There's a meme making the rounds on Instagram that perfectly captures the beauty industry's radically different approach to men's and women's personal care: "For men: this can be used as a shampoo, body wash, face wash, lotion, mouthwash, toothpaste, engine degreaser, spackle, or sunscreen. For women: We've specially formulated this moisturizer for your left elbow."
Of all the hyper-specific beauty products (butt masks, foot serums, pubic-hair oil), neck cream can feel the most befuddling. Do we really need a separate cream for the inches-wide space between our faces and the rest of our bodies? And how much attention should we actually be giving that area at all?
We took the question to New York-based dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., who strongly advocates for giving our necks special TLC. "The neck is particularly vulnerable to showing signs of age because neck skin is quite thin and delicate so there isn't as much collagen to support the skin and keep it from wrinkling," she says. Plus, Dr. King adds, fewer sebaceous glands in the area means less oil production, and therefore a higher risk for skin dryness.
The upshot: We may be able to get away with using the same cream on our neck as we do on our face — if our complexions tend to stay bone dry and don't tolerate particularly strong actives, that is. "Because the skin [on the neck] is delicate, you may not be able to tolerate some of the more irritating anti-aging topicals that you can use on your facial skin. For example, you may need to use a milder retinoid on the neck and chest than on your face," Dr. King says.
Whether you just use your face cream a little farther south or choose to invest in a dedicated product for the job, Dr. King says formulas that both moisturize and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin are particularly good choices for the neck. Ahead, nine options made to fight nature's — and tech neck's — gravitational pull, hydrate like crazy, and protect from UV light.