You've probably read that you can tell a person's real age by looking at their neck. You've also probably read that you'll get wrinkles and sagging if you don't take your cleanser, serum, and moisturizer down to your neck after slathering each product on your face. Whether or not you've chosen to ignore this unsolicited bit of advice, you can still develop deep-set horizontal creases that don't have any connection to how you're applying your skincare products — or your actual age.
Yup, that's right: neck lines are totally normal. However, it's also OK if you're hung up about having some horizontal lines, too. Here, we turned to a dermatologist to find out what causes neck lines, how to treat them, and how to prevent them.
What Causes Neck Lines?
It turns out neck lines are caused by a combination of natural aging and the daily activities we engage in. "Horizontal lines on your neck are caused by the same factors that cause wrinkles on other areas of your face," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, board-certified dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "Weakening of the skin foundation, along with constriction of muscles under the skin, lead to skin folding and wrinkles that overtime will stick around even at rest."
All of the time you spend scrolling through your Instagram feed on your iPhone isn't helping, either. "The more we engage in activities that lead to the folding of the skin, the earlier lines and wrinkles will start to set in," explains Dr. Zeichner. "The increased use of mobile devices has led to a phenomenon known as tech neck. We are bending our heads down and folding the skin on the neck now more than ever. It is likely that this has contributed to the increase in neck wrinkles that we are seeing even in younger patients."
Why Do Some People Get Neck Lines While Others Don't?
If you have more lines than other people, it doesn't mean that you're spending more time on your phone than they do; other factors influence how your neck ages, such as sun damage, smoking, and skin tone. "If the skin is damaged, then collagen and elastin are not functioning optimally and the skin cannot resist wrinkling or bounce back from folding the way that it should," Dr. Zeichner says. "People with lighter skin tend be more susceptible to environmental aging and develop wrinkles at an earlier age than those with darker skin types."
How Can You Get Rid of Lines on Your Neck?
To treat existing lines at home, Dr. Zeichner says it's important to use your anti-aging products on your neck in addition to your face. The skin on the neck is amongst the thinnest, making it more susceptible to environmental damage. In the morning, he suggests using products with antioxidant protection, along with sunscreen. Combine two steps in one with EltaMD's UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40. The mineral sunscreen includes antioxidant protection, brightening niacinamide, and doesn't leave a white cast.
At night, he recommends a repairing, retinol-based cream formulated for the face, neck, and chest such as RoC's Multi Correction 5-in-1 Anti-Aging Chest, Neck, & Face Cream, which can help stimulate collagen.
VIDEO: When You Apply Sunscreen in Your Skincare Routine Actually Matters A Lot
In-office, lasers can be used to stimulate collagen and strengthen the skin foundation. Botox is another option, although it's not a permanent fix. The injection can help relax the muscles under the skin to prevent lines from forming. "When the effect of Botox wears off, the neck muscles will start to constrict again and re-fold the skin," explains Dr. Zeichner. "The effect of Botox typically lasts between three and five months."
Fillers can also be used as a form of treatment, however if you go this route, Dr. Zeichner says to proceed with caution. "Fillers can be injected directly into horizontal lines, however this is a risky procedure," he says. "Since the skin is so thin, and and there is so much movement in the neck, it may lead to lumpiness."
As for how you can avoid getting neck lines? In addition to elevating your tech devices so you aren't constantly bending your neck, Dr. Zeichner suggests using the appropriate skincare products in your routine that will help prevent them.