How Your Neck and Décolleté Reveal Your Age
August 16, 2016
The skin on the neck and décolleté is one of the most neglected areas on the body—and one of the areas that can reveal your true age. Like many, you likely follow a daily routine to take care of the skin on your face. However, most people forget to protect and treat the skin on their neck and décolleté by covering it with clothes, cosmetics products, or a daily sunscreen. Similar to the face, sun exposure also ages the neck and décolleté. Failing to protect and treat this skin can cause premature ageing to occur.
Crepey Skin and Loss of Firmness
The skin on the neck is unique because it allows so much movement! Because you move your neck more than many other parts of the body, the skin gets stretched and pulled in many different directions. Think about how many times a day you look around, up, and down. How often you move your neck plays a key role in how it appears to age. Through years of multi-directional movement, the skin on the neck can start looking crepey. “Crepey” skin is defined as skin that appears wrinkled, like crepe paper. Most people associate crepiness with the skin on the elbows or eyelids of older people, but it can also appear on the neck as we age.
We know that as we age, we lose subcutaneous fat (fat just below the skin). In the face, this can lead to a slightly sunken appearance. In the neck, though, this loss of fat can cause the underlying muscles to protrude, specifically the platysma.1 The platysma is a thin muscle that covers most of the front of the neck. The muscle stretches from either side of the jaw and down to the shoulders, spreading out as it moves down the neck, leaving most of the throat clear. While this protrusion doesn’t cause signs of ageing alone, the decrease in muscle tone might. As we age, the platysma loses muscle tone and gets pulled outward to the side of the neck. This can cause the muscles toward the centre of the neck to stretch and spread apart. In addition to muscle spreading, this can also put stress on the medial ligament of the neck. This stress can weaken the ligament, leading to what are known as platysmal bands.3 This too can increase the look of crepiness.
Irregular Skin Pigmentation
Another sign of ageing on the neck and décolleté is irregular pigmentation. Different areas of the neck and décolleté receive different amounts of sun exposure. For example, the front of the neck and décolleté is somewhat protected by the chin and the shadow it creates, while the sides of neck usually get more sun and can develop a condition called poikiloderma. Poikiloderma causes thinning of the skin on the neck and décolleté, hyperpigmentation (usually darker in colour), hypopigmentation (lighter skin), and telangiectasias (small dilated blood vessels, also known as spider veins). When the skin on the neck becomes thinner due to sun damage, the yellowish oil glands on the neck are more noticeable through the skin and can look bumpy.1 All of these characteristics of poikiloderma cause the skin on the neck to look older, but don’t pose any health risks.2
Skin Sensitivity and Scarring
In addition to the unique ways that skin on the neck and décolleté can age, the skin on the neck tends to scar more easily. Normally, scars that occur on the body are darker than the skin surrounding them. However, scars on the neck are usually lighter or whitish in pigment because the pigment cells in the neck are not as robust as other parts of the skin. This means that any damage to the neck that would result in a scar would lead to hypopigmentation and an uneven skin tone. The skin on the neck is also more sensitive than other parts of the body—although it is a little less sensitive than the skin on the face.
The skin on the neck is hard to treat, but there are things you can do to address some of the problems associated with ageing. Be sure to care for your neck and décolleté by treating and protecting them with a daily sunscreen. In addition, use a targeted skin care product designed for the neck/décolleté or face to help reduce some of the impact of premature ageing and keep the skin looking youthful.
1. Call with Dr. Draelos on April 11, 2016
3. Scott Shadfar, MD , Stephen W. Perkins, MD. Anatomy and Physiology of the Aging Neck. Downloaded from ClinicalKey.com at Rutgers University - NERL April 04, 2016.