How To Reduce The Appearance Of ‘Tech Neck’ Wrinkles, According To A Dermatologist

Everything you need to know

While smartphones have long been under scrutiny for their potential effects on skin via blue light, a recent phenomenon dubbed ‘tech neck’ is being looked at as a potential reason for the early onset of horizontal neck wrinkles.

And while the constant craning and looking down is known to be bad for our posture, it’s also been said to contribute to the deepening of lines and creases on the delicate skin around the neck.

For a complete low-down on all things ‘tech neck’, from what really causes it to how we can reduce their appearance, we consulted Melbourne-based dermatologist Dr. Shyamalar Gunatheesan for everything there is to know.

What Are The Main Causes Of Horizontal ‘Tech Neck’ Wrinkles?

“These horizontal wrinkles are caused by the combination of frequent, prolonged neck flexion and [the] ageing of the skin,” Dr. Gunatheesan tells marie claire.

“The platysma is a broad, thin muscle covering a large part of our neck. Repeated movements of our cervical spine, which is highly flexible, in turn activates the platysma, resulting in grooves beneath the skin.

“As we age, and with UV damage, the loss of elastin and collagen means that these creases or wrinkles can’t spring back up, resulting in etched lines.”

A woman looking down at her phone
(Credit: Getty)

How much of it actually comes from our technology habits?

While the name ‘tech neck’ is catchy and our habits with our devices certainly may have a role to play, there’s a bit more to the story, Dr. Gunatheesan emphasises.

“Technology cannot be solely blamed for this phenomenon, as any activity such reading for prolonged periods of time would also be a contributing factor,” she says.

“However, given research shows that an average individual spends around four hours looking down on a smartphone, tablet or computer, this phraseology seems pretty fitting.

“We would also need to examine the role of blue light emission from these devices that could potentially result in oxidative stress damage to the skin, thereby resulting in wrinkling.”

What are some changes you can make to your skincare routine to help minimise and prevent horizontal neck wrinkles?

As the old beauty adage goes, “Your face stops at your boobs”.

The same philosophy that applies to reducing the appearance of wrinkles on the face also applies to the creases on the neck, except it arguably needs a little extra TLC, particularly where sun damage-induced wrinkles are concerned.

Remember Your Sunscreen

“Often, we neglect the delicate skin of our neck, chest and hands in our ritual skincare routine. This is at our peril, given that these areas age faster as they are more susceptible to UV damage,” explains Dr. Gunatheesan.

“A good SPF sunscreen, ideally with visible light protection, is a must in the daytime.”

Take Care With How You Apply Your Products

It’s also important to remember that how you apply your products can contribute to the appearance of your skin, so avoid harsh tugging and rubbing while you’re working your way through your routine.

“Remember to cleanse gently, pat dry and apply facial moisturisers and actives starting from the face all the way to the neck and décolletage,” says Dr. Gunatheesan.

Avoid Fragrances To The Neck And Chest

“Avoid any fragrances to the neck and chest as this results in Poikiloderma of Civatte. This condition often presents as a mottled hyperpigmentation and redness on the side of the neck, jawline and chest due to the photosensitising nature of perfumes,” she explains.

Keep Collagen-Boosting Products In Your Skincare Routine

“Lightweight vitamin B3, vitamin C and antioxidants will help replenish and mitigate the breakdown of collagen and elastin,” says Dr. Gunatheesan.

“Controlled release tertiary retinoids with low irritant potential are best suited for the sensitive neck area for the night. Consistency and time will be determining factors here.”

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What are some lifestyle changes you can make to delay the onset of these wrinkles?

It may sound cliché and rather mundane, but leading a generally balanced lifestyle across the board is important when it comes to anything anti-ageing. 

“The general rules to anti-ageing apply here, namely: moderate exercise, a healthy low GI diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, not smoking, adequate sleep and a high potency skincare routine,” Dr. Gunatheesan advises.

As far as the ‘tech’ aspect of the ‘neck’ goes, it may be worth checking in with your posture each time you use your devices (until good posture becomes a habit) and inspecting whether your work setup involves a lot of craning or slumping and may require changing.

“In the case of neck wrinkles, minimising our neck flexion or looking down for long periods of time might help,” Dr. Gunatheesan adds.

“Being aware of our posture, not leaning forward or craning our neck too far down or forward. Elevating and positioning the smartphones or other devices to eye level could be one strategy.”

Woman looking at phone
(Credit: Getty)

Beyond skincare and lifestyle, what kind of cosmetic procedures reduce the appearance of horizontal neck wrinkles?

If you’re looking for a more immediate effect or trying to deal with deep set lines, there are some non-invasive procedures that offer essentially instant results, including hyaluronic acid filler and Microbotox (also known as Skin Botox).

“Carefully placed hyaluronic acid filler along the wrinkle lines may work by lifting the skin and effacing the creases with immediate results. The improvements can last up to a year,” says Dr. Gunatheesan.

“Another technique is Microbotox, where small aliquots of Botox are placed superficially underneath the skin of the neck, which has also been used to reduce platysmal banding and transverse wrinkles.”

If you’re looking for something that doesn’t involve injectables, infrared lasers are also an option.

“Non-ablative skin firming devices, utilising either infrared energy or radiofrequency, heat up the dermis (the second layer of the skin) and subsequently stimulate fibroblasts to increase collagen production,” Dr. Gunatheesan explains.

For more information on cosmetic procedures that target horizontal neck wrinkles, we recommend visiting a reputable cosmetic dermatologist’s office for individualised advice.

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