In Nora Ephron’s iconic book of essays I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman, she wrote, “We all look good for our age. Except for our necks.” While the author’s words might’ve been humorously blunt, she wasn’t that far off, “One of the first signs of aging is to look at the neck and hands — these areas are often neglected,” says Dr. David Shafer, M.D., a double board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of The Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City. And while you probably have a solid lineup of topical products you use on your face every day, the delicate neck and chest (also known as the décolletage) deserve just as much attention.
As an avid skin care devotee, I’ve become hyper-fixated with upping my regimen for these areas in my late 30s. Sparked by my ever-increasing tech neck and “necklace” lines — two turned to three, three turned to five — I grew curious as to why they appear to be aging faster. “The skin on the neck and chest is thinner and more delicate, and quick to show signs of dehydration and sun damage,” Dr. Lara Devgan, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified plastic surgeon and namesake skin care brand. “The neck is also an axial joint that has many movement demands (in all directions) and is thus subject to many more vectors of force and thus needs hydration.”
In today’s “plugged in” society, there’s been a surge in “tech neck” lines in generations much younger than before — just one look at my TikTok FYP and I’m flooded with neck rollers, gua shas, LED lights, and lifting and firming masks to specifically treat the concern. “Not a day goes by that I don’t see a patient complaining about their neck and loose skin,” Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skincare Junkie says. “The ever-increasing use of computers and mobile devices notoriously causes poor posture and neck bending. A growing concern caused by these head positions is the folding of skin of the neck causing wrinkles.”
Below, six skin care expert share their insights on the best products, techniques, and tools to ensure a healthier neck and chest moving forward.
The Difference Between The Neck & Chest
The major distinction between your neck and the face is moisture level. “The skin on your neck is less lipidic, which means it has less sebaceous oil glands compared to the face, making it naturally drier,” Dallas- and New York City-Based aesthetician Joanna Czech explains. “The reduced lipid content contributes to your neck and décolletage aging faster than your facial skin because oils play a crucial role in protecting the skin and maintaining its elasticity.”
As for that looser “turkey neck” appearance that can happen with age, Dr. Murphy-Rose explains that, “Over time, collagen and elastin levels decrease and the skin quality deteriorates with the loss of these crucial skin proteins. The process eventually causes the appearance of older skin. Anything we can do to boost the production of these proteins will help to improve the overall appearance of one’s skin.”
As for “tech neck”, Dr. Murphy-Rose says those lines can also be improved with a proper skin care routine, treatments, and even a conscious shift of your posture, “keep your head up rather than bent over and reduce use of mobile devices, and improved skin care,” she adds.
Lately, when I look in the mirror in the morning, I notice a difference when I don’t extend my skin care routine below the chin, but these words from Czech have become ingrained in my memory, “I always say your face starts at your nipples up. Anything you would use on your face, you need to use on your neck and décolletage.” So applying products to this area, from cleanser to ultra-nourishing moisturizer, is paramount. As is sunscreen during the day, “Never skip daily SPF for the décolletage because of the thinner dermal layer, the skin quality is even more susceptible to UV damage,” shares Zsamieka Gammon, aesthetician and manager of aesthetic education at Ever/Body.
The Best Neck & Chest Skin Care Routine
Step One: Cleanse
Every good skin care routine starts with cleansing, but there’s no denying that below the chin is often neglected. Gammon explains the importance of a clean slate, “An accumulation of sweat, makeup, and product from your skin care and hair care products can lead to breakouts on the neck and chest. One of the best ways to minimize breakouts is to be intentional about including these areas in your routine.” Rinse your skin with a gentle cream face wash for the delicate skin on your neck and chest that will still get rid of dirt and pollution, like Augustinus Bader’s Cream Cleansing Gel or Sisley Paris’ cult-favorite makeup-removing and softening Lyslait Cleansing Milk.
Step Two: Tone & Exfoliate
Smooth, refresh, and brighten the neck and chest with a daily exfoliator that’s specifically formulated to be gentle. Dr. Murphy-Rose developed the Skincare Junkie Pore Therapy Daily Toner Pads intentionally to provide daily smoothing via topical antioxidants and gentle exfoliators without irritation. Edyta Jarosz, aesthetician at The Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue, also loves the exfoliating and brightening SkinMedica’s Even & Correct Daily Treatment Pads after cleansing to target hyperpigmentation and melasma for visibly even-toned skin.
Step Three: Treat With Serum
Combat dehydration and dullness with targeted serums. Czech’s favorites include vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate (she says it’s more tolerable for delicate skin), like C-Quence by Environ, and vitamin C (her line has a serum) because it’s a powerful antioxidant that will protect your skin from free radical stressors. For an extra dose of hydration, a hyaluronic acid serum like Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Acid or SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel is key to keeping these overlooked areas moisturized, and therefore, soft.
Step Four: Tone & Firm
To keep the neck and chest skin as taut as possible, Dr. Devgan recommends using a multitasking cream that firms and lifts the delicate tissue with ceramides, antioxidants, peptides, and niacinamide (the Niacin + Squalene Neck Cream from her line is one example). Dr. Murphy-Rose loves a complex that’s spiked with skin-tightening and hydrating qualities of active peptides, which is found in Alastin’s Restorative Neck Complex with TriHex Technology.
Step Five: Hydrate & Protect
Lock in all of the benefits from your serums and add a nourishing dose of plumpness with a moisture-drenching cream. For application, Gammon says to apply with swift upward motions to avoid sagging. Try a formula that’s rich and packed moisturizing ingredients, but not greasy. The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + Phytoceramides offers immediate moisturization and helps strengthen the skin barrier to prevent further dryness.
Finally, shield your skin from UVA/UVB rays with sunscreen to prevent cancer and photoaging. “Do not skip your mineral-based sunscreen on your neck every day. You would not believe the difference this will make in the long run for protecting the youthful appearance of your skin,” advises Dr. Rose-Murphy. Use a beloved OG like La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Face Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50 or the dermatologist-loved Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum. Both are lightweight and promise a minimal white cast.
Step Six: Finishing Tools
Sculpt, stimulate collagen, and help with blood flow with some of the best gadgets on the market. Gammon’s favorite is the Theraface Pro, an 8-in-1 skin care device that has attachments for all of your needs. Gammon particularly loves the “combination of micro-current and red LED light therapy to enhance product absorption, tighten the skin, stimulate collagen production, and reduce the appearance of lines.”
Czech has two go-tos for the neck and chest, ” My favorite tools for my neck are my facial massager to stimulate blood flow which will help with product absorption” she says. “Another gadget I’m a fan of is my LYMA laser which works on a cellular level to increase cell regeneration.”