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Is This Body Part Aging You?

Is This Body Part Aging You?

By Sheryl Kraft

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Creaky knees, an aching back, diminished eyesight, a weak bladder. These are hardly unexpected consequences of aging, and sometimes we think they 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 those signs 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 treating our faces with lotions and potions to protect and moisturize. When you think about the fact, too, that your neck is often exposed to the elements and is rarely covered up (with the exception of sometimes when you go out in cold weather), it's no wonder that it's mighty vulnerable to the many negative effects of the sun, wind and pollution.

Learn more about How to Treat Your Aging Skin.

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 worsening.)

When you think about the fact that the average head weighs 10 pounds—and for each inch your head tilts 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 downward, including the décolletage area, which has thin, delicate skin. (I love that word, but always stumble over its pronunciation. For the uninitiated, it's the skin on your neck, shoulders and upper chest—the skin that would be exposed by a low-cut neckline.)

Or, you can buy a product specially designated for use on the neck area. Those designated for the neck usually contain stronger formulations with helpful ingredients that can stimulate elastin and collagen. Try Arbonne's RE9 Advanced Age-Defying Neck Cream, which glides on effortlessly (no need to pull 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 SiO SkinPad 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. 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…)

Embrace your inner supergirl!

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. Not only are they fun and fashionable, but functional as well.