We spend a large amount of time thinking about a relatively small patch of skin — that is — our facial skin. And, despite all of the attention our visage receives, how much do we give to the skin right below it? With a year spent crouched over computer screens and staring at Zoom, perhaps it’s time to shift some of the focus to the area just south of the face (read: the neck).
No matter how dedicated we are to taking care of our complexions, the neck is often neglected. The delicate area below the jawline tends to be one of the first to show signs of aging (i.e. wrinkles, laxity, hyperpigmentation) thanks to a lack of sebaceous glands and that pesky little thing called gravity. As we age, collagen and elastin production also slow, which naturally leads to volume loss and sagging.
Constantly craning over electronic devices, however, has led to a younger generation prematurely experiencing said symptoms. Enter: tech neck. ‘Tech neck’ refers to the “effects of our posture on our body due to technology,” explains David Isaacs, MD, a board certified oculofacial plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. Here, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about preventing and correcting it.
What Is Tech Neck?
We spend so much time with our eyes on our smartphones, tablets, and other devices. As such, we also spend so much time in what Dr. Isaacs calls “a chin to chest position.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, that unfortunate posture can “affect different areas of our body, including our neck, back, spine, and shoulders, as well as the cosmetic aging appearance of our face and neck,” he continues. From an aesthetic perspective, that often results in “a double chin, jowls, sagging skin, marionette lines, and other signs of aging,” Dr. Isaacs notes.
But it’s not just about the impact of our physical positions when our faces are fixated on screens. These devices emit blue light, and, as double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Lesley Rabach, MD, explains, that exposure can lead to additional skin damage (think: hyperpigmentation and crepiness).
How to Treat Tech Neck
It goes without saying that the best methods of tech neck prevention are to wear sunscreen with blue light protection to spare the skin and to be aware of your posture when using your devices — or, even better — spend less time on them altogether. But, if the damage is already done, there are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options to address the skin laxity and uneven tone and texture concerns that accompany tech neck:
Non-Surgical Tech Neck Treatments
If you are looking to minimize recovery and avoid going under the knife, “microneedling, fillers, and chemical peels have zero downtime,” Dr. Rabach says. In fact, “many people come during lunch break and go straight back to work,” she shares. It should be noted, however, that a series of treatments (usually spaced four to six weeks apart) are often needed to see results.
- Kybella®: This injectable treatment is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce submental fat. Over several sessions, deoxycholic acid breaks down stubborn fat deposits that cause the appearance of a double chin.
- Fillers: Not just for your face, fillers can be used for both short and long-term gain to volumize hollow areas, fill in fine lines and creases, and boost collagen.
- Microneedling: Performed alone or with extras like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) microneedling can target the horizontal wrinkles (and neck in general) to improve skin texture concerns.
- Chemical Peels: Dealing with uneven skin tone or pigmentation as a result of blue light exposure? Dr. Rabach recommends chemical peels (at varying strengths) to lighten, brighten, and resurface the area.
Neck Lift for Tech Neck
Yes, surgical procedures usually come with a bit more downtime, but they also usually provide more dramatic results. While these procedures do have a longer recovery period than their non-surgical counterparts, Dr. Rabach says many of her patients shorten that window by wearing a scarf to conceal the treatment area.
- Submental Liposuction: Liposuction is another option for permanent fat reduction and neck contouring. Small incisions are made behind the ears and under the chin, with patients experiencing about a week of post-op bruising and swelling.
- Neck Lift: The most comprehensive treatment of the bunch, a surgical neck lift can eliminate excess skin, tighten underlying muscles, and improve the appearance of banding.
Surgeons have increasingly refined neck lift techniques to accomplish more with less invasiveness. Dr. Isaacs, for one, performs a minimally invasive modified neck lift with light sedation and without incisions around the ears or in the hairline. The procedure “addresses the vertical and horizontal neck bands, improves the jawline, improves the neckline, and addresses the fat underneath the platysma, a muscle in the neck,” he explains. It is ideal for patients who want more than what Kybella®, fillers, and lipo have to offer but aren’t ready for an entire neck lift. By focusing on the fat under the platysma (rather than above it), Dr. Isaacs says this procedure gives a better aesthetic result.
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