Chest Aging: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatments
While most people focus their anti-aging efforts on the face, the neck and upper chest (or décolletage area) is equally vulnerable to the damaging effects of the sun’s rays. In fact, many people will exhibit the signs of aging in their upper chest since its commonly one of the most neglected body areas in terms of skin care. On a typical day the neck and upper chest can receive just as much UV exposure as the face, making it an area that is prone to wrinkles, sun damage, age spots, and crepey skin.
Fortunately, there are various simple ways to protect your décolletage and prevent the early onset of aging. There are also many great treatment options with the power to correct even the most severe aging symptoms.
What Causes Chest Aging
As we grow older, we naturally produce less collagen and elastin. These two proteins give skin its structural support and help it bounce back to its original shape after stretching. A lack of fat in the upper chest and thin skin make the signs of aging in this area more visible.
Numerous factors can contribute to aging of the décolletage:
Collagen and elastin are further damaged via exposure to the sun, which increases the appearance of vertical wrinkles or crepey skin around the lower neckline. Excessive exposure to UV rays causes photoaging, otherwise known as premature skin aging. UV exposure leads to the formation of small, dark areas called sunspots or hyperpigmentation, overall skin discoloration.
Smoking and other air pollutants produce free radicals which can damage healthy skin cells and lead to oxidative stress.
Movement & Gravity
As we get older the effects of gravity and movement accumulate. The chest area moves far more than we realize, especially if you have large breasts. The weight of cleavage pulls on the skin of the chest, and the skin in this area is frequently folded in on itself. A lifetime of side sleeping or the use of push-up bras can even exacerbate creasing and wrinkling.
Common Décolletage Aging Symptoms
The results of aging and sun damage manifest in numerous unwanted aging symptoms along the décolletage. Common aging symptoms include:
- Lines and wrinkles (in particular, a V-shaped lines that travel from your lower neck right down to your cleavage)
- Sun spots and other forms of discoloration
- Crepey skin
- Rough or dry patches
How to Prevent Aging of the Upper Chest
To prevent the signs of aging along the décolletage, or lower neckline, embrace the following habits:
Protect Against Sun Damage
Remember to apply a high SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen to your neck and chest, not just your face. Avoid spending too much unprotected time in the sun, especially during high SPF hours of the day. When you do go outdoors, cover up with clothing or a wide brimmed hat. If you really want to tan, avoid indoor tanning beds and instead opt for a spray tan or use a self-tanning product.
Protect Against Free Radicals
Smoking and other air pollutants increase the production of free radicals, which leads to tissue damage. If you smoke, quit. You’ll not only look better, but feel better too.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and are found in foods and skincare products containing vitamin C and E, flavonoids and Vitamin B3. Antioxidants protect against aging and help repair damaged skin.
Include Your Chest in Your Skin Care Routine
Whatever products you use on your face can and should be extended to your neck and chest too. Retinols, or Vitamin A derivatives, are antioxidants and also stimulate collagen production to reduce the appearance of fine lines.
Gently exfoliate the chest area at least once weekly, and use a moisturizer daily. The best anti-aging moisturizers contain hyaluronic acid or heparan sulfate. Make sure, however, not to over exfoliate as that may over-dry the skin.
Treatment Options for an Aging Chest
While prevention is key, there are several surgical and non-surgical cosmetic treatments with the ability to correct even the most severe forms of aging. Common décolletage treatment options include:
Laser Skin Resurfacing
Laser resurfacing (sometimes called a laser peel) uses highly concentrated microscopic beams of laser energy to remove precise amounts of skin in a controlled, targeted fashion. Resurfacing removes the old, dull top layers of skin and initiates the production of new collagen and elastin, improving skin quality, texture, and firmness. Popular resurfacing lasers like Fraxel, ActiveFX, or ResurFX have the ability to instantly diminish the appearance of sunspots (and other pigmentation), lines and wrinkles. The promotion of collagen production which helps the skin appear more youthful and rejuvenated. Many resurfacing lasers can also be customized using varying intensity levels in order to treat a full range of aging symptoms from moderate to very severe.
Chemical peels are topically applied formulas that revitalize the skin surface by creating an even and controlled shedding of the skin cells. This allows new layers to be exposed, creating a fresh appearance and smoother texture to the skin surface. Peels are a very effective treatment for moderate wrinkles and pigmentation issues. They work best on those with a light skin tone, and won’t correct sagging skin or deep creases. Peels can be customized for skin type and are offered in varying strengths, from Superficial (The gentlest level of peel that only removes the very top layer of the epidermis and requires virtually no downtime) to Deep (the strongest type of peel that can correct more sever forms of aging but also requires downtime).
Ultherapy uses ultrasound technology to strengthen the skin from the inside out, in a completely non-invasive way. This 100% non-surgical treatment lifts, tightens, and tones loose skin to counteract the effects of time and gravity. Ultherapy works by gently heating the tissue to lift and tighten loose skin without cutting or disrupting the surface of the skin. Your skin’s response to the energy is to stimulate the growth of new collagen.
Thermage is a non-invasive procedure that helps to tighten and contour your skin in as little as one treatment. There is no surgery, no injections, and little to no downtime. Thermage safely and gently heats the skin in order to help tighten loose or sagging skin and fill in fine lines and wrinkles. Results begin to appear immediately after treatment and are longer lasting depending on your skin condition and the aging process.
Dermal fillers address deeper chest wrinkles and minimally sagging skin. These gel-like substances contain hyaluronic acid, which triggers the skin’s natural collagen production. When injected underneath the skin, they plump the area behind wrinkles, minimizing their appearance. Restylane and Juvéderm are among the most commonly used hyaluronic-based fillers for chest wrinkles.
Additionally, fillers that stimulate collagen production (like Radiesse and Sculptra) can be injected under the skin to promote the development of new collagen. An increase in collagen levels in the skin can dramatically improve its appearance over a longer term.
Dermal fillers offer immediate results and require zero recovery time. However, they are not permanent and last anywhere from 6 months to one year.
A fat transfer is the most involved of the above options and includes moving fat from another area of the body to the chest to increase volume. It works similarly to dermal fillers, but offers permanent results, albeit with a longer recovery time.
Fat transfer occurs under local or general anesthesia and recovery times range from 4-14 days. The rejuvenating procedure is considered permanent, as fat cells are able to live and thrive in their new location indefinitely.