Tightening Neck Skin Without Surgery

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If you are here, you’re probably thinking about how to firm up the skin around your neck. There’s always surgery, but you want that to be the last resort.  If you are looking for a place that will give you all the information you need without trying to sell a particular product, then you have come to the right place.

How can you tighten neck skin without surgery? Collagen and elastin play an important role in maintaining our skin. A broad range of non-invasive alternatives to firming up the skin around your neck is available. Picking one is difficult because they all claim to work. In addition, scientific research is difficult to find; however, the more intensive the treatment, the more effective it will be.

There is a reason why people talk about “beauty secrets.” It seems like everybody claims that their “secrets” are the real truth. How can that be, especially when their “secrets” contradict someone else’s “secrets?” Separating the facts from the spin can be difficult, but examining all the options will be helpful. So, let’s get started, shall we?

Why Does Our Skin Sag with Age?

Let’s try to answer this question first. If you’re reading this, you’ve no doubt noticed some of these changes in your skin

It is rougherWe lose elastin and collagen
It starts to slacken Also due to loss of elastin
It becomes transparent The surface layer of the skin (epidermis) thins
It bruised more easily The area between the epidermis and the layer under it (dermis) begins to come together

Since we are exploring how to firm up our chins, let’s focus on elastin. It is the protein that gets forgotten because everyone is paying attention to the other protein—collagen. However, it plays an important role in keeping skin from sagging.

What Role do Collagen and Elastin Play?

 Most likely, you have heard of collagen, the glue that holds the body together. It makes up 30 percent of the protein in our body and 75 percent of the protein in the outer layer of our skin. There are a few parts of the body that do not have collagen.  A shortlist includes







Blood vessels

Collagen makes skin look youthful, but as we age, we produce less of it. So, increasing how much we produce can revitalize our skin. Our skin begins to thin out, creating the fine lines and wrinkles in our skin. That’s because collagen plays an important role in keeping our skin full and plump.

Unfortunately, as we age, we begin to lose collagen around 25, at the rate of 1 percent a year.

Elastin, while it makes up just 2 percent of our skin, plays a different but important role. Elastin is not found throughout the body because it is capable of contracting back to its original shape.  Instead, it is an important component of our arteries and lungs, allowing their skin to contract.

In practical terms, this means that elastin would keep the skin under our chin and necks tight. Unfortunately, we stop producing elastin around the time we reach puberty. And as women approach menopause, the loss is intensified. With less elastin, our skin cannot fight gravity as well as it could when we were younger.

So, can we replace these proteins? And if so, how do we go about doing so?

Replacing Collagen and Elastin

This is where it gets complicated.

Really complicated.

Why? Because practically every method for firming up the chin and neck is based on the idea of increasing the amount of collagen in our bodies.  Our bodies are naturally capable of replenishing some of the collagen we lose.  Therefore, these therapies attempt to increase the amount of collagen our bodies create.

Using Diet to Replace Collagen

Our body produces collagen through the combination of a variety of foods—protein-rich foods and foods that contain vitamin C, copper, and zinc.  It makes sense, then, that one

Your body takes the amino acids from those foods and combines them to create collagen.  It makes sense, therefore, to eat a balanced diet that contains proteins, veggies, fruit, and perhaps a supplement to ensure you get enough minerals.

Indeed, that is often one of the bits of advice you’ll find.  So how is that complicated?

It gets tricky because eating food is only one part of the equation. Your body also needs to absorb those nutrients.  And, as Dr. Elizabeth Bradley, Medical Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, says

“As you age, however, your body may no longer absorb nutrients as well or synthesize them as efficiently. To make sure your body has enough ingredients to make collagen, you may need to change what you eat or take dietary supplements.”

That makes sense. As we age, our reaction time slows, recovery time from accidents increases, and some of us notice our eyesight or hearing getting weaker.  So, our bodies could need some help absorbing nutrients. And that’s where people start arguing for their “secret” foods. However, finding scientific support for those claims is often hard to come by.

Using Herbs and Specific Foods

Sometimes people make claims that specific foods that will help our body make additional collagen. Those claims sound logical. For example, if a food contains a lot of collagen, consuming it should boost collagen.  Take bone broth, for example.

When you make (or buy) bone broth, the collagen that is in beef is extracted from the bones, so when you consume the broth, you are getting all the collagen that would otherwise remain in the bones. That is the premise bone broth advocates use.  However, where is the science?

Nowhere.  The only study about bone broth that can be found is one from 1934, and it mainly reports on how bone broth is prepared! If you want collagen and lots of it, you will find much more in supplements. In addition, for your body to absorb collagen, it needs to be hydrolyzed, and the collagen in bone broth is not.  If you want to read the rest of the article that debunks the benefits of bone broth, read about it here.

We’ll get to supplements later, but let’s stay focused on food for now.

Herbs That Have Scientific Support

While there are many fruits and herbs that provide the vitamins and minerals needed to produce collagen, the following have been studied and found to have some benefit.

Food Link to Research
Algae (to increase collagen)
Ginseng (to increase collagen)
Lingonberry and alma fruit extract  
Ginseng (for general skin health)
Aloe Vera (to increase collagen)
Cilantro (for overall skin health)

 As you can see, all but one of those research studies can be found PubMed through the US Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.  It is an excellent resource. If you hear about a food or supplement that sounds good, see if someone has studied it.  Of course, just because no one has done a study, doesn’t mean the therapy won’t be effective.  Consider another resource to separate facts from spin.

Replacing Elastin

Just as elastin does not get the attention that collagen does, it also does not get the same level of research.  Here are some suggested treatments that have been proven to work

Argan Oil.  The Argan Tree, which grows in Morocco, produces this oil, which has been shown to increase elastin. The study was on postmenopausal women only, but it should be effective for all women

Ginkgo Biloba and Green Tea Extracts.  Extracts from these two teas had positive benefits for skin elasticity and skin thickness, according to a 2014 studyVirginias Collagen Serum is designed to help bring more elasticity to the skin.

Consider a Collagen Mask

Collagen masks work on the principle that adding collagen therapy will increase skin health. One way is to ingest it, either through food or supplements, and the other is to add it from the outside.  Collagen masks aim to do the latter.

Those who argue that collagen masks don’t work say that the collagen molecules are too large to enter the deeper layers of the skin. Those who make the masks acknowledge that untreated collagen won’t penetrate the skin.  However, they point to studies that show if the collagen is hydrolyzed (also look for the words collagen peptides), it can break through the outer layer of skin or the epidermis.

Collagen masks can help with the following

Reducing or preventing wrinkles

Hydrating dry skin

Improving dull skin

Toning and tightening of the skin

These are good benefits. Who doesn’t want to eliminate wrinkles or have healthy-looking skin? So if you are looking to improve your skin, then collagen masks, such as the Taut Gold Standard, which contain the hydrolyzed collagen, will help. Regardless of which you choose, make sure that hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides are listed first or second. 

However, if you are wanting to firm up the skin under your neck, these masks won’t help much.

Creams Supported by Science

Creams are one of the largest areas where everyone has their own secret, starting with the list of ingredients. Here are a few descriptions of products (which will go unnamed here)

“it contains idebenone, thiotaine, and a vitamin E derivative. The powerful antioxidant blend neutralizes free radicals, works to help support the skin’s structure and provides a tightening effect.”

Or this one

“This one is great for the neck but also for the face and chest because it is very hydrating and is created with an exclusive HEXINOL Technology and vitamin E. It also has sunscreen, and many people forget that their neck and chest also need sun protection.”

Don’t get me wrong—these (unnamed) creams may be therapeutic. They certainly sound that way. Scientific names, ingredients everyone touts—sounds a lot like spin.  But is there any science backing them? 

For example, in a clinical study, a series of women were treated with a cosmetic cream containing the natural form of glucosamine– N-acetyl glucosamine.  After 16 weeks, the women’s neck appearance showed improvement.  A second study, with a larger group of women, showed similar results.

So, a skin cream that contains N-acetyl glucosamine, typically called glucosamine, has scientific backing.  There are many creams available, such as this one by Neostrata. Again, ingredients in other creams might have scientific backing, though I would be suspicious of products that claim to have scientific studies but don’t provide you with access to those studies.

To keep you from having to scroll back up, here’s the link to PubMed through the US Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.

Supplements Supported by Science

Collagen masks attempt to give you that extra boost of collagen from the outside. Supplements aim to provide it from the inside.

Getting collagen inside your body is a lot easier than getting it through your skin—swallowing or chewing will work.  Once inside your body, you want the collagen to be absorbed by the body before it leaves the body.  Studies have shown that collagen supplements can “significantly increase skin hydration”

When considering supplements, again, make sure that you look for hydrolyzed collagen.  The other important ingredient is peptan or peptides.  And you need lots of it. The studies done showed that amounts up to 10,000 mg a day for 8-10 weeks were necessary to show major improvements.

If a supplement contains algae–called “marine collagen” because who wants to drink algae?—then that’s even better.

Remember, again, that collagen supplements attempt to increase skin appearance and tone.

Consider Exercise

Take a jog, go to the gym, lift some weights—there is evidence these will improve your skin’s appearance. In a study at Ontario’s McMaster University, researchers discovered that skin samples of people over 40 who exercised had skin that looked similar to people half as old.  Another study showed that people who strenuously rode stationary bikes twice a week over three months showed improvements in their skin as well.

Researchers theorize that since one of the benefits of exercise is improved blood circulation, nutrients to rebuild collagen and elastin are better able to get to the skin. Or maybe exercise just makes you feel younger, which makes you look younger.

 Using Exercises to Tighten Skin

Some people tout specific neck and head exercises to strengthen the muscles around your neck and face.  To support the use of these exercises, Lisa Feldermann of Blink Fitness says 

“This area of the body begins to sag due to flaccid muscles and excessive accumulation of fat”

Others point out that you can’t control where you will lose body fat. However, the neck exercises could tone and strengthen those muscles. 

You know the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In this case, “a video is worth a thousand words.”  Instead of providing you with a list of exercises and descriptions, I am instead providing a link to a video by Danielle Collins, a leading face exercise specialist.  Watch it so you can follow along.

One of the advantages of exercise is the price—next to nothing, unless you join a gym (and actually go!). Plus, even if it doesn’t firm up your skin the way you want, you’ll be helping your body stay young.

Having looked at the most non-invasive, or what some would call natural, methods available, it’s time to turn toward those that involve more technology, starting with chemical peels.

Do Chemical Facial Peels Work?

During a chemical peel, the top layers of skin are removed through the application of chemical solutions.  Afterward, younger and healthier-looking skin grows back.

According to the Mayo Clinic, chemical peels have been used repeatedly to successfully treat a variety of skin conditions. There are three different types

A light chemical peel is used in the treatment of uneven skin tone, acne, and very fine wrinkles. Light chemical peels can be repeated somewhere between within a month or so

A medium peel treats acne scars, more pronounced wrinkles, as well as more pronounced variations in skin tone

A deep peel removes several layers of skin and is used for precancerous growths or wrinkles and scars that can only be removed with this peel.  This is a one-time only peel

 So, chemical peels work—at what they are supposed to do. They treat surface skin problems but not sagging skin.  Someone suggesting a chemical peel to firm skin around your neck or jaw line is giving you spin.

FYI Dehydrated and dry skin means two different things. Dehydrated skin does not have enough water. It causes the appearance of triangular lines over your skin’s surface Dry skin lacks enough oil. It has a dull appearance and feels tight  

Does Light Therapy Work?

What light therapy applies the principle that certain types of light, when radiated into the skin, promote the production of both collagen and elastin.  Numerous studies have shown it to have benefits for reducing wrinkles and fine lines as well as tightening the skin. This technology was first tried by NASA as a way to increase healing time for astronauts.

To get red light therapy, you have two choices—find a dermatologist that performs the therapy, or buy a product for home use. The dermatologist will cost more but is trained in the use of this therapy. To use home products, you have to first choose a product and then use it correctly.

A compromise would be to start with a dermatologist.  Once you have determined you like the results, then continuing with home therapy would be a way to get the necessary maintenance.

Regardless of which type of home light therapy device you choose, check the intensity of light produced. Ideally, you want a device that generates nanometers, or NMs, in the 650-850 range. Websites devoted to light therapy often recommend the Trophy Skin Rejuvalite because of its high ratings and features.

Ultheraphy and Thermage

Two newer treatments that are currently receiving a lot of press are Ultherapy and Thermage. Ultherapy uses ultrasound to stimulate the collagen in the deeper layers of skin (the hypodermis). Those who use ultherapy claim that their procedure tricks the body into producing new collagen in specifically treated areas.

Katie Lee Gifford is a proponent of this treatment, and an article in Today discusses her experiences.  Search the internet, and you will find people who have had good results as well as those who haven’t.  If you consider using this treatment, you will definitely want to choose a practitioner who has experience using it and can show the before-and-after pictures or videos.

Instead of using ultrasound, Thermage employs radiofrequency to tighten skin.  As with Ultherapy, the treatment targets specific areas and promises to create the collagen necessary to firm up skin and make it appear youthful.

In choosing between the two, consider that Thermage is FDA approved for reducing the appearance of skin while Ultherapy has FDA approval for lifting the chin and neck.

However, be warned that both of these treatments are expensive. Because they are the most invasive, I would recommend that you not base your decision solely on price. Experience and results are important for these procedures.

And, before I forget, neither of these procedures are permanent, so when calculating the price, 

How do I find a good practitioner?

If you choose to try any of these procedures—light therapy, ultherapy, or thermage, you will want to choose someone who is well-qualified and will do a good job. This can seem overwhelming, so here are a few suggestions

Look for someone experienced in the specific procedure you want

Make sure they are certified to perform the procedure

Ensure their facility is safe and properly accredited

Decide if you like the person doing the treatment

Ask for customer testimonials. Before and after pictures are best

Some people like checklists. If you’re one of them, here’s a good one to use when you visit. Although it comes from an organization focused on surgery, it might work well for you. Just ignore the word “surgeon” and replace it with an appropriate word, like “clinician.”

What It Comes Down To

Unfortunately, when it comes to tightening or firming up the skin around your neck and skin, there is no one solution that will totally reverse the effects of time. Hopefully, by separating out the science from the spin, we have made it a little easier to decide which “secrets” are supported by science.

The more expensive the product, the better the results. Exercise and diet are less effective than supplements and creams, which are less effective than the ones requiring more technology. I can’t tell you what you should do, but I know that I’m going to be looking around for a dermatologist who does light therapy.