In life, there is a great and terrifying list. This list could be called “Things We Don’t Care About Until It’s Too Late to Do Anything About Them.” Basically, in our constant search for instant gratification, we overlook the long-term consequences of our short-term actions. We smoke cigarettes, not caring about the harmful effects until we develop emphysema or lung cancer. We cover our skin with tattoos without regard for how those ink stains will look after a lifetime of wear and tear. When our bodies are young and supple, we cannot imagine a time when this will not be so, and this is a natural part of the human condition.
Crepey, sagging, withered décolleté is such a concern for middle-aged women that there’s a whole arsenal of products available that purport to help erase wrinkles and firm skin. Unfortunately, these products could go on another list, one called “Things That Are Probably Too Good to Be True.”
Too Little, Too Late
Wrinkles in the décolleté area are caused by three main things: sun damage, gravity, and the normal aging process. Sun damage we can control; gravity and aging, we can’t.
The skin on the chest is just as vulnerable to UV rays as the skin on the face is, but people often overlook that area when applying sunscreen. (Actually, the skin on the chest is thinner than that on the face, making it even more vulnerable.) By the time a woman is in her forties, after a lifetime of her skin’s being damaged and dehydrated by the sun, and after a lifetime of the effects of gravity (breasts can be heavy), as well as the thinning skin and decreased collagen production that are a normal part of aging, the chest area naturally doesn’t “snap back” like it used to. The skin sags. And if a woman has large breasts or sleeps on her side or back, positions that allow the breasts to hang, the effects may be even more noticeable. It also goes without saying that smoking doesn’t help, since it leaches oxygen from the skin.
Although makers of antiwrinkle creams and special breast pillows may crow that their product alone can cure crepey cleavage, there is only one surefire way to completely erase wrinkles in that area.
Step 1: Invent a time machine.
Step 2: Find your twenty-two-year-old self and implore her to always wear sunscreen.
Step 3: Devise a way to subvert gravity as well as stop the human aging process.
Obviously, this is a tall order.
For those of us who can’t do the above, the unfortunate truth is that there’s really not much we can do once wrinkles have started to form on the chest. The most important thing to do is keep the area protected and well-hydrated going forward; this will prevent new wrinkles from forming. But the wrinkles that are already there … well, they’re probably there for good.
Currently, the popular “treatments” for chest wrinkles are special pillows and bras (like the Intimia Breast Pillow), which are worn at night and keep the breasts lifted and separated. Silicone pads, like Chest-a-Peel, which keep skin from assuming the wrinkled position, are also commonly recommended solutions. These products may help keep skin lifted and supported during the night, possibly preventing new wrinkles, but they are not a miracle cure.
A better solution is to embark on a hydration regimen, bolstered by bleaching or collagen-enhancing creams. A product containing hydroquinone, such as Murad Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Gel ($60, Dermstore.com), moisturizes while diminishing age spots and discolorations, which may accompany or precede chest wrinkles. A cream like StriVectin ($135, Sephora) may help fight deep wrinkles by boosting collagen production and rebuilding damaged layers of skin.
The only methods for eliminating décolleté wrinkles that have undergone real scientific testing are surgical ones. Many dermatologists recommend microdermabrasion or IPL for chest rejuvenation, and fractional laser treatments are a common choice. Recently, some doctors have also been experimenting with injectable fillers like Botox, Sculptra, and Restylane to fill wrinkles and smooth skin.
It is one of life’s great injustices that our health and beauty as adults is determined by the habits we had back as adolescents, before we knew or cared about the consequences. But even in the absence of sunbathing, smoking, or other careless behaviors, eventually the skin on the chest wrinkles and sags. No matter how well you take care of your skin, aging happens, and much of it is largely out of our control. It’s a fact of life, and not even just for women—elderly men have wrinkly, sagging chests, too!
If you’re starting to notice papery, crepey skin on your neck and chest, start wearing sunscreen and protecting that area now. It’s also a good idea if you’re in your thirties, if you smoke, or if you regularly get suntans—even if you haven’t noticed any signs yet. If you’re in your twenties, consider taking care of your skin to be an investment in your future. Wear sunscreen. Drink water. Remember that the way you treat your body now will be reflected in the way you look in the future. And the future may seem pretty far off when you’re young, but believe me—it’ll be here before you know it.