Your face may be the focus of countless anti-wrinkle preparations, but, surprisingly, it's usually not the first area of the body to show signs of aging. That honour belongs to the skin between the neck and chest, thanks to a triple whammy of sun exposure, general neglect (most of us forget to even moisturize the area) and gravity - until now: A bevy of new age-proofing creams and treatments promise firming, smoothing and plumping benefits for the décolletage.
"The skin on the neck and chest is thin and doesn't have much elasticity or resilience," says Sian Sutherland, co-founder of Mama Mio, a line of body-care products based in London, England. Dr. David Zloty, a Vancouver dermatologist, agrees that this region has some of the thinnest skin on the body. Enter Boob Tube, a firming mask with avocado oil, shea butter and antioxidant CoQ10. The Mama Mio product was launched in the United Kingdom two years ago (it debuted in Canada in May) and became a cult hit, with a fan base of celeb moms that includes Victoria Beckham and Rachel Weisz.
But you don't have to be a mother to use it - although that's what inspired Sutherland and her two business partners. (They have seven kids between them.) "When you're pregnant, you get fantastic boobs," says Sutherland. "But you realize that you've got them on loan and the rent is really high: It's paid in dues of gravity. We developed Boob Tube to help prevent the degradation of collagen, keep wrinkles at bay and promote cell regeneration so that the skin looks smooth and toned." No doubt encouraged by Boob Tube's success, other brands-such as Kiehl's, The Body Shop and Decléor - have come up with similar formulas.
But the concept of a décolletage-specific product isn't exactly new: French women have long included the zone in their skin-care routines. "In France, taking care of the bust is like taking care of the hands or the face," says Regine Perron, coordinator and national trainer for Clarins Skin Spa and Skin Spa Ambience in Canada. "It's still taboo here - at the spa we might do a bust-firming treatment once a month - but in Paris, they do three per day." The one-hour session includes "the movement," a specialized massage technique where a therapist uses more than 80 strokes to stimulate circulation and the lymphatic system. "The circling motion helps firm the breasts and lets the active ingredients penetrate deeper," explains Perron. "We apply a gel rich in a plant called Centella asiatica that stimulates and tones the bust area and fights aging and a gel rich in ginseng to nourish skin and leave it supple."
Massage treatments temporarily increase blood flow, which can give the area a firmer appearance, says Zloty, "but they won't have a long-term impact." His Rx? Combine high-tech skin care with the latest non-invasive cosmetic procedures. "Topical preparations containing ingredients such as glycolic acid and retinol can be effective at targeting sun damage and fine lines," he says. Treat more serious concerns with photodynamic therapies. "Intense pulsed light devices can be helpful in evening out pigment irregularities and fine lines." Expect a minimum of three sessions (most patients need five) at upwards of $500 per treatment, since it's a large area. Non-ablative lasers (which are used for skin resurfacing) are also an option. "They can stimulate more collagen so you get a slight increase in skin thickness. They may also even out skin tone because they destroy extra pigment." Budget for two treatments at about $800 each.
Whether you choose to treat your décolletage at home, at the spa or at the dermatologist, be sure to add a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your regimen, says Zloty. "It's the most cost-effective way to prevent damage-there's even some evidence suggesting that regular use can repair damage." And expect to see a wider array of age-proofing skin-care products - not just for the décolletage but for the whole body. "As women move into their 30s, 40s and 50s, they're showing a lot more skin," says Sutherland. "We're taking the same quality ingredients you use on your face and applying them to the body - because skin that's smooth, toned and elastic just looks better."
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