Neck Wrinkles: Why You Get Tech Neck, Treatments & Prevention
Wrinkles and fine lines come with age no matter what, all skin types and tones included. How and when you get yours depends on several contributing factors, including lifestyle and genetics. This is why not all people age at the same pace—nor do they get the same type of wrinkles. Some people develop crow's feet or laugh lines easier while others get etches along the neck.
Neck wrinkles, neck lines, or "tech neck" (whatever you want to call it) can either look like deeper horizontal lines that wrap around like a choker or smaller, thinner, lighter lines that are more prevalent on the sides. Why do we get lines here, and what can you do about it? Well, some of the reasons you may find lines here are your classics, while others are entirely modern. As for solutions, we have you covered there, too. What to know ahead of time.
What causes neck wrinkles?
Here's the deal: All wrinkles form from a mix of the same factors. "Neck wrinkles are caused by the same things that cause other wrinkles: a combination of aging of the skin—breakdown of collagen and elastic tissue—and movement," says board-certified dermatologist Jeremy Fenton, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC and Long Beach, New York. This is also especially true of the neck, as the skin here does tend to be thinner, and thinner skin is often affected by aging faster (the same reason your eyes may show fine lines before any other part of your face).
First up, collagen and elastin breakdown. "As we age, our skin becomes less resilient with less of the collagen and elastic tissue to allow it to rebound to its original shape," he says. "Besides this being a natural part of aging, it can happen faster with more exposure to sunlight (UV light). The neck can capture a lot of sun damage, particularly on the sides and lower portion."
Now combine aging skin with daily movements, and things start to settle in. "The second main cause is the movement of the neck," says Fenton. "We get horizontal lines in the neck due to the bending of the neck to look down. You can also get some of the more fine lines or wrinkles, particularly along the sides of the neck, from turning side-to-side and from sleeping on your side, but these don't tend to be the deep wrinkles."
What is "tech neck"?
While neck wrinkles have always been a thing, there is an entirely new phenomenon called "tech neck" that's top of mind for many. It's used to describe the wrinkles that form from constantly staring at our phones and screens (tech neck can also cause other aesthetic issues, like jawline swelling). Essentially, we're all looking down a lot more than humans have in the past, and it's beginning to show.
"People are noting more of this now that we spend more time looking down at our screens," says Fenton. "You can get the 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."
How do you treat them naturally?
Tending to these wrinkles naturally is entirely possible—and it really does come down to smart skin care. However, many people forget to attend to the neck as part of their daily routine, so the first step is simply remembering to go below the chin when you do your morning and evening routine.
Hydrate and protect
In the morning, be mindful to hydrate the area. Keeping skin moisturized not only improves barrier function overall but can plump up skin, easing the appearance of lines. "Keeping the skin well moisturized will help reduce the appearance of any lines, so I would recommend using a moisturizer on a regular basis," says Fenton. Then top it with an SPF every day (more on sun protection later) to make sure any existing lines don't deepen, as well as antioxidants to fight free radical damage.
In the evening time, you can really get to work with treatments and high-active serums. "Topical treatments such as retinols and prescription-strength retinoids can help rebuild and maintain collagen as well. However, you must be careful because the neck skin is often more sensitive than other parts of the face," says Fenton. (A fun retinol hack: Normally you're supposed to put it on first, but if you apply it over a light lotion, it can help buffer some of the irritation.) "If retinoids are too harsh, you can try gentler products such as glycolic acid that will exfoliate the skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles while also giving some degree of collagen boost."
As for neck-specific products, like those neck-firming creams? Well, we're not going to tell you to toss yours if you're already a fan, but most derms agree your face products will do just fine, if not better, as they have more targeted actives. "There are a variety of neck-firming products on the market, but none of them have very strong evidence to show that they work," says Fenton.
Promote collagen production
One way to enhance skin texture all over is through supplementation, such as collagen supplements. See, as your internal collagen and elastin production slows, collagen supplementation can help support the body's natural production.* "It can manage skin wrinkling, providing the skin one of its basic ingredients to stay firm and taut," says Taz Bhatia, M.D., an integrative medicine physician and mbg Collective member.* The research shows that these collagen peptides are able to support skin elasticity and dermal collagen density.* How? Well hydrolyzed collagen peptides have been shown to help promote your body's natural production of collagen and other molecules that make up the skin, like elastin and fibrillin.*
How can you prevent them?
As with most signs of aging, the best treatment is always keeping the skin healthy long before it becomes a problem.
"The best prevention for all types of wrinkles is to wear sunscreen every single day," says Fenton. Much like the face and hands, our necks are exposed to the sun much more regularly than other parts of our bodies—never forget to apply SPF to the area, especially if you don't plan on covering the neck with clothing or a scarf.
"And limit the movement that causes the wrinkles. 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. Re-evaluate your posture when working to make sure your screen is at eye level. And while you're going to have to look down at your phone sometimes, do just be mindful of how much and often. If you can, bring your phone up higher. Finally, "I also always recommend sleeping on your back to minimize wrinkles on your face, neck, and chest," he says.
The neck is a sensitive area with thin skin that's regularly exposed to sun and movement (especially now as we are all staring at our phones more). Because of this it is a common place to get wrinkles. However, there are ways to help tend to the area, like using topicals, SPF, and mindful movements.
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Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director at mindbodygreen. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She has worked at many top publications and brands including Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends and updates in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as travel, financial wellness, and parenting. She has reported on the intricacies of product formulations, the diversification of the beauty industry, and and in-depth look on how to treat acne from the inside, out (after a decade-long struggle with the skin condition herself). She lives in Brooklyn, New York.