We're so laser-focused on the skin on our faces and how to keep it looking its smoothest and brightest that sometimes the other 90% of our largest organ takes a bit of a back seat. One of those areas, in particular, being the skin on our necks. According to Helen Flamenbaum, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New Hyde Park, New York, this area ages at a more rapid pace.
"The skin on your neck is a little bit thinner than your face, and the muscle and skin tissue [are] weaker," Flamenbaum explains. "I'm sure you have heard or read sources stating that your face is the first receiver of sun damage and other issues relating to damage from environmental elements, but this is not necessarily true. The fact that your neck and face are in very close proximity makes these elements affect your face and neck pretty much simultaneously." She also confirms our own shortcomings of focusing more attention on our faces via sunscreen, cleansing, and treatments, meaning the neck ages even faster than it would had we taken proper care. This translates to wrinkles, creasing, sun spots, and loose skin. So to help our necks be more of an extension of the youthful skin we strive for on our faces, we turned to Flamenbaum and a few other top dermatologists for their thoughts.
Which Products Help Tighten and Smooth the Neck?
"My favorite cream for neck and body smoothing is Schweiger Dermatology Smoothing Body Lotion (sold in-office). It features all-trans retinol and caffeine in a powerful delivery system for maximum penetration and age-defying results, specially formulated to help lift and tighten skin, improve skin texture and tone, and provide intense hydration. It's also fortified with powerful antioxidants to soothe and protect skin from free radical damage," says Flamenbaum.
She's also a fan of Nectifirm Advanced Cream by Revision ($133). It contains eight peptides and microbiome technology which reduces the appearance of adipose tissue and rough, crepey skin.
For Roberta Del Campo, MD, Retin-A (or retinoic acid) is the hero product for neck firming: "Retin-A is a vitamin that helps speed up cell turnover and increases collagen production. It is FDA-approved for treatment and prevention of wrinkles and has decades of science backing its effectiveness."
Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, agrees with Del Campo. "Retinoids have been proven to work on fine lines and wrinkles," she explains. Since the neck is a sensitive area, she recommends starting with a small amount or lower concentration and increasing as you build up a tolerance.
Can Products Alone Tighten and Firm the Skin on the Neck?
Woolery-Lloyd says consistent use of a retinoid can greatly improve skin's appearance and "at the very least, delay visible aging on the neck."
Del Campo agrees: "A young to middle-aged adult who invests in adequate sun protection with a mineral-based sunblock and a retinoid nightly will see much better results, as they are not only improving their skin quality but preventing the loss of collagen, which is harder to fix as you get older. Point is: Prevention before correction!"
In Terms of In-Office Treatments, Which Target the Neck the Best?
While preventative measures are ideal, if you weren't diligent to care for your neck before symptoms of skin degradation appeared, there are some noninvasive, collagen-stimulating procedures that can help reverse signs. Woolery-Llyod recommends Ultherapy (or high-intensity focused ultrasound), which works deep below the skin's surface to jump-start collagen production and then lifts and tightens the skin. Flamenbaum agrees that this is a smart age-reversing measure, but says that results will be better for younger patients with a lesser degree of skin laxity (or looseness) and that up to 20% of patients may experience minimal to no improvement.
Woolery-Lloyd is also a proponent of Thermage, a radio-frequency treatment that heats the deep, collagen-rich layers of the skin, which then contracts and sparks new collagen production.
The results for these treatments are impressive (lifted, tauter skin that appears years younger), though they come at a cost. Both oscillate between $1000 and $5000.
A less expensive treatment recommended by Del Campo is micro-needling, wherein tiny needles are rolled or stamped over the skin, creating miniature injuries to promote skin repair and—you guessed it—collagen production. This will cost anywhere between $200 and $700.