The neck and décolleté are areas of the body that prematurely show the signs of aging. Here are some exercises to help tone the muscles and restore skin elasticity to this delicate area.
Several of our articles have focused on the neck and décolleté, reminding us how particularly critical these areas are because they prematurely show the signs of aging as compared with all other areas of the body.
Treatment options for this area include minimally invasive solutions such hyaluronic acid-based treatments. And the damage caused by aging can always be prevented or reduced by following some good habits.
In this article, we focus on another approach to treating the signs of aging in the neck and décolleté areas: exercises and self-massages. They are two distinct but complementary practices, because their areas of intervention are likewise distinct and complementary: the muscles and the skin.
It’s all down to the platysma.
Most of neck and décolleté blemishes are due to excessive relaxation of the platysma muscle. This is why it is important to understand what happens in this delicate area when this muscle undergoes age-related changes.
The platysma is a wide, median laminar muscle that extends throughout the neck and décolleté area: its insertions are the skin of the chin at one end, and the pectoral muscles at the level of the second rib on the other. It is an atypical muscle, insofar as its insertions are cutaneous and not osseous, which is connected to its function of providing support and firmness to the skin, until it begins to lose mass and elasticity.
For about 40 years of aesthetic medicine, the platysma is mostly ignored. It being a mimic muscle, it is noticeable only when we feel emotions such as fear, pain or disgust: in these cases, it acts as an evolutionary signal for our fellow humans of a dangerous or abnormal situation.
The trouble begins when the platysma begins to be noticeable on a regular basis, outside such emotional states.
What happens to the platysma over the years?
As a result of aging (and other contributing causes, such as the sun, stress, and bad habits) the platysma begins to lose its tone. Its sagging is therefore the basis of some typical neck blemishes.
Double chin. As the platysma loses its muscle tone, the skin under the chin loses its elasticity and support; add to the accumulation of fat that forms in the neck.
Venus’s necklaces. The relaxation of the neck skin causes one or more circular folds similar to thin necklaces to appear around the neck. Our positions and posture during the day and night do the rest: they accentuate the folds and transform them into furrows.
Turkey neck. Another typical sign of ageing are the vertical cords formed on the neck which remind people of turkey wattles. The two most visible cords, which run along the trachea, correspond to an accentuation of the internal and symmetrical flaps of the platysma. The thinning of this muscular lamina additionally makes the muscles and tendons of the neck more visible.
Exercises to tone and train the platysma.
How to counteract the effects of platysma relaxation? By exercising this under-toned muscle, with a lifting effect. Here are some of the exercises you can practice with.
Ceiling kisses. Sit with your back straight, with good support from a backrest. Tilt your head back and look at the ceiling. Now close your lips and pucker your mouth as if you were kissing the ceiling. Try running a finger in the hollows above your shoulder blades: you should feel the muscle tense to the maximum. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower your chin and return to the starting position. Practice 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Neck rotations. In the same starting position, slowly and gently rotate the head starting with the chin, and trace a circle: shoulder-chest-shoulder-back-shoulder, then repeat in the opposite direction. Try to tilt your head as much as possible and keep your shoulders low and still throughout the movement. Do 10 repetitions, 5 in one direction, 5 in the other.
Tongue protrusions. Still sitting, but in a relaxed position, open your mouth wide and show your tongue by pushing it out as far as possible. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax and return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Neck lift. Lie on your back on a mat (but you can also do it in bed). By contracting the front muscles of the neck, slowly rotate the head towards the chest, trying to keep your shoulders adherent to the mat. Hold and count to 10, then slowly rotate the head back to the starting position. Do three sets, two repetitions each.
The skin plays its part, too.
Premature aging of the neck and décolleté age is also down to its skin. In this area, the skin is poor in sebaceous and sweat glands and therefore dries out easier than in other areas of the body. Add to this a progressive reduction of the main components of the cellular matrix: collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. A decrease in these substances, which keep the dermis turgid and elastic, is one of the most typical effects (and causes) of the aging process.
When the platysma begins to sag, small folds begin to form on the skin which are accentuated by our movements and habitual postures, becoming unsightly furrows. This is why, before moving on to active skin treatments, we will have to think about changing the positions we assume throughout the day.
A postural re-education.
Our posture during the day is linked to our work and our lifestyle. But there are some that are now common to almost people around the world.
The cell phone posture. Chin pressed down against the neck to peer at a mobile phone screen is one of the symbolic postures of the last 30 years. This is most unequivocally a “wrong” posture, at least due to its consequences on our appearance. Just looks at the Venus necklaces which now festoon the neck of ever younger adults. The solution is obviously using one’s phone less and better, for example by holding it at eye level.
It might be easier to find a solution for the other big “tech neck” reaper: our computer. All you need to do is place your computer screen on a stand, so it stands at least 10-15 cm above desk level, forcing us to raise our eyes and chin.
The double pillow posture. Let’s not forget we spend more than a third of our day in bed. And it is often when we sleep that our posture wreaks havoc on our skin. Try to fall asleep on your back, so as not to force the skin of the décolleté into some unwanted fold. And if possible, try to dispense with the second pillow!
Self-massages for the neck and décolleté skin.
Reducing already-formed folds in the skin is not easy, but it is possible to soften them and prevent ones from forming. Just as you should abandoned certain bad postural habits, do indulge the great habit of self-massaging. Five minutes in the morning are enough to reactivate circulation, and five minutes in the evening to eliminate muscle tension.
Self-massages play an important anti-aging role as they stimulate collagen and elastin turnover, especially when performed with specific oils and creams, and supported by vitamin C- and lysine-rich diet. Here are some very simple self-massages you can practice with.
Pincé-roulé. Pinch the skin between thumb and forefinger and roll quickly. The action activates the dermis and squeezes out the content of the sebaceous glands. Start gently and then increase in intensity, for about a minute.
Circular massages. Put a drop of moisturizer on the palm of the right hand and apply it with circular movements on the left side of the neck. Then switch hands and side of the neck. Repeat three times.
Lissage. Place both hands at the base of the neck and slide them upwards to the nape. Do this a total of 10 times. This massage has a toning effect.
Gua cha. This ancient Chinese practice is becoming widespread in Western countries. It consists of rubbing the skin using a jade stone, which can easily be replaced by a terracotta spoon or other non-abrasive blunt-edged tools.
Men usually perform this exercise when shaving: rubbing the razor against the skin of the chin and neck causes redness, but at the same time increases blood circulation and stimulates cell renewal. This is another reason why men’s necks have a higher concentration of collagen than women’s.