STICK YOUR NECK OUT
The ‘Zoom boom’ has spurred treatments to smooth the neck and define the jawline.
Technology has given us much, but it’s also given us ‘tech neck’. As the phrase implies, our habit of hanging our head to intently study the screen in our hands has exacerbated both neck strain (treatable) and neck wrinkles (less treatable, until recently).
The affliction was a burgeoning phenomenon before the pandemic, with the development of advanced aesthetic treatments well underway. But experts say that with the demands of 24/7 connectedness, coupled with the inevitable self-scrutiny constant Zoom meetings bring, it’s not surprising we’re increasingly seeking solutions to smooth our necks and sharpen our jawlines sans surgery.
“We’ve all been affected by ... seeing ourselves on camera looking downwards, which accentuates our jowls, uneven jawline and neck ageing,” says Dr Ellen Selkon, cosmetic physician and director of Clinic 42, of the reason for the spike in interest.
“Secondly, selfies are very rarely taken front-on these days; people often turn to the three-quarter view, which shows the jawline. A smooth, youthful jawline is associated with ‘handsomeness’ in males and elegance and beauty in females.”
As we age, our skin loses its underlying structure and volume. The overlying skin becomes looser as collagen and elastin levels also decline, making it saggier and more prone to creasing.
With fewer sebaceous glands to provide oil but with our attention less focused on religiously applying skincare to the area, it’s not surprising
the delicate area is prone to visible signs of ageing. While horizontal neck lines are part of the natural ageing process, repeated folding motions like constantly looking down at a screen can also have an impact on the quality of skin, similar to the creases that form between the brows if we squint too much.
“One term cosmetic physicians hear at least once a day is ‘I hate my neck’,” admits Dr Michael Molton, President of the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia.
Botox or filler can play a part in smoothing the area, but Dr Molton says most concerns relate to loss of elastic tension in the skin itself.
While they have ‘limited outcomes’ when compared with surgery or a thread lift – which come with their own risks and challenges – he suggests seeking out non-invasive device-based treatments that help reknit and establish new collagen.
“These devices, collectively known in cosmetic medicine as ‘non-ionising radiation’ (NIR), are a mixed bag of light-based, radio-frequency, skin micro-perforation and ultrasonic technologies,’’ says Dr Molton. “Light-based devices include fractionated lasers, preferably non-ablative.”
While radio frequency and ultrasound treatments are increasingly offered for skin tightening, Dr Molton says that advanced options that combine the two in one treatment can be faster and more comfortable.
In terms of lasers, Dr Molton mentions that the skin on the neck doesn’t have the healing capacity of the face, so they should be considered with caution and carried out by experts, or risk burns and scarring. At home, the long-term benefits of dedicated neck-targeting skincare are related to softening and temporary surface tension. They are limited in their ability for dramatic transformation beyond that.
Yet the upside of the use of dedicated neck-targeting skincare is increasing consideration of active skincare application all the way down the neck to the décolletage; something that’s often an oversight.
Skincare expert Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice Skincare, says extending proven skin-boosting ingredients you use on your face down your neck is as effective as using targeted products.
“Antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, soothing agents, retinol, enriching oils, and butters are essential, as is SPF,” says Begoun.
Clothing often exposes the neck and chest to the sun, making these areas especially vulnerable, she says.
“Always protect them with daily broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater. It’s the single best step you can take to keep this area of your skin looking youthful and smooth for years to come,” says Begoun.
Much like many skin challenges, prevention is better than the cure – so here’s your reminder to stop the mindless scrolling! – but the cure has sure come a long way.