a special interest in Dermatologic Surgery, Injectables, Hair Restoration and Laser Dermatology. His injectable skills have earned him the honor of being named an Allergan Advanced Injector Trainer and he is a speaker for SkinCeuticals, a leading international skincare brand.
Bring Your Sunscreen Down to Your Neck
Yes, the answer is always sun protection. After genetics, sun exposure is the biggest factor when it comes to the development of fine lines and wrinkles. Sun exposure breaks down collagen, among other things, and loss of collagen leads to wrinkles. The neck (and ears) tend to be in no-man’s land when it comes to sunscreen application – often not included with facial or body application. So, as a rule of thumb, bring your facial sunscreen down to your neck.
This goes beyond the scope of this article, but you should go ahead and bring it down to your chest, too.
Check Your Posture
How much time do you spend with your head aimed down at a computer or phone and your anterior neck muscles in contraction? As our skin’s collagen content naturally decreases in our late twenties, the lines we make in this position slowly become fixed and deeper. This position cannot be completely eliminated from your routine, but you can make an effort to improve your posture while on your phone and/or decrease your screen time.
Boost your SPF With a Vitamin C Serum
Sunscreen helps to protect the skin from ultraviolet damage, but no sunscreen is 100 percent effective. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to neutralize the damaging sun rays that squeeze through you SPF protection. To simplify your routine, the Obagi Clinical Vitamin C Suncare contains 10 percent L-ascorbic acid and SPF 30.
Boost Collagen Production With a Microneedling and Radiofrequency Combo
Microneedling with radiofrequency is quickly becoming a favorite of dermatologists for its ability to stimulate collagen production without damage to the overlying skin. This makes it relatively safe in all skin tones. Since collagen production naturally slows in the our mid-to-late 20s, this is an excellent preventative treatment to keep the skin collagen factory open and busy.
Of note–microneedling with radiofrequency is not the same as plain microneedling with an at home or in office pen device. Although traditional microneedling will stimulate some collagen production, the results are mild compared to the effects of microneedling with radiofrequency. With the latter, radiofrequency energy is delivered to the deeper levels of the skin stimulating increased collagen production and skin tightening.
Don't Forget to Apply Retinol to Your Neck
There’s a reason your face looks better than your neck. Retinol has been clinically proven to stimulate collagen production, and with routine use, retinol can slow the presentation of fine lines and wrinkles. Neck skin is even more delicate and sensitive than facial skin, so you should start retinol just one to two times a week and slowly increase frequency as tolerated. Dr. Hartman recommends Skinceuticals Tripeptide-R Neck Repair for this area because it contains an effective retinol that’s designed for neck tolerability.
Consider Fraxel or Clear and Brilliant Lasers
While microneedling with radiofrequency produces improvement in the overall bounce and tightness of the skin, it does not have drastic effects on the overlying skin texture. Dr. Hartman will often combine microneedling with radiofrequency and Fraxel for full remodeling of the delicate neck skin. Fraxel helps to smooth texture and pigmentation, while the microneedling with radiofrequency works deeper to restore the skin’s bounciness. Clear and Brilliant, often referred to as “baby Fraxel,” is a minimum downtime alternative for those who are looking for prevention instead of treatment.
Ask About Sculptra
Sculptra is not as popular as it should be. Sculptra is an injectable medication that stimulates collagen production. It is often grouped with fillers, but unlike hyaluronic acid fillers, the actual sculptra product is absorbed by the body within weeks of the treatment. The results of sculptra are seen over multiple treatments and months as the treatment stimulates the body’s own collagen production.
Consider PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma)
Platelet-rich plasma is a treatment that is growing in popularity for the treatment of fine lines, pigmentation, and hair loss. It is often used in conjunction with microneedling, but can also be performed on its on. With this treatment, your body’s own platelets are used to start a cascade of growth and repair.
And Sure, You Can Drink Collagen
There is still a scientific question of if dietary collagen supplements can improve skin quality, however, there is little down side to trying it out for yourself. Although we typically talk about collagen in the context of skin, it is present in every organ of your body. Even if it does not improve your skin texture, it will likely still provide some benefit – particularly to your gastrointestinal system.
This must be said–sun protection is more important than retinol and retinol is more important than vitamin C. You can do everything on this list, but keep this hierarchy in mind. If you read this as me telling you to drink collagen supplements before you use SPF or retinol—read again. I have a reputation to protect!