11 Ways to Learn to Love Your Neck
Pamper and protect it, and raise your head with pride
by Lois Joy Johnson, AARP, February 25, 2021
En español | No one looks at their neck much. Then one day you wake up and notice a little dribble of flesh under your chin and freak out. Circular “necklace” lines begin to crease, your neck cords pop out and before you know it examining your neck, and hiding it, has become an obsession. Chin up! There's a better way to deal; in fact, there are 11. Here's how to make your neck your BFF.
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PHOTO BY: Mike Marsland/WireImage; Michael Loccisano/WireImage; Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
1. Thank your neck for being unique and uplifting
Consider this: Your neck holds up your 10-pound skull and brain every day and encompasses much-needed things like the larynx and thyroid. But know there is no such thing as a perfect neck. Just like noses, breasts and hands your neck has its own personal shape and keeps evolving with age. Everything affects it, from genes and gravity to the natural aging process and the amount of sun damage you've accumulated over the years, but not even cosmetic surgery will change its length and width. That's permanent. Check out the variety of necks in other women 50-plus to see how diverse we are and revel in your individuality:
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PHOTO BY: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images; Noam Galai/Getty Images; Vera Anderson/WireImage
2. Make fitted turtlenecks your style, not a cop-out
Sure, turtlenecks provide camouflage, but they're also a classy way to empower your neck. Black turtles work the way slim black pants do — to diminish and elongate your proportions. The best, from stretchy knit pullovers to bodysuits, are lightweight and clingy and have a second-skin fit. A black turtleneck is always cool and, like a black leather jacket, adds an edge to whatever you pair it with day or night. Stock up and make them part of your neck strategy.
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PHOTO BY: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images; Zach Pagano/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images; JB Lacroix/Getty Images
3. Count on a V neckline forever
There's nothing wrong with other necklines but Vs are infallible. It's all optics, of course, but the reverse triangle shape and downward point exposes more skin from chin to chest for the illusion of a longer neck. Without an abrupt cutoff at the base of your throat (as in say a crew, round neck or buttoned-up blouse) your neck gains inches of smooth skin. Any V works — narrow or broad, shallow or deep — but do yourself a favor and stop short of cleavage (deep plunge necklines are tacky at 50-plus!). You can unbutton or unzip any top to create a V, too, or just let the natural V of a blazer or wrap dress take charge. Feel free to pop the collar of shirts — it deepens the V effect and frames your neck at the sides.
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PHOTO BY: Amy Sussman/Getty Images; Jason Mendez/Getty Images; Amanda Edwards/WireImage
4. Opt for a boatneck
This elegant neckline performs another neck-enhancing trick. Instead of revealing skin vertically like a V-neck top, a boatneck bares skin horizontally by exposing the collarbones and skin on either side of the neck. This imaginary triangle — with the boatneck as the base and your chin as the top point — stretches and slims the neck. Boatnecks are a modern alternative to crew necklines and are easy to find in everything from our striped sailor tees to sweaters and dresses.
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PHOTO BY: CVS; Target (2)
5. Pamper your neck with face creams
Unlike faces our necks are usually neglected until the uh-oh moment. By then our dry thin-skinned neck has already lost collagen and elastin and is showing crepey texture, lines and brown spots. This is your signal to start treating your neck as an extension of your face not your body! Give it the same a.m. and p.m. daily cleaning, moisturizing and sunscreen routine. Since the proven face care ingredients — hyaluronic acid, peptides, ceramides, shea butter and niacinamide —work for necks, don't rush to buy a separate neck cream. Neck creams work, but for the same ingredients why not save a few bucks? Let a cream like Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Hydrating Moisturizer ($39, cvs.com), La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer SPF 30 ($20, target.com) or No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Night Cream ($23, target.com) treat your neck and face to all its hydrating, firming and plumping benefits.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Sephora
6. Make up your face and neck
Our necks and faces are often not a match. You neck may be darker or show more sun damage, especially when you've been diligent about sun protection for your face only. One way to get a more uniform look and daily protection is to apply a tinted moisturizer, CC or BB cream to your face and blend it lightly on your neck (and upper chest if exposed), too. You want a shade with just enough warmth and depth to blur the difference between face, jawline and neck. The combo of light reflectors and subtle tint in these sheer face makeups works like sheer pantyhose (you remember those right?!). Subtle makeups like Honest Beauty Clean Corrective Tinted Moisturizer with Vitamin C SPF 30 ($22, target.com), C'est Moi Tinted Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30 ($16, target.com) or Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($47, sephora.com) mute discolorations while adding some color and SPF 30 protection.
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PHOTO BY: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/DigitalVision/Getty Images
7. Keep your neck flexible by stretching
There are seven vertebrae and around 26 muscles in your neck. Just ask any chiropractor. Over time the cushion of discs between vertebrae can deteriorate and so can your range of motion. Keeping your neck strong and movable makes you look graceful and healthy. You want to be able to turn your head and throw it back to laugh, don't you? Yoga with its poses and stretches can help improve flexibility and ease neck tension and upper back strain (they go hand in hand) and so can shoulder and head rolls. Make some kind of stretching a daily habit. Talk to your doctor, too, about bone loss, which is a common issue for women 50-plus, calcium supplements and other solutions for osteoporosis.
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8. Change your pillow and your handbag
The less stress you put on your neck the better. Whether you sleep on your side, stomach or back, your pillow should provide adequate neck support for that position. If your neck is bending or twisting into the pillow you're just encouraging wrinkles and a stiff neck upon waking! While silk pillowcases can help minimize facial wrinkles, check out contoured pillows that are ergonomically designed for better neck alignment while you sleep. Then tackle your bag. A heavy shoulder bag or tote can wreck your posture and provide additional neck pain. At the very least lighten the contents and leave heavy items like that bag of coins and full makeup kit at home. You can carry your bag on alternate shoulders, but the best solution is to switch to a soft cross-body bag or chic backpack for better weight distribution.
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PHOTO BY: Walter McBride/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Rich Fury/Getty Images
9. Play with scarves and necklaces
Lucky us. Just when we've stockpiled a lifetime of pearls, necklaces and scarves our necks are ready to be adorned and adored. Long scarves always work to elongate and flatter so let them dangle rock star style or knot your scarf at the side for camouflage. Pearls — especially multistrand necklaces — make mature necks look fresh thanks to their luminous light-reflecting ability. Like brown eyeshadow, pearls are one of those things it's impossible to overdo. Pile them on. Statement necklaces from chunky ropes of beads to bibs provide a visual diversion or a celebratory embellishment. Never mind what's In or Out, just slip one on and know everyone will be admiring your style not noticing your neck.
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PHOTO BY: Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images; Toni Anne Barson/WireImage; Michael Tran/FilmMagic
10. Make your hair and neck partners
They should be working together. Sometimes we consider our hairstyle only in relation to our face. That's a mistake because hair plays a part in neck flattery. For example, long, shoulder-grazing hair can soften the effect of lines and neck cords, while a few long layers can camouflage a not so firm jaw and discolorations. Long bobs (known as lobs) and classic chin-length bobs solve a whopping three neck concerns. They elongate your neck thanks to space between your shoulders and the bottom line of the cut, hide a double chin or wattle with their swingy shape, and add crisp definition to counteract loose skin, wrinkles or sag. Remember that people see you and your neck from all angles, including back and side. So, if you have short hair or wear your hair up, keep it piecey around the nape and neck for all the above reasons.
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11. Stand, walk and sit up straight
Posture is everything when it comes to mature necks, which is why our new daily habit of looking down and hunching over cellphones and laptops is not helping. In fact, “tech neck” is contributing to everything from neck wrinkles to wattles and poor upper spine alignment. Make a conscious effort to lift your cellphone up to your face or get earbuds, try standing for Zoom calls, or get a laptop stand and look straight ahead into your computer.
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PHOTO BY: Brian Ach/Getty Images for EvolveMKD
Last word: Consider noninvasive procedures, not surgery
Some women dream about a neck lift. Let me tell you something. The cutting, suctioning and tightening of neck surgery is not cheap ($10,000 ballpark), easy (presurgery tests, anesthesia, hospital or operating room fees) or painless (post-surgery healing, swelling, scars and numbness). If you can't let go of the idea, head to a qualified board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and ask about scalpel-free in-office procedures. The three to consider are Botox to soften cords and aid under-chin dribble, Kybella injections to destroy fat cells and a double chin, or Ultherapy, an ultrasound procedure that tightens loose neck skin.