Are you damaging your décolleté?

The décolleté, or neck and cleavage, is often neglected and in need of TLC. Here are ways to protect, beautify and repair it

Are you damaging your décolleté?

Source: Best Health Magazine, Summer 2009

Décolleté is a pretty word for neck and cleavage’and, of course, it’s a French one. The moisturizing and pampering of it has been part of French women’s beauty regimen for a long time but in North America, we’re just warming up to the notion of including this zone as part of our skincare routine.

‘Most clothing leaves the décolleté exposed, so it gets more chronic UV exposure than we’re aware of,’ explains Dr. Frances Jang, a cosmetic dermatologist in Vancouver. This is something we barely think about until our late 30s, when suddenly we notice something’s different and, as usual, not in a good way. ‘It’s like thinking we don’t eat junk food and being shocked at the reality when keeping a food diary reveals the truth,’ says Jang. ‘Once those signs of damage become visible, many women in their 30s and 40s just give up wearing anything revealing.’

Common characteristics of a neglected décolleté are fine wrinkling on the upper chest and in the crease of the cleavage, brown spots, thinning skin and redness. Most of these can be attributed to sun damage, says Dr. Diane Madfes, a dermatologist in New York City and consulting dermatologist for Garnier Nutritioniste. Décolleté skin is thinner, has fewer oil glands and is more sensitive than the skin on the face, making it vulnerable to irritation as well as sun damage.

Prevention and repair

Always use sun protection in this area,’ says Madfes. (The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends minimum SPF 30.) If pigmentation and the beginnings of fine lines are starting to drive your cleavage undercover, anti-aging creams may help. These can be the same products you use on your face. Gentle face scrubs can also help even out skin tone.

Creams and serums designed specifically for the neck, or for the neck and chest, may be very appealing’although whether there is much difference between décolleté-specific creams and ones for the face is hard to say. They tend to be expensive, but budget-friendly options are starting to appear on store shelves.

If skin damage is extensive and you’re really bothered by it, see your dermatologist. Prescription tretinoin, if your skin can tolerate it, softens wrinkles and evens out skin tone, says Jang. Weathered, seriously aged skin responds best to cosmetic procedures by a dermatologist: Chemical peels and laser treatments like Fraxel fade brown spots, reduce wrinkling and stimulate collagen production. (Laser treatments can cost about $1,000 each.) Another option is filler injections such as Restylane or Juvéderm. ‘They’ll lift up those creeping and ‘necklace’ lines immediately,’ says Jang. They cost $400 to $500 per injection, and results will last six to 12 months.

The cheapest investment for healthy skin? ‘You got it: Protect it from the sun.

Ingredients to look for

Ingredients in creams that can smooth and brighten décolleté skin include retinol, AHAs, Pro-Xylane (‘a natural sugar that helps stimulate fibroblast growth, which contributes to collagen production,’ says Madfes), and antioxidants such as vitamins A and C, coffeeberry and idebenone.

Madfes also recommends that your moisturizing cream include omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, to improve its barrier function.

Moisturizers and scrubs for your décolleté

Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 ($24, 75 mL)
RoC Retin-Ol Multi-Correxion Day/Night Cream with retinol, Vitamins B5, C and E ($40, 30 mL)
Elizabeth Arden Prevage Body Total Transforming Anti-Aging Moisturizer with idebenone ($135, 200 mL)
Reversa UV Anti-Spot Lightening Cream 4% Glycolic Acid ($36, 50 mL)
Dior Capture Totale Haute Nutrition Rich Crème with omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids ($140, 50 mL)
Burt’s Bees Citrus Scrub with moisturizing sweet almond oil ($13, 56 g)
Biotherm Rides Repair Instant Polish Resurfacing Polisher ($38, 75 mL)

Specialized creams for your décolleté

Garnier Nutritioniste Ultra-Lift Pro Deep Wrinkle Roller for face and neck, with Omega 3+6 and Pro-Xylane ($23, 50 mL)
Clarins Advanced Extra-Firming Neck Cream, with plum extract for ‘lifting’ action ($70, 50 mL)
Revaléskin Day Cream SPF 15 with 1% coffeeberry ($80, 50 mL)
Shiseido White Lucent Brightening Serum for Neck and Décolletage, with vitamin C ($75, 75 mL)
Dermaglow Advanced Anti-Aging Neck and Chest Therapy, with retinol and antioxidants ($45, 50 mL)
Guerlain Success Future Neck & Décolleté Serum with Pure Amber Extract ($125, 50 mL)

This article was originally titled "Feel Good About Your Décolleté," in the Summer 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.