“Turkey neck”—as it’s charmingly called—is what happens when the skin underneath your chin becomes loose and lax, resembling (you guessed it) a turkey’s wattle. It can happen as a result of aging, weight loss or, in some cases, it can simply be genetic.
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“Some people seem to be genetically predisposed to having excess skin and fat around their neck,” says Victoria Karlinsky, M.D., a New York City-based cosmetic surgeon. “It’s usually something that’s been present in a very mild form since they were young. As they get older and the angle of their chin becomes more obtuse, the condition becomes more pronounced.”
If having a turkey neck runs in your family, it can appear as early as your late twenties, but the majority of women don’t see any signs of slackening neck skin until they reach their mid-40s or later.
The culprit is loss of elasticity in the skin, as well as the emergence of the “platysmal bands”—thin bands of muscle in your neck, which become more prominent in appearance as you age. But you don’t have to live with it.
There are several strategies for de-turkifying your neck, depending on how advanced your particular case is. “If it’s very pronounced, surgery will give you the biggest bang for the buck,” says Francesca Fusco, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist. “But for women who are scalpel-shy, there are several non-invasive treatments.”
How to Pick Up—and Prevent—the Slack
If the skin on your neck is only slightly lax—or if your goal is preventing turkey neck—applying a topical cream to the area can offer some help. “A vitamin A cream like tretinoin can have a subtle skin-tightening effect,” says Dr. Fusco. “Just keep in mind that it won’t have any effect on fat.” Ask your dermatologist about a prescription Retin-A cream or go the over-the-counter route and look for a lotion with retinol.
Good-for-your-skin ingredients like peptides and antioxidants can also help to improve the appearance of neck skin that’s just starting to slacken. “They help mature skin by supplementing skin’s natural youth-retaining functions, which increases elasticity,” says aesthetician Christina Zehavi.
And of course, daily sunscreen is a must. The thin skin on your neck is especially vulnerable to ultraviolet A (UVA) damage, which contributes to a loss of elasticity. “So many women ignore the skin on their neck,” says Dr. Fusco. “You need to give it the same care you give your face.” Try Meaningful Beauty Skin Brightening Décolleté and Neck Treatment SPF 15, which firms and protects the skin on your neck and chest.
Tightening More Advanced Turkey Necks
Most telltale turkey necks are past the point of creams. That’s where injectable treatments like Botox or Dysport come in, providing help for slightly more advanced cases of turkey neck. “They work by blocking the neurotransmitter that stimulates the platysmal bands to constrict, so they help the muscle relax,” explains Zehavi.
In-office procedures using ultrasound or radiofrequency technology can also minimize the look of loose neck skin. Thermage uses radiofrequency heat to penetrate the deeper layers below skin’s surface, which tightens and smoothes skin, while a treatment called Ulthera uses ultrasound heat to accomplish the same goal. A new procedure called Exilis is also a promising option: “It’s the newest kid on the block,” says Dr. Fusco. “It combines both radiowave frequency heat and ultrasound heat to melt fat and tighten skin.”
But if non-invasive procedures like injectables or laser treatments (or a combination of the two) don’t make your neck gobble go away, you doctor may suggest an isolated neck lift or a mid-face lift that includes tightening the neck.
“The procedures allow us to eliminate excess fat under the chin, as well as remove the extra skin that causes turkey neck,” says Dr. Karlinsky. “It’s done under general anesthesia and recovery usually takes about a week. Most people are able to get back to work or their normal daily activities after that time.”
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