Creaky knees…an aching back…diminished eyesight…a weaker bladder. These are hardly unexpected consequences of aging, and come with the territory. (Oh, don’t worry, you can fight them!)
But one body part you might not think much about as it relates to getting older? Your neck.
Like rings on a tree, the neck is usually where you begin to see the first signs of aging, which can happen well before they begin to show on your face.
That’s because the skin on your neck is thin and more prone to dryness and crepiness than, say, the skin on your face. (The late great Nora Ephron felt plenty bad about her neck. She wrote, “according to my dermatologist, the neck starts to go at forty-three…Our faces are lies but our necks are the truth.”)
Why is this? Well, many of us neglect our necks, only thinking about protecting and treating our faces with lotions and potions to protect and moisturize. When you think about the fact, too, that your neck is constantly exposed to the elements and is not covered up too often (with the exception being in the colder weather), it’s no wonder that it’s mighty vulnerable to the many negative effects of the sun, wind and pollution.
But the outside elements are not the only things wreaking damage on your neck. With the advent of electronic devices, we’re spending a lot of time inside, too, with our heads hanging down. Not only will holding your head in that position give you what’s known as “text neck” and lead to things like upper and shoulder pain, muscle tightness, spasms and headaches, it can contribute to “turkey neck” and other aesthetic issues caused by the continuous crinkling of the skin and breakdown of your tissue’s integrity to protect against wrinkles. (Holding your phone at eye level can help prevent that problem, or keep it from getting worse.)
When you think about the fact that the average head weighs 10 pounds – and for each inch your head is tilted forward the pressure on your spine doubles – it’s easy to understand how our poor necks bear the burden.
What you need to do is to pay attention to how you are treating your neck from two perspectives; the cosmetic and the practical.
The next time you stand at your mirror prepping your face for the day, prep your neck, too. Start when you cleanse your face – sloughing away the dead skin can make way for the active ingredients in the products you use to penetrate better. Then extend your lotion, cream or sunblock downwards – including the décolletage area, which is equally thin and delicate skin. (I love that word, but always stumble over its pronunciation. For the uninitiated, it’s the skin on your neck, shoulders, back and upper chest.)
Or, you can buy a product specially designated for use on the neck area (since those designated just for the neck usually contain stronger formulations with helpful ingredients that can stimulate elastin and collagen), like Arbonne’s RE9 Advanced Age-Defying Neck Cream, which glides on effortlessly (no need to pull further on that already-delicate skin!) and is packed with helpful age-friendly ingredients like Vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids and powerful peptides. This one from Roc contains a retinol, which has been shown to work on the neck and chest, too. Other valuable ingredients to look for include tetrapeptides and niacin (a B vitamin).
Of course, there are lots of other options out there like this skin pad that you wear while you sleep, or this serum from StriVectin. Right now, I’m using this regimen by Rodan & Fields, a new-to-me company that has definitely convinced me to be a regular-to-them customer. I’m finding the products from this company, founded by two Stanford-trained female dermatologists, to be amazingly gentle yet effective on my face, and I extend them down to my neck area, too.
You may wish to pull out the big guns and meet with a plastic surgeon or dermatologist to learn about treatments like ultherapy, Kybella (injections that dissolve superficial chin fat), Botox or liposuction; or for a more permanent fix, surgery.
For the ultimate in entertainment, you can always stand in front of your mirror, gently pull your skin on either side of your face back, and stare wistfully at that once-familiar, younger version of yourself. (But your hands will eventually get tired, after all. Make sure that once you let go, you immediately turn away from the mirror and head for a glass of wine. Just kidding, of course. Well, kind of…)
Meanwhile, the weather is getting colder, and since I’m not the turtleneck type, I’m pulling out my huge collection of scarves that have gone unworn for many years. Suddenly, in this so-called midlife, they’ve taken on new meaning, and not only are fun and fashionable, but functional as well.