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The skin on your neck is the thinnest on the body, making it more susceptible to wear and tear. But new treatments can help you say goodbye to turtlenecks.
updated 7/5/2009 12:08:40 PM ET 2009-07-05T16:08:40

It's really not fair. Many of us have spent years carefully applying moisturizers, exfoliating - even getting facials to keep ahead of time's mark on our faces — only to have the wear and tear on our necks give us away. (Who knew the skin on your neck is the thinnest on the body, making it more susceptible to damage?) As it turns out, some of the very anti-aging products you use on your face can help your neck look younger, too. Here are some of the newest in-office treatments that, although expensive, are proven to give your face a prettier pedestal. Follow this guide and say good-bye turtlenecks, hello V-necks!

Neck nuisance: dark splotches
UV exposure overstimulates pigment-producing cells, causing blotchiness.

The fix: A bleaching cream that contains kojic acid or mushroom or licorice extract can lighten dark spots, but be patient: Results may take months. Use products made with hydroquinone cautiously; the fader can be irritating. "This area is drier and more sensitive because it contains fewer lubricating oil glands," says Heidi Waldorf, MD, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Anti-agers such as retinol or alpha hydroxy acid-based creams help to drive the lightening agents deeper into your skin, making them more effective. To reduce irritation, use them on your neck every third evening and slowly work up to nightly application.

A broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15 worn daily can prevent more spots. For the best protection, look for one with avobenzone (aka Parsol 1789), Helioplex, or Mexoryl.

Neck nuisance: wrinkles
Years of sunlight breaks down collagen fibers responsible for keeping skin youthful and firm.

The fix: Skin care products, including those containing retinol and peptides, can build collagen and smooth skin — even reducing the so-called tree-ring lines.

In-office options are considered the gold standard, says Ronald Moy, MD, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. One to consider: fractionated resurfacing, with lasers such as Fraxel and Affirm. They stimulate cell turnover and the production of fresh collagen by making thousands of microscopic wounds over 20 percent of your skin. Because the surrounding skin is left untouched, healing time is minimal. The slight redness it causes subsides within a few days. You'll see significant improvement: Fine lines are often reduced by up to 50 percent after five or six monthly treatments at $500 a pop.

Neck nuisance: turkey wattle
This fleshy flap of skin forms underneath your neck as a result of excess fat, loose skin, and weak muscles.

The fix: Liposuction performed under local anesthesia is a quick fix, says Yael Halaas, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in New York City. During the half-hour procedure, which costs around $2,500, small incisions are made behind the ears or below the chin; excess fat is vacuumed out via tiny suction tubes.

To reduce bruising and swelling, which can last up to 2 weeks, another option is ultrasound-assisted lipo, which employs sound waves that liquefy fat before it's suctioned out. (With either treatment, you'll need to wear a neck sling for 2 weeks to help skin re-drape properly.)

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If you have excess skin, you may need to pair lipo with a neck lift to completely regain firmness. During the 1- to 2-hour procedure, which costs about $1,000 more, small incisions are made behind your ears or under your chin and then excess skin is trimmed, lifted, and sutured into place.

Neck nuisance: banding
These vertical cords appear when the platysma, the thin sheet of muscle that covers the neck, begins to stretch out of shape, says Halaas.

The fix: Botox injected directly into the platysma temporarily smooths the cords by relaxing the muscle. Each treatment costs about $500 and lasts approximately 4 months.

Surgery is a more permanent option. During a platysmaplasty, which runs about $4,000, the muscle is tightened and anchored through a small incision under the chin. Any post-op bruising and swelling should subside within a week. Then your age will be your secret to keep or reveal.

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