To paraphrase Nora Ephron, don’t feel bad about your neck.
We love Nora Ephron (screenwriter for Heartburn, Julie & Julia etc.), and author of the hilarious (and wise) collection of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck, in which she writes: ‘One of my biggest regrets – bigger even than not buying the apartment on East Seventh-fifth Street, bigger even than my worst romantic catastrophe – is that I didn’t spend my youth staring lovingly at my neck. It never crossed my mind to be grateful for it…. Of course now I am older, I’m wise and sage and mellow. And it’s also true that I honestly do understand just what matters in life. But guess what? It’s my neck.’
We agree with Nora that necks can be angst-inducing. But we say: any neck – even ‘turkey neck’ (a horrible term for a sagging neck) – can be improved, with targeted and diligent TLC. So here’s some wisdom from The Anti-Ageing Beauty Bible (NB Victoria Health is the only place where you can buy copies that have been signed by us…)
Make like a French woman and ‘double-moisturise’.
One of the key issues with the neck is crêpiness, as the skin on the neck has relatively few oil glands and without moisture and lipids, it can start to look papery super-fast. Get into the habit of applying anything that you put on your face right down to the bra-line. At the same time, sweep any body lotion up to your chin, so it gets twice the nourishment. Your neck and chest should be part of your ‘cleansing zone’, but avoid using a scrub on the neck, although a muslin cloth (used with cleanser) is fine.
Protect your neck with an SPF.
As any dermatologist will confirm to you, ‘The neck is easily damaged by sun exposure as the skin is much thinner than it is on parts of the face, and its support structure is not as effective.’ So: the ceaseless battering of UV light breaks down elastin, as well as collagen, leading to sagging. Any SPF you apply to your face – your first line of defence against ageing – should be applied to the neck, the chest and the décolletage, religiously. End. Of. Story. If you tend to ‘miss’ the sides of the neck because your hair’s in the way, scoop it off your face pre-application.
Avoid wearing perfume in the sun.
Also on many a woman’s list of neck ‘woes’ can be pigmented areas either side of the neck. Certain fragrance ingredients – generally citrus-derived – contain psoralens, components which over-stimulate the pigment-producing cells, producing localised brown patches (which have the official medical name Berloque dermatitis), like a streak of brown pigment like a raindrop running down a window pane. (And the alcohol itself is drying.) The solution? If you want to enjoy a summer fragrance in the sun, try spritzing it on your clothing rather than your skin. (Check first, of course, that it doesn’t discolour the fabric: you can try it on a tissue.) Wear a ribbon around a wrist or your neck, drenched in scent, à la Marie Antoinette and her mob. Drench some cotton wool in fragrance and tuck it in your bra. (Or your swimsuit, if you’re not planning to get wet.) And of course, enjoy liberally after dark. (Just be certain to cleanse away the fragrance next morning with a wet flannel, before you go anywhere near the sun.)
Take up yoga.
One of the key reasons women develop ‘turkey neck’, double chins and those ‘necklace rings’ on the neck is because underlying muscles are weak. So: neck firming is yet another reason to add to the list of why embracing yoga is a good idea: it’s fantastic, fantastic, fantastic for strengthening the neck and the jaw and – as we have observed in previous books – we know seventysomething women who are yoga devotees who have sharp jaw-lines and smooth, swan-like necks. And we want to be like them. (And it’s not just us. Esteemed dermatologist Dr. Karen Burke observes: ‘If you do yoga you can postpone facelifts for years. People who do yoga have those sharp jawlines because they’re doing a total stretch.’
Raise the height of your computer screen.
Whether you use a laptop or a full-size screen on your desk, you should make sure that it’s high enough for you to look straight at it, rather than looking down.
Embrace polo necks, pashminas, scarves and pearl chokers.
If you really, really still feel Nora Ephron-ish about your neck, short of surgery/lasers (we’ll come on to that), camouflage is your best option. These all hide a multitude of sins. Not everyone suits a polo neck, but if you generally look better with a v-neckline or a scoop neckline, you can create a flattering optical illusion that draws attention downwards by hanging a necklace or rope of pearls over the top. Wear earrings, too, which distract the eye from your neck. But you have to trust us: nobody looks as unforgivingly on your neck as you do.
And if you still feel bad about your neck, read Nora Ephron’s book.
Because at least there’s someone who feels worse about hers than you do.