In “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” Nora Ephron expressed the feelings of generations of women who have beenfurtively hiding their necks like turtles in scarves, boas, turtlenecks and chokers. Her blunt advice is to begin concealing the neck at age 43. “Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t if it had a neck.” Sure, she had a point. But there is an equal source of embarrassment perched right above the neck: the sagging jaw line.
When you reach your early 40s, you may see that the skin between your neck and jaw, which was once a taut right angle, is now gradually dropping. This “drop zone” is the subject of many heart-to-heart conversations. We have all watched more than one friend (of a certain age) pulling back the skin in front of her ears with two thumbs to demonstrate how much better she would look without the drooping, wavy jaw line. Though she asks, “Tell me the truth, don’t I look better like this?” you answer dishonestly: “Don’t be silly. You look great the way you are.”
The aging jaw and neck are challenges. The neck is comprised of three layers: skin, fat, and muscle. Sagging muscles and bulging fat are situated under the thinnest, crepiest skin on the body (except for eyelid skin). To make matters worse, a thin ropey muscle called platysma tends to split into a V-like formation of two bands that protrude, especially when they contract. To see this problem in action (if you’re over 40) look in a mirror, say “eee,” and watch in horror what happens. A Manhattan plastic surgeon has commented, “Trying to fix all of that with potions and lotions is like waging a two-front war on a sheet of thin ice.” He soggests a neck lift for women in their early to mid-40s who are not ready for a facelift.
The neck lift secures sagging muscles crosswise to the jaw to restore that all-important right angle. Compared with a facelift, sutures are smaller, there is less tightness, and recovery time is much shorter. However, a neck lift has traditionally been a component of a facelift, and many plastic surgeons believe it should remain so. They reason that, anatomically, the muscles of the neck are connected to muscles of the face, so if you try to tighten only the neck muscles, you will do you face a disservice. Along this line of reasoning, even if your big complaint is your neck, you will get better results with a facelift. If you are confused about which procedure is right for you, have a board-certified plastic surgeon, or two, give you feedback while evaluating your very own unique face and neck.
Liposuction and the double chin
The face and neck are usually treated at the simultaneously, often in conjunction with liposuction, to sculpt the area beneath the chin and jaw line. But if you gain weight, the looser skin, weaker muscles, and free falling fat may add to your drop zone. Younger patients who have fatty necks but no significant facial aging may be treated with liposuction alone. There are some plastic surgeons also might use laser or light technology to tighten necks.
It has been seen that injecting Botox in areas where wrinkling and creases occur will prevent deeper lines from forming and will help maintain a youthful appearance. It’s better to not have those angry or tired lines develop, so people will not notice that you’ve had any treatments. Botox can also soften those V-shaped platysma bands.
Your own fat
Another alternative is injecting abdominal fat into the jawline area to provide extra volume. This includes the bonus of your own stem cells. Extra stem cells are sometimes separated from the fat via centrifuge and then added, making the skin glow more and enhancing collagen production.
Plastic surgeons were recently interviewed by W Magazine about some trendier devices, such as Thermage and Ulthera. These devices deliver radio frequency, ultrasound and/or infrared lasers to stimulate deep skin layers below the epidermis, an area in which collagen and elastic production slows down as we get older. But according to the surgeons interviewed, the problem is that these devices may not deliver enough energy to have a substantial effect. However, if you have only mild laxity and expect modest results, they may be a good option.
Even though you may favor one of these options, it’s a good idea to keep an open mind when you go for a consultation. Your best bet is to come in for a consultation so your plastic surgeon can suggest the very best procedure for your very own unique facial characteristics.