Years ago, when I was in my twenties, a remark made by a famous Hollywood actress made a deep impression on me. She was yakking on about her beauty regime, most of which was going in one ear and out the other because she was ancient and I was young and didn’t have to think about something as irrelevant as wrinkles. But then she said something that made me take notice, because it made complete sense.
She declared that when the time came she would definitely have work on her neck. “A wrinkled neck is terribly ageing,” she said. “Look after your neck and you’ll look much younger.” Or words to that effect.
Now that I’m in my fifties (not so ancient, after all) I understand what she meant. The skin on your neck and décolletage is delicate, and if you’ve exposed it to sun, if you’ve smoked, if you haven’t cleansed, exfoliated and moisturized it the way you have your face, the chances are it’s crêpey and wrinkled. A dead giveaway.
It’s not just women over 50 who suffer from this; men acquire the turkey-neck look too.
As we get older, we produce less collagen and the skin becomes less firm and plump. Its ability to retain water diminishes, all of which encourages the formation of wrinkles. Women also produce less estrogen, which has an impact on cellular activity. Wrinkles happen due to the loss of skin elasticity, not just on the face but also on the neck. Yet the latter is often neglected.
But it’s not too late for us to delay the ageing process. There are several things you can do, and most can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. Just drinking more water, using a night cream on the neck and eating more salmon and blueberries is a start.
The skin on your neck and chest is as delicate as your face, and the best way to delay the ageing process is to boost its suppleness. The skin here is very thin and has fewer sebaceous glands, fewer lipids (essential to protect the skin from external factors) and fewer melanocytes (cells that produce the pigment that gives colour to your skin and protects it from sunlight).
It needs as much love and attention as your face, so if you have been neglecting your neck and chest, now is the time to remedy that situation.
Cleanse your neck and décolletage both morning and night. After the morning cleanse, apply moisturizer, using an upward, circular motion from under your chin to the top of your cleavage. You might discover that your neck skin requires a richer product than the one you use on your face. Massage it in, to help it penetrate the skin and to boost the circulation in that area.
In the evening, apply anti-ageing cream, either the same one you use on your face or one specifically for the neck, depending on how rich your facial product is. Most night creams now contain vitamins and antioxidants, such as Vitamin A, C and E and beta carotene, which are powerful anti-ageing ingredients. CoQ10 is a powerful nutrient that helps prevent cell damage.
Exfoliate the neck and chest area at least once a week to keep the skin free of ingrained dirt and dead skin cells. This area is delicate, so avoid products that contain sharp particles, and use a gentle, non-abrasive exfoliant. This encourages cell turnover.
A recent study revealed that older skin that hadn’t been exposed to the sun had about 3,800 genetic mutations whereas skin that had been exposed had around 10,000 mutations in the same genes (meaning the ageing process had happened more quickly).
Thanks to all the skin cancer prevention messages, many of us include some form of SPF protection in our skincare, but not enough of us are protecting our necks and chests. Apply sunscreen to your neck and décolletage every day. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and re-apply it if you are outside for long periods of time, even when it is overcast or cloudy.
Because our skin loses its ability to retain moisture as we age, it is important to keep hydrated from within, by drinking water throughout the day and getting hydration from fruit and vegetables.
Keep your nutrition rich in anti-oxidants, especially Omega-3 acids, which are present in fish. These do wonders for skin rejuvenation by boosting collagen production. Eat at least one portion of salmon or mackerel a week, and take a daily fish-oil supplement.
Pomegranates, acai berries, blueberries and green tea also help you stock up on antioxidants.
If you smoke, here’s another reason to stop: heavy smokers are almost five times more likely to have excessive wrinkling than non-smokers. Smoking damages collagen, and lip pursing and squinting while inhaling creates wrinkles around your mouth and eyes, and more wrinkles in the delicate skin directly under your chin.
Consider the size of pillow you sleep on. High pillows result in neck wrinkles over a long period of time, but a small pillow maximizes the angle between the face and neck, thus slowing down the skin’s ageing process.
Lastly, give your neck an exercise workout. Keeping your neck muscles toned will help to prevent sagging skin and wrinkles. Below are six neck exercises to get you started.
Finally, keep your chin up (and I don’t mean metaphorically). If your chin is permanently tucked into your chest you are more likely to develop permanent creases in your neck, as well as putting your neck more at risk of injury.
1. Jut out your chin and move your lower jaw forward. Repeat ten times.
2. Look straight ahead. Now look up to the ceiling and hold for five seconds. Slowly return to your starting position. Repeat 20 times.
3. Form an ‘O’ with your mouth. Pull down the sides of your mouth until you feel the muscles underneath your neck working. Repeat this three times in quick succession. Build up to 20 sets of threes.
4. With your mouth open, pronounce the vowels A to U without closing your mouth at any time. Repeat ten times, three times in a row.
5. Press the tip of your tongue against your palate for a few seconds and release. Do this throughout the day. Make circles with your tongue when your mouth is closed, first in one direction then the other. Repeat often.
6. Place your lower lip over the top lip and hold for a few seconds. Repeat ten times.