Ask a Derm: How to Get Rid of Crepey-Looking Skin On Your Neck, According to Dr. Robert Anolik

Ask a Derm: How to Get Rid of Crepey-Looking Skin On Your Neck, According to Dr. Robert Anolik
Stocksy United / Studio Firma

Does not imply person featured in the photograph had any of the treatments mentioned in this article.

While partaking in my ultra-lengthy skincare routine one evening, a light bulb in my brain lit up. As it turns out, I’ve been making a terrible mistake (hot tip: you’re probably doing it, too). I’ve never once extended the application of my carefully curated skincare products to my neck. Sure, my regimen of bestselling essences from Korea and caviar-infused moisturizers from Switzerland has kept my face glowing and breakout-free for years. However, ask any beauty expert out there and they’ll tell you that overlooking the neck is a huge no-no.

Unsurprisingly, this is a pretty common mistake. The delicate area located from your chin to your chest is frequently neglected, and typically one of the first places to show signs of aging. Oftentimes, crepey-looking skin — i.e. skin that’s thin, loose, and sagging — will develop in this area before major wrinkles appear elsewhere. So, in an effort to help protect myself and others from having a youthful-looking face connected to a crepey-looking, wrinkled neck, we decided to tap New York dermatologist Dr. Robert Anolik for his best skin-saving advice.

What causes crepey-looking skin and wrinkles on the neck?

In addition to gravity, there’s a few more reasons that our skin starts to sag a bit more than usual each year. “There are age-related reasons for [crepey-looking] skin on the neck,” explains Dr. Anolik. “This is due to the [changes in] the skin, muscle, tendons, fat pads, and bone support of younger anatomy.” However, Dr. Anolik asserts that the majority of aging in the skin — including the neck — comes from sun exposure. “Sun exposure over years weakens the collagen and elastic fibers in the skin, allowing it to look looser, and making the crepey skin and wrinkles more prominent,” he explains.

How can you prevent neck wrinkles?

Considering that one of the primary reasons for sagging in this area is sun exposure, the most important and effective form of prevention is using SPF. “Too many of my sunscreen-aware patients remember to put it on their faces, but forget to apply it to their necks,” warns Dr. Anolik. “This helps battle the sun-related changes on the skin.” So, apply sunscreen to both your face and neck to ensure thorough protection. We’re fans of IMAGE Skincare® Prevention+ Daily Hydrating Moisturizer SPF 30 ($40) — though the formula is hydrating, it leaves a matte finish, so you’ll never look greasy after putting it on.

Should you treat neck wrinkles and face wrinkles differently?

Luckily, there’s no need to have two totally separate skincare routines for your face and neck — that said, a few modifications are certainly suggested. “You should treat [neck wrinkles] much like you do [wrinkles] on the face,” Dr. Anolik says. “However, be aware of sensitivity to potentially irritating creams.” So, if your face is reactive to ingredients like glycolic acid or retinol, also be cautious when applying them to your neck area (more on this shortly).

[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]

Additionally, Dr. Anolik says you could start opting for in-office lifting treatments on your neck and décolletage earlier than you would on the face. While it may feel counterintuitive to invest in treatments for your neck earlier than for your face, just remember that this space generally begins to sag long before the face does — due to general neglect. Keep reading to learn about your options in this category!

Are there any over-the-counter neck creams that can work to counter signs of aging on your neck and décolletage?

Now that you’re well-versed in what causes neck wrinkles, it’s time to learn how to smooth them out. “After sunscreen, your next best bet is to apply retinol at night,” says Dr. Anolik. “Be cautious, as the neck skin can be sensitive to retinol.” If you have sensitive skin, start using retinol only one to two times a week at night.

[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]

If you can tolerate it, build up to a minimum of two to three applications a week to the area, if not every single night. “Most can get up to using [retinol] nightly, but if not, even three times a week will deliver benefits from use,” he explains. “It builds and reorganizes collagen, making it look less crepey and more youthful.” Just be sure to moisturize thoroughly after applying to stave off any dryness (consider trying the retinol sandwich method).

Additionally, Dr. Anolik suggests applying antioxidants, like a vitamin C serum, to help protect against the ultraviolet rays that get through sunscreen protection. We’re fans of the SkinMedica® Vitamin C+E Complex ($102), because it gradually delivers potent levels of vitamin C and E to the skin to help prevent free radical damage and provide antioxidant protection all day long.

Finally, a solid moisturizer can help limit the fine lines and thinner appearance of the skin. According to Dr. Anolik, ideal product options include ones that are hyaluronic acid-based, because they help plump skin to fill in fine lines and make the surface look fuller. We like Neutrogena® Hydro BoostTM Water Gel ($17), which is packed with the moisture-loving ingredient to keep skin supple.

What about in-office treatments?

If you’re not seeing results from topical treatments, there are several options to choose from when it comes to correcting unwanted skin changes on the neck. “One of the best treatment strategies is laser resurfacing,” says Dr. Anolik. “The latest technologies allow us to use what's [called] a non-ablative fractional laser that doesn't wound the skin, but triggers a collagen building response instead.” This collagen building response results in rejuvenation along the surface of the skin, which creates an overall less crepey appearance.

Sagging skin can also be lifted with procedures that target the deeper layers of collagen. “Deep-acting energies that dermatologists use include ultrasound and radiofrequency,” explains Dr. Anolik. “They can go deeper and with higher energies than most lasers in such ways that the skin surface is not wounded.” Translation: very little downtime or unsightly recovery post-procedure — just smooth, taut results.

It’s important to note that the lift seen with ultrasound or radiofrequency will not be the same outcome as a neck lift. But here’s the good news: targeting a change in laxity as soon as you see it means you could possibly delay or avoid surgery down the road, which is obviously preferable.

Courtesy of Dr. Robert Anolik

SkinMedica® is an Allergan®-owned skincare line. 

Product prices may vary from the time this article was written.

Allergan® may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this article.