Do neck creams actually work? From neck lines to sagging to pigmentation, here's our experts' verdict on the neck and dec creams that are worth your money
Our poor neck skin, so thin and delicate, yet so much to deal with, from sun exposure (who remembers to put SPF on their neck every day?) to being largely forgotten in our skincare regime, being spritzed with perfume (full of drying alcohol) while being creased and crinkled as we repeatedly look down at our phones.
Devices are very firmly part of the problem when it comes to neck wrinkles, says aesthetic doctor Sophie Shotter. "They are bringing the onset of neck ageing forward by quite a few years through the constant crease-causing downward pressure on the area. The resulting unsightly ‘neck bands’ have rightfully earned the nickname ‘tech neck’."
Naturally, skin brands have catered to our concerns with a host of new neck creams.
But before we jump to easy conclusions and tell ourselves that if we just keep facing forward instead of down, our necks will remain smooth and tight and we won't need a neck cream, let’s face facts: saggy neck skin is caused by a combination of factors, never just one.
If you’re in your 20s or 30s, preventative skincare is your best friend, irrespective of how much you hang over your screens. If you’re older and natural collagen loss is having an age-related impact on your neck, some creams may offset this with regenerative ingredients as well as visually with smoothing textures.
What causes neck wrinkles and sagging neck skin?
Apart from repetitive downward movements, this is why your neck might show signs of ageing faster than your face.
- Sun damage - always wear SPF “Failing to extend liberal use of SPF down to your neck leads to the breakdown of collagen and elastin over time, resulting in the emergence of horizontal lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin,” says Shotter.
- Thin skin - sorry this is just age. “Neck skin is thin, which means it doesn’t have the healing capacity and cell turnover of the skin on other parts of the body and therefore, is more likely to develop wrinkles,” says Shotter.
- Lack of oil glands - don't forget to moisturise. Neck skin has few sebaceous glands, which means it produces very little oil. “Oilier skin is less prone to sensitisation than drier skin and tends to have fewer finer lines and wrinkles,” says Shotter – and this goes for neck lines too.
- Gravity - on our faces, we have our cheekbones and brow bones to 'hang' or skin on. The neck doesn't have the same support structure and so neck skin simply hangs down in a column, known as turkey neck. “This area suffers more from stretch over time, compromising its elasticity and causing sagging,” says aesthetic physician Dr Jonquille Chantrey.
- Genetics - some are more prone to developing horizontal neck lines at an early age, unfortunately, says Shotter. If your immediate family was quick off the mark with neck sagging, you can blame them for yours.
- Not looking after your neck skin. The neck is frequently overlooked in our skincare routines when it requires at least as much attention as your face,” says Shotter. Remember this from a young age, and you’ll be much less likely to one day feel bad about your neck.
How to prevent neck lines
With all of the above in mind, it should be clear that effective and diligent daily moisturisation and sun protection (Shotter is a fan of scarves and wide-brimmed hats to protect the neck as well) are imperative for preventing neck lines.
As for fighting lines and signs of turkey neck or sagging that have already set in, “with neck and décolletage products it's less to do with the ingredients being specific for the area and more about the products having been specifically formulated to take into account the delicate skin here,” says Shotter. “You want ingredients and formulations that are not too harsh, potent or aggressive. For instance, the cream you use for your neck might have more peptides and less retinol in the formulation than your face cream.”
Do you need a separate neck cream?
Shotter recommends neck products for the above reason “to promote skin hydration and elasticity.” But not everyone agrees you need to shell out for a separate neck cream, as long as you choose your skincare wisely.
Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice skincare says that the neck needs the same antioxidant and restorative ingredients as your face, so you don’t have to buy a special neck or chest cream that may prove expensive. It’s better to invest extra funds in targeted products that treat a specific skin problem (say, spots or rosacea) than to spend them on products for different parts of the face,
Whatever you choose to do, always top your neck treatment product with a broad-spectrum SPF30 or higher – special ‘neck SPFs’ aren’t available yet (and frankly, would be rather silly).
Begoun would concur that the neck can be more sensitive and prone to irritation than the face, so if you use very potent facial skincare, like a 0.5 or 1% retinol, you might want to pick something milder (such as a gentler retinoid like retinaldehyde), or a peptide formula, for your neck.
And if you’re after neck skin that feels instantly smoother and more supported, with less-visible lines and discolouration, look for optical ‘trick’ ingredients that form a temporary film on the skin, such as silicones and acrylates copolymers, and light-reflective particles.
Of course, investing in a dedicated neck cream means you often get these types of ingredients as standard, making your life a bit easier. The choice, as you’ll see below, is plentiful – and yours.
The best neck and décolletage creams and masks for smoother, firmer skin
Best budget face and neck cream: Superdrug B. Firming Face and Neck Cream, £14.99
A rich plumping cream, it will give you that sense of instant smoothness and firmness thanks to plant collagen and polymers and work on wrinkles and age spots with bakuchiol and peptides, all in an affordable and vegan formula.
Best for a plumper skin feel: Absolute collagen Deep Lift Neck & Dec Cream, £55
The film formers and smoothing agents in this thick, nourishing (and mildly sticky) cream give your neck and chest an instantly tighter and more evened-out appearance, while ‘super’peptide Matrixyl 3000 plus an impressive 5% niacinamide go to work on extra collagen production and fading discolouration.
Best nourishing line-softener: Clinique Smart Clinical Repair Lifting Face + Neck Cream, £72
A cushiony, unscented cream that deeply nourishes facial and neck skin without feeling heavy or oily. Hyaluronic acid and jojoba oil make for fresh-feeling and visibly plumping moisturisation while an active complex of multiple peptides, antioxidant vitamin c and e, and a non-irritating retinoid work together to plump out lines long-term.
Best for a smoothing neck massage: Naydaya Neck Glory Serum, £42
Dispensed from an in-built massage roller that makes it easy to give the neck and chest a toxin-flushing lymphatic drainage massage, this fresh serum instantly smooths with plant collagen, strengthens the skin barrier with plant-derived ceramides, and plumps with ‘Matribust’, which appears to be a complex of powerful antioxidants. Lightweight and easy to use.
Best plant-powered neck firmer: Ren Clean Skincare Bio-Retinoid Youth Cream, £54
Created for the face and neck, this silky, comforting cream deploys Bidens Pilosa, a plant-based retinol alternative said to be more effective than bakuchiol, to leave skin firmer, less deeply lined and more supple-feeling. There’s olive leaf extract as well, to target elasticity, while red algae extract provides that all-important ‘instant tightening’. Its many plant extracts give it a mild scent that won’t irritate sensitive skins.
Most tightening neck cream: Strivectin TL Advanced Tightening Neck Cream Plus, £83
Horizontal neck lines, vertical sleep wrinkles in your chest, sagginess and crepiness meet their match in this rich, instantly smoothing cream that revs up collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid production with peptides. It also gives a fast feeling of firmness and look of plumped-out wrinkles thanks to ‘plant Botox’ spilanthol. Has discolouration-softening ingredients as well.
Best spray-on neck transformer: Beauty Pie Uber Youth Neck & Chest Super Lift Serum Spray, £75/£17.50
Very high in brightening niacinamide and quenching glycerine, this works hard at infusing moisture to make those neck and chest crevices look less deep. There’s a firming peptide as well, and it comes in a rather unique (for neck products) spray-on formula that’s indulgently scented. Fans such as GTG’s Victoria love its convenience and deep hydration but some complain about its tackiness – high levels of glycerine will do that.
Best no-BS neck and face-smoothing formula: Paula’s Choice Resist Triple Active Total Repair Serum, £36.55
No-BS brand founder Paula Begoun firmly believes in focusing on the right formulations for skin issues, not for parts of the body – and so her latest global anti-ageing serum is meant for wrinkles, sagging and discolouration on the neck as well as the face. Retinyl propionate offers the firming efficacy of retinol without the irritation, while niacinamide and hexylresorcinol work alongside to reduce wrinkles, even skin tone and calm skin. All come in clinically backed doses in a light, fast-absorbed serum.
Best professional neck-firming formula: Revision Skincare Nectifirm Advanced, £154.50
A favourite of Dr Sophie Shotter, this professional formula has high levels of eight instant and long-term firming peptides and a host of proven brighteners and plumpers such as stable vitamin C and gallic acid. Algae extracts and polymers give a satisfying optical smoothing effect to boot.
Best night cream for necks: Prai Ageless Throat and Décolletage Night Creme, £27.89
If you like your neck products so much you want a special one for night, here you go (although we’d say the serum in this range may be more potent). Big on instant smoothing and ‘tensing’ optical ingredients such as polymers and silicones (so you can see that immediate ‘filling’ effect), it also has retinol for a real chance of long-term improvement – and the cream is so rich that retinol’s drying effects are effectively off-set.
The super-luxe neck cream: Dr Levy Décolletage Regenerating Silk Cream, £278
Created by a Swiss doctor, this is eye-wateringly expensive and does feel like pure luxury when you apply it, gliding onto the neck and dec for an opulent neck-pampering ritual - but that may be thanks to the onslaught of (no less than seven) smooth-feeling silicones in it. Also boasts the brand’s proprietary ‘StressCellRepair complex’, which appears to contain plant stem cells to boost dermal cell regeneration and firm tissues. Salicylic acid is there for softer, smoother skin.
Best neck and dec treat for a big night out: Valmont V-Neck Cream, £158.40
Another Swiss Special and whopper price-wise, this thick, luscious moisturiser has all the luxurious feels and instant-tensing acrylates for an immediately better-looking neck and chest (fab for a glam night out), but it’s also rich in vitamin C, peptides and cell turnover boosters to make an actual difference to your skin in the long run.
Best retinol for necks: Skinceuticals Tripeptide-R Neck Repair, £82
A retinol designed for the neck, this is 0.2% which is certainly not insubstantial (if your neck is new to retinoids, use it just twice a week and over a thick moisturiser first) but still effective at tackling those ‘neck bands’. It’s teamed with tripeptides and a collagen-boosting botanical extract to really rev op the production of those plumping, firming dermal cells.
Best-value neck and face serum: No7 Restore & Renew Face and Neck Multi-Action Serum, £32.95
Gives an instantly, smoother, firmer feel but has plenty of effective skin-provers like stable vitamin C, Matrixyl 3000 collagen-boosting peptide and smoothing, brightening gluconolactone as well. You could pay three times the price for a similar formula and get the same results.
Best bust gel for your neck: Bloom & Blossom Lovely Jubbly Bust Firming Gel, £32
A dec and neck gel and opposed to a neck and dec one (same difference, tbh), this fresh, fragrant, pampering potion will instantly lift and de-crepify (we made that word up) your embonpoint and throat, while super-antioxidant CoQ10, quenching polysaccharides and skin-fortifying angelica root oil help look after the long-term skin support.
The Beckhams have posted selfies wearing 111 Skin's Black Diamond face mask and eye gels and this 'neck and dec' duo comes as part of the brand's anti-ageing Black Diamond range. The gel is cooling and refreshing with peptides to firm and tighten. As with all 111Skin masks, the pouch is very generous with product with plenty left over to apply afterwards. Beautifully hydrating, this is a real treat that also brings noticeable results.