How To Combat Tech Neck Wrinkles: 5 Must-Have Tips, From Derms
When you dive into the types of wrinkles, the conversation can turn technical pretty quickly. Read: elastotic wrinkles, atrophic wrinkles, gravitational wrinkles, and so on. We'll go ahead and assume you don't rattle off this science jargon in your everyday life, which is why many facial wrinkles also come with more familiar, everyday monikers (smile lines, the "elevens," crow's feet, etc.).
Lately, one relatively new category of lines has become top of mind for many: the modern "tech neck." Given our increasingly digital world, it's a practical concern for many skin care buffs—here, derms explain how to avoid and combat these etchings.
What are tech neck wrinkles?
Tech neck wrinkles look like horizontal lines that wrap around the neck like a choker. They can be faint or deep, depending on how much they've settled in, but you can point them out by their horizontal orientation. Neck wrinkles, in general, can also manifest as lighter lines that are more prevalent on the sides—but tech neck wrinkles tend to concentrate toward the front.
And like the name suggests, tech neck forms from constantly staring at your phones and screens. As you look down, the skin on your neck can fold over itself, thus creating those horizontal etchings over time. "You can get deep lines that are horizontal and run across the front of the neck from the bending, or flexion, of the neck. Usually people have a limited number of these," board-certified dermatologist Jeremy Fenton, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC and Long Beach, New York, tells mbg about neck lines.
"Horizontal neck lines form like all other wrinkles on the face," says board-certified dermatologist Ife J. Rodney, M.D., founder of Eternal Dermatology. "Over time, our skin's elasticity weakens. We lose collagen, elastin, and other hydrating, plumping skin factors. This loss allows the skin to slightly sag and fold over constricted muscles, causing horizontal lines." It's a natural process that happens as you age, but factors like sun exposure, smoking, and other environmental aggressors can speed up the process.
However, tech neck wrinkles are also a type of compression wrinkle—or when your skin endures pressure from a certain position. The most common compression wrinkles are sleep lines (also called pillow lines), which happen when you squish your face into your pillow while you sleep.
Tech neck follows a similar fashion, although instead of smashing your face into a pillow, you're keeping your neck bent to look down at screens. When this happens over several hours a day, those folds can start to stick around, especially when your natural collagen levels begin to decline.
And according to Rodney, tech neck wrinkles can crop up much faster than other types of fine lines. "Neck wrinkles form over several years, but now, people who spend hours with their heads bent on devices will see fine lines in just a few months," she says. "It's not uncommon to see 20-year-olds or 30-year-olds with tech neck."
How to address these lines.
If you have deep-set lines, you might find success with in-office methods (just always make sure to see a professional you trust). However, some natural methods can also combat these folds, as well as make sure any existing lines don't deepen:
Fix your neck posture.
First and foremost: Be mindful of how often you look down at screens. "For neck wrinkles specifically, you would want to avoid looking down for long periods of time by using good posture and positioning screens directly in front of your face," says Fenton. Try to use your phone at eye-level if you can, and perhaps adopt an ergonomic approach while working at your desk (if you tend to slump forward). The right desk chair and seat position can make a world of difference.
Here's our guide to the best desk posture, in case you need some help fixing your alignment. "Finally, don't forget to take breaks and do neck stretches to keep them long and wrinkle-free," notes Rodney.
Any derm would agree: Sun protection is the cornerstone of smart skin care. "The best [method] for all types of wrinkles is to wear sunscreen every single day," says Fenton. (In fact, 80% of the signs of skin aging1 are due to UV exposure.)
Your neck is a particularly delicate area to protect since the skin is exposed to the sun much more regularly than other parts of the body but is oft-neglected when it comes to sun protection. Make sure you slather your favorite SPF onto your neck, especially if you don't plan on covering the area with clothing.
Enhance skin health with oral antioxidant supplementation.
Antioxidants can also help buffer the skin against photoaging by both absorbing UV rays and helping neutralize UV-induced oxidative stress2.* You can check out antioxidants for every skin concern here, but if you're trying to address fine lines, vitamin C, CoQ10, astaxanthin, and polyphenols are your best bet.
You can find these in both topical skin care products and beauty supplements—in fact, supplementing with 6 milligrams of astaxanthin (which is found in mbg's cellular beauty+) has been shown to reduce wrinkles in as little as six weeks.*
Use targeted topicals.
Targeted topicals can help stimulate your natural collagen production, which is why Rodney suggests exfoliating the neck area at least once every two weeks (perhaps more if you can tolerate it). Glycolic acid is a popular choice for skin aging, as the topical has been shown to stimulate a 27% increase in epidermal thickness3.
"Retinols and prescription-strength retinoids can help rebuild and maintain collagen as well," says Fenton. "However, you must be careful because the neck skin is often more sensitive than other parts of the face." You might have to work your way up to a regular retinol cadence or opt for retinaldehyde if prescription-strength topicals prove too harsh for the delicate neck skin.
Essentially, if you're already using these targeted topicals on your face, why not give the neck area some love? "You should also extend a skin care routine down to your neck," adds Rodney.
But a skin care routine is not complete without locking in necessary moisture. "Keeping the skin well moisturized will help [ease] the appearance of any lines, so I would recommend using a moisturizer on a regular basis," says Fenton. Bonus: Proper skin hydration is imperative for delaying crepey skin (or when your skin resembles a thin sheet of crepe paper), which also tends to crop up in the neck area.
If you regularly use a humectant serum to draw water into the top layer of the skin, feel free to slather it on the neck, too. Just don't forget to trap all of that hydration with a quality moisturizer, lest you leave your skin drier than it was before.
Best products for tech neck wrinkles.
At the end of the day, wrinkles are simply unavoidable. However, a select few are within your control (for a time, at least). Tech neck wrinkles fall into this category, as they form from constantly bending the neck to look down at screens. It's a growing concern for many—even younger individuals who might not have too many skin aging concerns yet!—but there are derm-backed ways to soften those folds. And if you're curious about addressing all kinds of neck wrinkles (yes, there are more), feel free to check out our full explainer.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.