As we age, our face and body change. It’s just a natural part of life, and it's nothing you should ever feel ashamed about. After all, so much of aging is dependent upon factors we can't control, like genetics and body shape.
With that being said, just as there's no shame in the natural aging process, there's also no shame in wanting to pursue anti-aging treatments. And for many, a pain point of getting older is losing definition in the jawline and neck, leading to the appearance of jowls.
If you're curious about how to treat jowls (or get ahead of them), look no further. Ahead, plastic surgeon Dr. David Shafer and dermatologist Dr. Michele Green explain the options, from at-home to in-office.
Meet the Expert
What Causes Loss of Elasticity in the Jowls?
As you’ve most definitely heard before, as we age, our skin loses elasticity. While a loss of elasticity can start happening in your late 20s depending on your genetics, Shafer says that it’s especially common in late 30s to early 40s patients. “This is most often when patients start looking in the mirror and noticing that their skin is not as ‘tight,’” he explains.
Not sure if you’re losing elasticity? Shafer has a way to help you find out.“If you pull on the skin and it snaps right back there is good electricity,” he shares. “However, if you pull on the skin and it slowly recoils then the elastic properties of the skin are diminishing.”
Even if your face or other areas of your body bounce back rather quickly, your jowls (which refers to the area below your jaw leading into your neck) might not fare as well. That’s because, according to Dr. Green, the skin around your neck is thinner than most parts of the body, therefore, loses its elasticity sooner. As a result, she says that sagging, crepiness, and signs of tech neck are likely to appear in your jowl region before you notice changes on your face. “Your neck also has a different collagen content making it particularly prone to the wear and tear of aging,” she adds.
Outside of aging, Shafer says that extreme weight gain and loss can also play a role. “Think about a balloon,” he says. “If you blow it up and let the air out the elastic shrinks down. But if you blow it up and let the air out several times, the balloon loses its elasticity.”
Another thing that can impact loss of elasticity in the jowls? Smoking—as if it weren’t already bad enough. “Smoking is the number-one thing you can stop to improve your skin,” Shafer says.
Now that you know the main reasons for jowls, let’s go over how to prevent and treat them.
How to Treat Jowls That Are Beginning to Lose Elasticity
Opt for Products Formulated With Hyaluronic Acid
Shafer says that one of the most essential ingredients for promoting skin elasticity is hyaluronic acid, which naturally occurs in the body and is known to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. As such, he recommends using products—especially neck creams when it comes to the formation and reduction of jowls—formulated with the hydrating and plumping ingredient.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Shafer recommends CoolSculpting. “For people who have submental and submandibular fullness and jowling—often referred to as a double-chin—we recommend a CoolSculpting treatment to freeze the fat, which destroys the underlying fat,” he shares. “As the fat is reabsorbed into the body the skin contracts and may tighten, which is an observation from the clinical trials.”
Opt for Skin Tightening With Thermage
If injections aren’t your thing, consider radiofrequency. “Thermage is the gold standard for non-invasive skin tightening,” Green says. “It addresses the early signs of aging such as superficial fine lines, wrinkles, sagging jowls, crows feet, cellulite, and loss of skin laxity.” What’s more, it’s non-invasive.
“Thermage (RF) technology delivers heat deep into the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous (fat layer) layers of the skin,” Green explains. “It is the tightening of these layers of skin which produces the smoother skin texture and defined contour. There is no downtime and you can return to all your normal activities right after treatment. Results may appear immediately after treatment with improvements continuing in two to four months."
Cozy Up to Products Infused With Collagen Peptides
Where collagen is a protein that’s responsible for the skin’s firmness and suppleness, Green reminds us that peptides work to stimulate collagen production. As such, collagen peptides are a no-brainer for jowl treatment.
Look Into Kybella
Kybella injections are the most popular—and most direct—jowl treatment. “The presence of submental fullness in the jowl is a common concern that affects both women and men,” Green explains. “In the past, the only way to permanently enhance the jowl was through surgical procedures such as liposuction or a neck lift which required anesthesia, incisions and lengthy recovery periods.” Thankfully, now Kybella exists. “Kybella is the first-of-its-kind injectable treatment that melts away fat cells to offer long-lasting improvements to your appearance,” Green explains. "The active ingredient in this injectable is deoxycholic acid which is a naturally-occurring substance that destroys fat cells permanently," Green says. The best news? Green says that as little as a few treatments of Kybella can help trim down jowls and create a more defined jawline and profile.
Add Vitamin A or Retinol Derivatives to Your Routine
Retinol for aging? Groundbreaking, we know. But hey, it works! “Retinol is a vitamin A derivative best known for its ability to neutralize free radicals, stimulate collagen production, and facilitate cell turnover, therefore smoothing fine lines and wrinkles,” Green explains, noting that it’s the gold standard of anti-aging and works best at night to improve the tone and texture of the neck—meaning it’s a shoo-in for jowl treatment.
Book a PRP Treatment
Platelet-rich plasma treatments are another option because, as Shafer points out, they concentrate growth factors from your blood directly into your skin, which can promote firmness and suppleness, minimizing the appearance of jowls.
Approach Elasticity Loss From a Metabolic Level
Shafer reminds us that elasticity can be addressed from the inside out, as well. Where he offers hormone balancing in the Metabolic Aesthetics Center at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue, another option is to add a collagen supplement to your routine. One study found that participants who consumed collagen supplements regularly noticed significant improvements in skin elasticity.
Schedule a Laser Treatment
Another in-office treatment revolves around lasers. “For people who have slight jowling, there are many non-surgical options like energy-based treatments—Fraxel, picosecond, and IPL—to stimulate skin and induce collagen and elastin production,” Shafer says.
Make Room for Vitamin C in Your Routine
As one of the most powerful antioxidants, Green says that vitamin C helps fight free radical damage (which is known to accelerate aging), while also boosting collagen production, making it a must for an anti-jowl routine.
Take It a Step Further With Fillers
Shafer says that hyaluronic acid fillers can help provide a more defined chin and jawline, taking away from the appearance of jowls. The biggest thing to note is that, like all in-office treatments, you want to do your due-diligence so as to go somewhere reputable.
Consider a Nefertiti Lift
Another option is to get creative with Botox. While the injectable is widely used for addressing crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles, Green says that it can be beneficial for the neck and jowl area, as well.
“Botox injections can be used to help reduce the look of bands across the neck,” she explains. “As you get older the main muscle in the neck, the platysma muscle, can look as though it is separated, creating two vertical bands up and down your neck. Botox injections into the muscle helps it relax, reducing the appearance of the bands. Botox can be injected into the platysmal bands across the neck to lift the lines and wrinkles giving the neck a more youthful appearance—this is also referred to as the Nefertiti Lift.”
This lift is a non-invasive option for those looking to restore contour to the neck and jaw, Green says.
“The treatment is two parts,” she explains. “The first part consists of injections of Botox across the platysma muscles and jawline. The Botox causes the muscles of under the jaw to relax which causes an upward pulling of the facial muscles reducing the sagging jowls. The second step in the treatment is injecting dermal fillers along the jawline to increase the volume further correcting any sagging.
If You Want the Fastest Solution—Consider Liposuction or a Face Lift
If nothing else works, or if you simply want a faster solution for your sagging jowls, Shafer says liposuction is on the table. “As a plastic surgeon, it would be remiss if I didn’t [mention] liposuction and facelift surgery,” he says. “I perform a lot of facelifts in our surgical sky suite at Shafer Clinic. Facelift is surgical and involves lifting the skin of the neck and cheeks and tightening the underlying muscles and then gently repositioning and smoothing the skin and removing any excess skin. This is the most effective and beneficial treatment for people who have a lot of excess skin.”