Never Feel Bad About Your Neck

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Over the weekend, I saw the lovely Kariné Kazarian in her West Village salon for a deliciously long Saturday afternoon facial that started with Biologique Recherche P50 and ended with her rolling liquid nitrogen all over my face with a huge Q-tip. I left with gleaming skin and a piece of advice that only the wisest of aestheticians can bestow without sounding creepy: "Your skincare should start at your nipples and go up to your forehead."

This actually has a real name: the French face. Bascially, our French compatriots think skincare shouldn't stop at your chin; it should extend all the way down to however low you want to unbutton your shirt in public. For me, that's all the way down to button number four if you're counting from the top. This has spurred the need for a whole subsection of skincare: neck creams. Partially marketing, partially based in real life need, neck creams are expensive and mildly worrying ("Oh great! Another thing I didn't know I needed!"). So let's unpack if and why you need one:

Your neck is drier than the rest of your face.

Before leaping into the product recommendations boobs-first, it's important to know why your friend who is irrationally afraid of aging keeps bringing up the décolletage issue. (The friend in this scenario is my roommate. Chill out, Melissa.) Your neck and chest may start to show signs of aging first because there are fewer oil glands there. Dry skin sags quicker. There's also less fatty tissue and collagen in that general area, exacerbating the problem.

It could also be your phone's fault.

Tech neck is a thing you should be thinking about! You know that body language you exhibit while checking your phone under your desk? Hunched, neck completely bent, face to the floor... That posture is doing your alignment and neck skin absolutely no favors. Those creases you've been noticing are your own damn fault. Stop checking Instagram covertly!

So, sit up straight first. Exfoliate second.

Getting rid of dry skin is the obvious answer to any anti-aging protocol. But that's a surface issue, quite literally. The real good comes when you make exfoliation (I'm a fan of the chemical stuff as opposed to the physical variety) a regular part of your routine, which in turn speeds up the rate of cell turnover, giving you a fresh layer of brand new baby skin. In two words, the answer your looking for is glycolic acid. Specifically, something from the Cane + Austin line. The Retexturize Glycolic Complex Treatment Lotion is 15% glycolic—pretty good. There are also a bunch of good antioxidants in there (vitamins A, C, and E) to help along absorption of whatever you put on next.

After that, you might already have the moisturizer you need.

Nora Ephron scooped me here in her essay "On Maintenance": "The cream you use on your face at night is likely rich enough to soften and smooth the skin on your neck. There's no need to invest in a separate product."

But if Nora's not convincing you...

There's a firming neck cream for everybody. Or at least that's what they want you to think. I've yet to find a neck-specific cream that doesn't tout some sort of remodeling ability. If you don't need that, fine. If you do, here are some options:

  • The latest one on my desk is the Image Skincare Stem Cell Neck Lift. Image is a brand that I'd trust my life with, solely because their focus on SPF is so admirable. This rich cream is velvet-y (it has the consistency of a silicone-y primer, but more hydrating) and claims to do just about everything: lift sagging skin, relax deep wrinkles and creases, increase elasticity, and brighten complexion at the same time. And it does all of that for 48 hours upon application. Gotta love that instant gratification.

  • For another one you can feel immediately, there's Alchimie Forever's Firming Gel for Neck and Bust—a recommendation from my longtime deskmate Claire Knebl. It comes in an utilitarian pump bottle that I actually find very chic. The botanical smell and instant lift comes from green tea, the caffeine your other caffeine worries about. This feels like a good starter product because you can use it beyond your neck for a refreshing, moisturizing pick-me-up post-workout. Or whenever.

  • Another one that I'm partial to because I love the brand is the Sisley Neck Cream. It's pink, it's smells incredible (like roses, but lighter), and it's good (and expensive) enough to use all over your face. Just buy one and call it a day.

  • The 111Skin Y Life Neck and Décolletage Treatment Mask you should probably save for your wedding or some such. A set of four is going to set you back $180—so, enough for you and three of your favorite bridesmaids. Doubles as a reminder that you're not sitting up straight enough. Never give up, never surrender to tech neck!

—Emily Ferber

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Going down: Discover the best lightweight body lotions over here.