Best ways to stop your neck looking old and keep the skin healthy and supple, from creams to an essential daily stretch
In her 2006 essay "I Feel Bad About My Neck", the late author, essayist and screenwriter Nora Ephron lamented that the neck is "a dead giveaway" when it comes to the unavoidable signs that you are, in fact, ageing. At lunch, she writes, all of her girlfriends ("I suppose I mean my women friends. We are no longer girls and have not been girls for 40 years") wore polo necks or silk scarfs.
While there is much we can do for our faces when it comes to holding back the effects of time, the fragile skin of the neck (not to mention the way we crunch over our smartphones or constantly crane at a screen) makes it a prime candidate for giving up the ghost. That can come as a surprise for some, with the neck (not to mention the decolletage) probably one of the body parts we're most likely to take for granted.
Well, until now.
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Cosmetic companies have taken note with a slew of new products now on the market aimed at targeting this area with tightening, smoothing and toning properties. This includes Dermalogica's new Neck Fit Contour Serum (promoted as your neck's "best personal trainer"), Sisley's botanical-extract-infused Neck Cream (pegged as "the first antigravity skincare dedicated to the neck area") and It Cosmetics' Confidence In a Neck Cream.
Emma Hobson, director of education Asia-Pacific for Dermalogica, says that the importance of taking care of the neck is only now becoming a focus.
"Even though it's a hotspot for skin ageing, our necks just haven't been a priority. Often we put our efforts and investments into our face, only for our neck to tell a very different story about the health of our skin. And part of that is to do with the fact that there hasn't been much in the market specifically for this area," she says.
The Dermalogica Neck Fit serum, which comes with a built-in roll-on massage applicator, was designed to not only combat the signs of ageing but also the effects of modern living, or "tech neck" as Hobson calls it.
"Tech neck is the name given to the symptoms associated with the constant looking down at our mobile devices, laptops and computers. This repetitive strain to look at our screens puts immense stress on our neck muscles and the neck skin, leading to stiffness, headaches and premature skin ageing. Put simply, neck ageing is not just about how old you are - in our modern world, it's also down to your technology habits and poor posture," she says.
"We see the Neck Fit Contour Serum as your go-to solution for targeting loose skin - aka turkey neck - and horizontal lines that we know are now an issue for people of all ages."
April Roberts, national trainer for Sisley Australia and New Zealand, agrees the neck needs special attention.
"As the skin on the neck area is thinner and sensitive, you may find that you have different needs or concerns for this area, compared to your face," she says. "One main concern that is common with the neck area is the loss of firmness and horizontal lines. With this concern we need to be focusing and using skincare products that are designed to lift, firm and reduce signs of ageing. This is where using a specific neck cream will help you to achieve your desired results."
Dr Joseph Hkeik, a Sydney-based aesthetic doctor and founder of All Saints Skin Clinic and Le Petit Saint, says the skin around the neck is very fine and can sometimes be even more sensitive than the face. While he says products suitable for the face can normally be safely applied to the neck as well, he recommends IS Clinical NeckPerfect Complex, which he says gently exfoliates the skin to improve the look of skin tone and texture.
When it comes to treatments for this area, Hkeik says popular ones at his clinics include the BBL Laser, "an innovative technology that uniquely delivers intense post-light laser to stimulate collagen production", and Clear + Brilliant Permea, "a laser treatment that rejuvenates the skin and diminishes pigmentation to create healthier-looking skin".
But his best tip for looking after this fragile area?
"Wear sunscreen every day."
Skin expert Melanie Grant agrees the neck needs special care. "The neck is particularly fragile, as the area has very few sebaceous glands to keep the skin plump and supple, less fat stores and a thinner dermis. It's often one of the first places to show signs of ageing," she says.
One way you can look after your neck, says Grant, is to always include it (and your decolletage and bust) into your complete routine.
"Cleanse the area, apply serums, oils and creams and especially ensure that you apply a broad spectrum sunscreen to this area," she says.
As for the dreaded tech neck, Grant advises making gentle stretches a non-negotiable part of your day.
"To combat this, try stretching the neck throughout the day. I do this by putting my jaw into an overbite and hang your head back for 10 seconds. You can repeat this throughout the day and it's a great one to do at your desk," she says.
So with all that in mind (and in our bathroom cabinets), now might be the time to no longer feel bad about necks.
Two neck products to try
Sisley Neck Cream
With extracts such as oat seed, Lady's Mantle, caffeine and soy fibre, this cream will lift, firm and refine the skin around the neck.
Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum
This new release from Dermalogica uses plant-based extracts to strengthen the skin's moisture barrier and firm and tone the skin.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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