Vogue · Décolletage doctor: why it’s imperative to look after this delicate area and how
This season’s focus on exposed necklines is a timely reminder that we need to take care of the most delicate area of our skin – the décolletage.
“Your face finishes at your boobs.” As a beauty editor, I’ve heard plenty of dermatologists, facialists and skincare devotees – and even my own mother – recite this phrase with gusto over the years. But still my daily skincare ritual usually finished at the chin, at best the collarbones, which is down to time restraints, cost (you could take out a mortgage on some serums) and, let’s be frank, sheer laziness. Fashion, however, has a knack for drumming home some truths. At the autumn collections it came via Chloé’s whimsy silk shirts with wide lapels and deep-dive plunging necklines. From neck to navel, they exposed an exclamation point of delicate, refined skin and picture-perfect décolletages. I couldn’t help but lift my (turtleneck) knit and inspect my own. Point most definitely taken.
Elsewhere this season, peekaboo flashes of skin – be it an exposed shoulder, a swan neck or toned arms – ruled the runways. At Saint Laurent, keyhole, deep V and sweetheart necklines were the order of the season for creative director Anthony Vaccarello, while at Christopher Kane one-size-fits-all woollen dresses were artfully slung to expose strong, angular shoulders. Designers from Alexander Wang to Halpern turned on to anything off the shoulder, exposing arms and collarbones alike. Collectively they seemed to be saying that the top half is now top order.
While research on the area from chin to cleavage is scarce – it seems researchers also direct their efforts towards the face – dermatologists (and anyone over the age of 35) agree it’s one of the first areas to suffer premature ageing. Its exposure is practically a lightning rod for sunlight and, consequently, the neck and chest have a knack for exhibiting sun damage, pigmentation, fine lines, and lax skin even before they’re visible on the face.
“The skin on the neck in particular is also more fragile, with less collagen and fat stores – without this internal structure it is far more prone to laxity and fine lines,” says facialist Melanie Grant, who spends a fair portion of a facial focused on the chest, upper arms and shoulders. It’s naturally less hydrated too, with fewer sebaceous glands than the face. “We do need to do all we can to ensure this delicate area is receiving the vital lipids it needs to stay supple, plump and firm,” says Grant.
The simplest improvement you can make to your at-home regimen, says Grant, is your application technique. “I am adamant about applying products in an upward sweeping motion. I believe dragging the skin downwards over time can have grave effects on the elasticity and natural tautness of the skin,” she says. As close to gravity-defying as a cream may come, Estée Lauder’s Perfectionist Pro RapidFirm + Lift Treatment contains the anti-wrinkle ingredient acetyl hexapeptide-8 and aims to boost collagen and elastin along the jawline and neck via souped-up alpha-hydroxy acids (use only at night: the acids can increase sensitivity to sunlight).