American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Your face isn't giving away your age, it's your neck

your face isn't giving away your age, it's your neck

Sometimes, we look at our faces and notice the fine lines around our eyes when we smile. Or we see the creases around our mouth when we make a funny face. These are things that give our faces character and make them unique. Some think these lines, creases and expression marks age our faces, making us look tired and older. Yet have you ever thought it's not your face aging you? It may actually be your neck.

Facelifts are still popular for rejuvenating your appearance, but neck lifts or combination neck lifts and facelifts may significantly improve the appearance of loose or aging skin.

How does the neck give away your age?

We use our faces to communicate with the world, even when we aren't saying a word. However, our necks are communicating something as well, and that may be our advancing age. Why does it feel like, for some people, the neck starts showing signs of aging faster than other areas of the body, such as sagging skin, sun damage, discoloration and wrinkles?

There are some factors, such as genetics, that age our neck and we simply can't control that. Other things like chronic UV exposure, smoking and alcohol abuse can also impact how the skin and soft tissue around the face and neck age over time.

"As we age, we lose youthful volume in our faces, and our skin becomes thinner and more translucent, allowing light to shine through and show dark patches of muscle and veins below," said ASPS Member Surgeon Karen Horton, MD, MSc, FACS, FRCSC. "An aged neck has less plump soft tissue covering the neck muscles. Wrinkles are formed by chronic muscle contraction and are amplified by sun damage and environmental influences."

In addition to the usual suspects, people sometimes forget or neglect the skin on the neck.

"We are all conscientious about using sunscreen and good quality skincare on our faces, but sometimes we don't carry it down to our neck, so sometimes the skin texture on our neck may give us away," said ASPS Member Surgeon Anureet Bajaj, MD.

How can a neck lift give you a more youthful appearance?

A neck lift is a surgical procedure that can help lift and reposition the soft tissue in the lower face and neck, addressing sagging skin and giving the neck a more youthful appearance. Several surgical techniques can achieve a more youthful-looking neck. Which technique delivers optimal results can vary.

"My technique of choice for a neck lift is the MACS lift – an acronym for minimal access cranial suspension," said Dr. Horton. "This procedure focuses directly on the lower face and neck by lifting the SMAS (superficial muscular aponeurotic system) in an upward vector to correct jowls, restore a more youthful, defined look to the jawline and re-drape lower facial skin in a natural way."

Pairing a neck lift with other procedures for maximum results

A neck lift alone is unlikely to solve all of your aesthetic concerns when it comes to aging.

"Very few people are good candidates for an isolated neck lift," said Dr. Bajaj. "I think more commonly when we see individuals in their 50s, 60s and 70s, they need to address the whole unit of the face and the neck."

Many people combine a neck lift with additional cosmetic procedures like a facelift or liposuction. A neck lift only addresses the lower face and neck. Adding a neck lift to a facelift can rejuvenate the entire facial area and create a cohesive and youthful appearance.

"If a patient is looking for rejuvenation of the eyes, then an upper and lower blepharoplasty (eye lift) would be a complimentary procedure to consider," said Dr. Horton. "Paired with a neck lift, liposuction of the submental (chin) region will permanently remove excess fat."

Focus on recovery

As with any surgical procedure, patience and giving your body time to heal is crucial. Dr. Horton tells her patients to anticipate at least one month of "social downtime."

"You can expect some swelling, bruising – particularly if liposuction is involved – and incisions that will look 'stitched' for one to two months," said Dr. Horton, adding that she suggests waiting at least three months before a significant event to allow the skin to return to normal and for scarring to fade.

Dr. Bajaj said it can take weeks for some people to feel comfortable going out in public or putting on makeup following a neck lift, although it can now be better hidden in the days of telecommuting.

"I've had several patients, in the era of working remotely, go back to work sooner because they can work on their computers at home," said Dr. Bajaj.

Turning back the clock with a neck lift

Whether you opt for a standalone neck lift or pair it with a complimentary cosmetic procedure, it can take years off your appearance and restore youthful contours. If you're ready to strip away the loose, sagging skin around your chin and jaw, a neck lift may be just what you're looking for.

Ready to start your neck lift journey? An important first step for any cosmetic procedure is to seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon who is an ASPS member. You deserve the best possible outcome and the highest regard for patient safety as you look to turn back the clock.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.


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