Necks don’t lie. It’s a hard truth, but necks show our age before our faces do. Some people dub the neck wrinkles neck “tree rings”- just as with a tree, these deep horizontal lines mark the passage of time. By the late 30’s or early 40’s, most women will notice crinkling and loss of elasticity on the neck area. Anyone with fair skin or who lives in a sunny climate may notice neck wrinkles crop up even earlier. Neck wrinkles come in two forms – horizontal and vertical or known colloquially as turkey neck and saggy neck.
How Neck Wrinkles Develop
So why do the injustices of aging show up rapidly on the neck? Chalk it up to a few reasons.
Most women apply sunscreen religiously to their face, but don’t apply anything to the neck or chest area. Long term exposure to the damaging rays of the sun can lead to crepey skin, sun spots, wrinkles and sagging. The skin on the neck and chest is also much thinner than facial skin, so this is where the signs of aging often show up first, in the form of wrinkles and age spots. The neck also has less fatty tissue and collagen, and a lack of oil glands here lead to dryness, which accelerates the aging process and makes skin look crepey. Neck skin has a similar composition to the skin around the eyes, and should be treated accordingly.
Neck wrinkles can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including genetics, sun exposure, and lifestyle factors such as smoking and drinking too much. Gravity doesn’t help here either. Repetitive neck movements also play a role, as does sleeping position. Sleeping in a way that your neck is always crunched down can contribute to neck wrinkles, as can anything that strains the neck, like overly strenuous exercise (ever see someone’s neck tendons flare when they’re lifting weights?). Weight fluctuations and hormonal changes can also play a role in the development of neck wrinkles and texture of the skin here.
Don’t discount the role of your smart phone either. Constantly staring down at a phone can contribute to painful “tech neck” as well as wrinkles. Holding your head at a constant 45 degree and repeatedly “folding” the skin of the neck isn’t good for your neck, or your shoulders and spine for that matter. So stop scrolling, take a break from your phone and try keep your neck level when using any kind of screen.
Related: How To Get Rid of Wrinkles
Types of Neck Wrinkles
Most neck wrinkles are either categorized as “turkey neck” or “crepey neck.” They look different, and have different underlying causes. Another way to think about it horizontal versus vertical neck wrinkles.
“Turkey neck,” or vertical neck creases, sit deep within the skin and have developed over a long period of time. They are generally caused by keeping the neck in the same position for a long period of time, such as sleeping in a particular position or craning your neck to see a computer or smartphone. Turkey neck is marked by skin that looks flaccid under the chin. Some people have prominent vertical bands on the neck, known as platysmal bands. These are often genetic.
Horizontal wrinkles are usually chalked up to a decrease in collagen. Collagen occurs naturally in the skin and gives it its support structure, keeping skin firm, smooth and plump. Collagen production decreases over time as we age, and is also damaged by environmental hazards, such as damage from the sun. Horizontal wrinkles usually show up as dry, crepey skin.
One of the best ways to treat neck wrinkles is to try and stop them from forming in the first place. The first step is to use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every single day. If you don’t like the feel of a cream, try a mineral based powder, which acts as a physical blocker to the sun’s damaging rays. Cover up on a sunny day, and be vigilant about protecting the neck and chest area. A rash guard is ideal for the beach or the pool or do what some supermodels do- invest in a scarf and wear it, especially when driving.
Treating Wrinkles Naturally
There are some natural ways to treat neck wrinkles. You can try and change your sleep position to snooze on your back using a special pillow or mattress. Or try switching to just one pillow to reduce the strain on the neck. Make sure you’re eating right and drinking plenty of water, as you are what you eat. Reach for plenty of fruits and vegetables to ensure your whole body gets enough vitamins and antioxidants. Load up on omega-3 and 6 rich foods such as cold water fish (mackerel, sardines), flax seeds and avocados. Omega 3s and 6’s have anti-inflammatory properties and can help support the body’s collagen production. Some people swear by massage and neck exercises to treat neck wrinkles. Massage helps stimulate blood flow to the area, and some exercises can help tone and lift the neck muscles. And yes, facial yoga is a thing.
Reach For the Right Product
One of the most effective ways to prevent and treat neck wrinkles is with the right products. The neck should be treated with as much care, attention and love as the face. Most women take the time to cleanse, tone, apply serum and moisturize their faces but necks rarely get this kind of pampering. The strategy should be prevention, hydration and repair. When it comes to keeping the signs of aging at bay on the face, some of the best ingredients to look for are collagen-boosting retinols and peptides. They can also work wonders on the neck to help the area look firmer, smoother and more hydrated. But it’s not as simple as applying extra face cream to the neck. Because the skin here is much thinner than the face, it’s essential to buy a cream especially formulated for the sensitive neck and chest area to prevent any irritation. Neck creams are designed just for this delicate area; they tend to be richer and have more gentle ingredients than a face cream.
The goal is to create a powerful skin-care routine for the neck that helps prevent and treat wrinkles. Look for products which contain retinols, a vitamin A derivative, to boost collagen production and cell turnover; free radical fighting antioxidants and skin smoothing peptides. If you want to fade dark spots and rejuvenate the skin, reach for a product with AHAs and BHAs- acids which help to gently dissolve dead skin cells to reveal fresher, smoother skin.
Serums shouldn’t be limited to just the face. One that’s spiked with vitamin C can help stimulate collagen production while also fighting the damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin C also helps to fade dark spots and leave skin looking fresher and brighter, which is ideal for tired looking necks. Another vitamin to look out for is vitamin B- or niacin, which can penetrate the skin to improve texture and tone.
Hyaluronic acid is another ingredient that should be in your neck treating arsenal. This wonder ingredient can hold up 1,000 times its weight in water, and works by attracting moisture to itself – think of it as a moisture magnet. It’s the ideal beauty ingredient as it leaves skin looking dewy and temporarily fills in fine lines to give skin a plumped up look. Look for it in serums and moisturizers.
Exfoliation is also key to whisking away dead skin cells on the neck area, to reveal smoother looking skin. Avoid harsh scrubs made from chunky ingredients which can be damaging to the delicate neck and chest, and reach for a gentle but effective acid peel, such as glycolic acid or acids derived from citrus. Exfoliating the neck area has another bonus; it preps the skin to absorb the good-for-you ingredients from serums and creams.
Make An Appointment
Another option for treating neck wrinkles is at a dermatologist’s office. Microdermabrasion is essentially a supercharged exfoliation, where a spray of fine crystals blasts away the top layer of skin. A step up from this is a chemical peel, which has a similar effect but often involves more down time. A peel can leave skin smoother and can also tackle some discoloration. Light therapy and lasers work to stimulate collagen production and target dark spots, while fillers are injected directly into wrinkles. Surgery is also an option but neck lifts are usually done in conjunction with a face lift. Keep in mind that any cosmetic procedure can carry associated risks and recovery time can vary.