Summer Skin Care

I’m a Derm, and You Should Be Washing Your Neck—Not Just Your Face

Tehrene Firman

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You’re religious about washing your face: gentle cleanser, lukewarm water, twice a day. But a solid skincare routine should involve washing your neck, too. Washing your neck outside the shower isn’t a thing for many people, and derms want to change that ASAP. I mean, think about all the makeup that gets down there—even if it’s just fallout from all your powders.

“Many women use makeup on their necks to blend with the rest of their face. Because the neck has oil glands just like the rest of the face, it’s also subject to breakouts,” says Gretchen Frieling, MD, a Boston-based triple board-certified dermatopathologist.

When you don’t wash your neck, breakouts are the least of your problems. “When people don’t cleanse their neck, they tend to get ‘dark neck,'” Dr. Frieling says. Aka dermatitis neglecta, a condition where things like makeup, sweat, dirt, and bacteria build up on your neck, causing the skin to become a shade or two darker than your face. To keep your neck skin just as healthy as your face, make sure you’re sticking to a proper skincare routine that benefits both.

How to wash your neck like a pro

To make sure you’re properly washing your neck, steal this skincare routine straight from Dr. Frieling.

step 1: Cleanse

  • Cleanse your neck with a cleansing milk or gentle cleanser a few times a week to make sure there’s no skin or dirt build-up.
  • You can also use a gentle toner and a cotton ball to take off the grime, dirt, and leftover makeup that still might remain.

step 2: Exfoliate

  • Exfoliate your neck once a week to remove old skin from the surface. You can make things easy for yourself by just exfoliating your face and neck in the shower at the same time.
  • An easy homemade scrub you can whip up in no time is brown sugar, a tiny splash of lemon, and a teaspoon bit of honey. Gently massage it into your skin to slough off any dead skin cells, then rinse off thoroughly. Lemon has a naturally brightening effect, which can help diminish the appearance of dark skin.

Pro tip: While you’re taking these steps, don’t just pay attention to the part of your neck you can see. Make sure you’re giving the back of your neck equal attention. I teach my patients to use their hands and massage from the midline of the face down and include the neck. This stimulates the skin’s inner cleaning system, also known as the lymphatic system.

Step 3: Moisturize

  • Moisturize your neck in the same manner you moisturize your face. Make it a habit by not stopping at your chin and continuing to work your way down.

Step 4: Slather on SPF

  • So many people forget to protect their neck by applying SPF, which makes no sense. Just like your face, your neck is exposed to the environmental pollutants and chemicals all day long. If you have a young-looking face but an aged neck, it’s a dead giveaway.

Here’s what a dermatologist’s skin-care routine looks like:

Almost 40 percent of people still have this major misconception when it comes to washing their faces. Also, find out why the face washes that get you the most skin compliments share one common ingredient. 

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