As you age, your skin texture changes—this is normal and a part of living a healthy life. One such area many people see is through crepey skin, which isn't a type of wrinkle, per se, but it has some similar causes (i.e., lifestyle and genetic factors) that can lead to loose, sagging skin in the area.
As far as tightening the fragile neck skin, it's a similar story you'll hear with pretty much all skin-aging woes: The best approach is actually delaying early onset in the first place and keeping the skin as healthy as you can. That's not to say you can't improve it naturally once the issue crops up—you can, it's just important to be realistic here. As board-certified dermatologist Flora Kim, M.D., FAAD, notes, "Wrinkled and sagging skin will require more involved solutions as the problem runs deep."
So while some of these tips can offer results over time (slowly but surely), they're best used as proactive prevention steps. And it's never too late to get started:
Use topicals that support skin elasticity.
You may have heard the saying once or twice: Skin care shouldn't stop at your jawline.
Meaning, don't forget about your neck and décolletage during your routine! Just as you might seek out formulas to target fine lines and sagging skin on the face, you'll want to slather those same ingredients down your neck as well. That's not to say you have to go out and buy a fancy neck-firming cream—in fact, most derms agree your face products will do just fine.
In terms of choice ingredients, retinoids are beloved for stimulating cell turnover and collagen production (which is what keeps your skin firm and taut). However, you must be careful because the neck skin is often more sensitive than other parts of the face," says board-certified dermatologist Jeremy Fenton, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC and Long Beach, New York. You may want to try layering your retinoid between a veil of moisturizer (commonly dubbed the "retinoid sandwich") if you find it too harsh for the sensitive skin.
Exfoliators—think AHAs and BHAs—are also top-notch for addressing skin texture, and some, like glycolic acid, can stimulate collagen production as well. Although, "For wrinkled and sagging skin, exfoliators can play a role, but it is important to be realistic and be mindful that exfoliators will make a nominal change," notes Kim.
Sloughing away dead skin from time to time is an important part of a healthy skin regimen (and it can offer some visually gratifying benefits), but if you're dealing with sagging skin already, an exfoliator most likely will not be make-or-break.
Hydrate the skin.
On that note, you'll also want to keep your skin hydrated in order to prevent any more sagging. "Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize—this can improve the appearance," board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., tells mbg about tending to crepey skin.
See, hydration is an important component of fortifying skin elasticity: As the skin's barrier function diminishes with age, it can result in lost plumpness and firmness due to moisture loss. That's why focusing on hydration is crucial, both internally and with topicals. Again, skin care shouldn't stop at your jawline—so just as you might slather on moisturizer to keep your face dewy and supple, massage the cream into your neck or opt for a body lotion with nourishing butters and oils to condition the skin.
Bonus points if you apply a lotion straight out of the shower: Trapping in that lingering water with a rich cream can speed up the repair of a compromised skin barrier.
Promote collagen production internally.
On a similar note, you can also support your body's natural production of collagen, which can help enhance skin texture all over.* One way to do this is through hydrolyzed collagen supplements, as research shows these collagen peptides can help promote your body's natural production of collagen and other molecules that make up the skin, like elastin and fibrillin.* Says Taz Bhatia, M.D., an integrative medicine physician and mbg Collective member of taking collagen supplements: "It can promote skin elasticity, providing the skin one of its basic ingredients to stay firm and taut."*
Collagen supplements can even help support your skin's hydration levels, which is important for maintaining supple, smooth neck skin.* In fact, a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial found that participants' moisture levels in the skin were seven times higher than those who did not take the daily collagen peptide supplement.*
Apply SPF to your neck.
Considering UV damage can contribute to faster collagen and elastin breakdown (which we explain further below!), protecting your neck with sunscreen is a must. "Start early (now is not too late!) and vigilantly protect your skin from the sun," agrees Kim. See here for our favorite creamy options that melt into your complexion.
Apply products with upward strokes.
For what it's worth, you never want to pull or tug at your delicate neck skin in any direction—but many experts will tell you that gentle, upward strokes are best. See, gravity already pulls your skin downward over time and contributes to sagging, so why encourage the process by dragging it in that direction? Of course, this is not the be-all and end-all for tightening neck skin, but it is a helpful skin care tip to keep in the back of your mind.
Try face yoga.
With face yoga, you're intentionally toning the facial muscles, which can promote blood circulation in the skin and actually help tighten the area. Experts have targeted exercises just for the neck area, too: Says Koko Hayashi, face yoga instructor and founder of Koko Face Yoga, perform this trio just one to three times per day to see results. "Facial muscles are smaller, so you don't need as much exercise," she says. "You'll notice a difference quickly."
OK, this isn't technically an exercise, but Hayashi says that good tongue posture is imperative for toned, taut neck skin. What does "good tongue posture" mean? Says Hayashi, you want your tongue to always rest on the top of your palate rather than lying at the bottom of your mouth. "If that's the case, the tongue is going to drag the jaw down," she says, which can lead to sagginess. "The tongue is a big muscle, and it's connected to your neck muscles," she adds. "So when the tongue is up, you're toning the neck."
That said, her No. 1 tip is to place your tongue on the roof of your mouth "whenever your face is resting, except when you're talking, eating, or drinking." No need to use force—it's not so much about the pressure itself as it is about training your natural tongue posture to remain on the upper palate.
Front neck stretch.
To tone the neck specifically, Hayashi loves this quick exercise. Although, she recommends avoiding it if you have any neck pain whatsoever:
- Slowly look up at the ceiling, stretching your neck as much as possible.
- Stick your tongue out and up to the ceiling, trying to touch your nose. You should feel a big stretch in the front of your neck. Make your tongue as pointed as possible.
- Hold for 10 seconds, then relax.
Make sure you're not wrinkling your forehead while you look up to the ceiling ("You don't want to cause more wrinkles by doing the exercise!" Koko notes). If it's difficult not to knit your brows together, closing your eyes makes it easier.
Side neck stretch.
To target the sides of your neck, follow the same exercise as above with slight tweaks:
- Turn your head to the side and stretch your neck at a 45-degree angle toward the ceiling.
- Stick your tongue out and up to the ceiling, trying to touch your nose. You should feel a big stretch on the side of your neck. Make your tongue as pointy as possible.
- Hold for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat on the other side.
Consider a professional method.
While you can target sagging neck skin with at-home methods, "at-home will not be as visibly dramatic as in-office options," says Kim. So if you're looking for more of an immediate solution or your sagging skin borders on severe, you might want to venture to a derm who can provide other options.
For example, they might perform skin-resurfacing treatments, like microneedling—which can improve skin texture by using small needles to prick the skin and trigger collagen repair. Much more research is needed, but studies are starting to consider microneedling as a safer skin alternative to more invasive resurfacing technologies like lasers (although, the results are often less dramatic). But, again, chatting with your derm is your best bet.
What causes sagging neck skin?
In terms of causes, we'll chat about three buckets: aging, posture, and rapid weight loss.
"As time goes by, there is a longer duration and cumulative amalgamation of insult to the skin in the form of gravity, pollution, poor daily skin care, posture, and such," notes Kim. "The more damage your skin is exposed to and for the longer period of time, the more wrinkling and sagging you will see."
Posture is interesting to note, as it seems to affect the neck in a pretty major way: When you slouch, your neck skin is constantly folded over itself, which can ultimately lead to skin sagging. Add phones and screens to the mix, and we're looking down a lot more than humans have in the past—which can lead to a 21st-century phenomenon known as "tech neck." It's related to skin aging, as it's poor posture over time—coupled with things as UV and free-radical exposure—that contributes to the looser skin.
Finally, a note on weight loss: "Weight loss, when dramatic and within a very short period of time, can cause sagging skin because the fat loss was too quick for the skin to respond and tighten," Kim explains. If you leave it alone, that skin can tighten on its own—it just may take a very long time, which is why you might want to support the process with the skin care methods above. Of course, it might not bounce back entirely to its original state without the help of more invasive methods, but it's a start.
The neck is one of the first areas to reveal signs of aging, as the skin there is often overlooked. While it can be difficult to treat once these texture changes crop up, it's never too late to give the sensitive skin on your neck the TLC it needs.
Jamie Schneider is the Associate 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.