Fight back against wrinkly décolletage!
by Leanne Delap
Ask The Kit is the real-talk advice column you never knew you needed. Every week, writer Leanne Delap answers your pressing beauty and style questions. How can I find good plus-size options? How can I get shiny hair? How do I define my style? Send your Qs to email@example.com
“I hate to admit it, but I used to use baby oil to tan when I was a teenager. When I grew up and knew better, I rushed to take care of my face. But one area drives me crazy now: my chest is wrinkly and discoloured from sun (and general neglect). I’ve stopped wearing open necklines! What can I do?” —Signed: Eager to wear a v-neck T-shirt again
I love the word “décolletage.” I also love how French women are raised to worry about keeping the delicate area from chin to bosom (another great anachronistic euphemism) supple and unblemished. If, however, you were raised in North America and your birth year begins with “19” you likely have somewhat neglected the skin in that region at some point in your life.
I have to admit, baby oil (or the intoxicating coconut smell of Bain de Soleil tanning lotion #4 from the ’80s, which is more than eight times weaker than the minimum sunscreen I use today) was my tanning weapon of choice back in the day. Nothing attracts unintentional rays better than the unprotected chest, either. My discolouration/fine lines come from years of running out the door with sunscreen dutifully applied to my face, then only realizing I had forgotten my chest, which was burnt after a couple of hours cheering on kids on the side of the soccer field.
Of course our chests are vulnerable, says Amy Newman Brown: “They stick out!” Decades of experience working in the plastic surgery world—Newman Brown is the aesthetic director of Toronto Plastic Surgery—means she has been there and tried that with successive waves of treatments, creams, serums and whatnot. She decided a couple of years ago to build a side hustle, naming it Soke Beauty. The first product in the line—hyaluronic gel packs that affix to the body to allow active ingredients to deeply penetrate the skin—is for the chest. “It’s a tough area, because so many people have focused so hard on fixing their face.” She’s noticed a steady increase at her day job in clients interested in improving the condition (appearance and elasticity) of the skin on their bodies now. “There is a domino effect: I see people come in, and their face is immaculate, but they forgot their chest and it doesn’t match!”
I feel seen here, and I hope you do, too, dear reader Eager to Wear a V-Neck T-Shirt. I tried Newman Brown’s invention, which looks expensive at $75 but has five applications in the package, so it amortizes out. It is a heart-shaped patch that covers your chest (it can be used on the neck, too, and I made mine do double duty to give my neck a little love). You wear it for 30 minutes, and yes, my chest skin looked and felt much better afterward, the appearance of redness was lessened (keeping sun-damaged skin well-hydrated with any good product will help the appearance of discolouration, says Newman Brown).
She has always been intrigued by ingredients as trends come and go in the medi-spa field, and has in her job borne witness to the latest and greatest hits. Seeing a chest-sized hole in the market, Newman Brown worked with a biomedical engineer and a cosmetic chemist to develop and then do clinical trials for her patches. The final formulation is proprietary, naturally, but I jotted down peptides, something called Camellia Sinesis leaf extract and sodium hyaluronate; this last is effective for reducing fine lines, locking in moisture and helping to build collagen, firm up and rejuvenate skin. Since the treatment takes 30 minutes, she wanted a patch that could be used on the go. “We are all too busy to do spa days at home,” she says. Indeed, it sticks on no problem: I just had a washer delivered while writing this and wearing the chest patch at the same time. (I did feel efficient for multitasking.)
“The skin on the chest is totally different from the skin on your face,” says Newman Brown. “But it is very much the same as the delicate areas in and around your eye.” Unsurprisingly, the next product on deck for Soke is hydrogel eye patches. If you can, sleep on your back, says Newman Brown, as years of side sleeping will create wrinkles not just on your face but on your chest skin (and newsflash: They aren’t always symmetrical, adding insult to injury with a big off-kilter wrinkle framed by that V-neck shirt).
The great experts are the ones who even when they have their own products to peddle, are very generous with their advice for all budgets. Newman Brown works with professional grade products for a living, but she says she is also a firm fan of bargain hunting for skincare at Walmart and drugstores. Anything with hyaluronic acid is going to give you hydration, she says. She reiterates that a high SPF sunscreen is key to keeping further damage at bay. The Kit has a great library of sunscreen stories for you to access top products, but I’m adding in my own reco here in the products below. The Shiseido Clear Sunscreen Stick 50+ has become my new religion; it can be stuffed in a pocket, purse or backpack for hands-free, swift and discreet reapplication.
As for exfoliation, Newman Brown says, “Remember how delicate this skin is. So, don’t scrub or exfoliate with anything harsh. Instead, use a micellar water on a cotton pad, working from your neck down to your chest. That will do a gentle job. You don’t have to spend a bundle.” Plus, micellar water is such a quintessentially French beauty habit, and as above, we need to take a page from French women on how to reclaim our décolletage and keep it looking perky and youthful.