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Can I Tighten My Saggy Neck Without Surgery?

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

Dear Beauty Editor,

What are the best treatments to treat turkey neck? I want to do something about it before it’s too late and my skin hangs, and I also want to avoid surgery if possible. Is threading a good option?

I salute your proactive approach, Ruth! The best time to do something about an age-related skin issue that bothers you is as soon as you notice it. And you can indeed stave off turkey neck (and plastic surgery) with the help of topical skin care and noninvasive cosmetic treatments like thread lifts. But no matter what route you go, you’ll need to visit a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon to have them examine your skin and facial structure to determine which treatment is the best option. So while you contemplate making that doctor’s appointment, let me give you some background on what’s happening to your neck and lay out your options, including a few neck creams that really work.

As I’m sure you know, “turkey neck” is not an official diagnosis. Here’s what’s happening to your skin, according to board-certified dermatologist Camille Howard-Verović: “Over time, the skin on the neck may become thinner, and the underlying fat and tissue may start to descend and create a noticeable drooping or sagging appearance,” she says. In addition, as we age, muscles weaken and skin loses its elasticity (a.k.a. the bounce-back factor), which causes some people to develop a turkey-esque wattle.

If your skin is still relatively taut, then limit your exposure to UV light as much as possible (by wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen) and start using a skin-firming product ASAP. Neck creams may not be able to fix turkey neck, but they can postpone its appearance, according to Howard-Verović. She recommends Neostrata Triple Firming Neck Cream, which features the ingredient neoglucosamine. “Studies suggest glucosamine helps your skin to create natural hyaluronic acid, and some studies suggest that it may improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” she says. And the more hydrated and less wrinkly your skin is, the less it resembles a wattle.

Board-certified dermatologist Blair Murphy-Rose is also a proponent of topical skin care, including neck creams, but she says many moisturizers and serums designed for your face work just as well on your neck so long as they have the right ingredients. For her, “the gold standard is the retinol family and vitamin A derivatives that stimulate collagen production and help to fight hyperpigmentation.” She recommends Skinbetter Science Techno Neck Perfecting Cream, Alastin Restorative Neck Complex, and RoC Multi Correxion Crépe Repair Face and Neck Cream.

Once you’ve made a habit of applying sunscreen and skin-care products, the next step is to talk to a doctor about the noninvasive treatment options. You mentioned “threading,” or a thread lift, which is when a doctor makes small incisions in your face or neck and uses a cannula to insert dissolvable, barbed polydioxanone (PDO) threads beneath your skin to lift and tighten it. (I’ve watched a doctor perform the procedure, and the results are impressive and immediate — you can see the skin lift up and catch on the dissolvable barbs, tightening in the process.) In the months following the procedure, your body responds to this “injury” by pumping out collagen that may help to keep the skin taut after the threads dissolve (which takes four to six months). But Howard-Verović says you need to talk to a doctor to see if you’re a candidate for the procedure, because it depends on numerous factors, including how lax your skin is now. The results of a thread lift can last one to three years, but some patients lose the tightening effect within a year or even sooner. Something else to factor in: Getting a thread lift for your neck or jawline can cost $1,800 or more, according to RealSelf.

Another reason to talk to a doctor? Threading isn’t the only noninvasive treatment option. Murphy-Rose says fractional laser resurfacing, microneedling with radiofrequency, ultrasound, or some combination thereof, could be more beneficial depending on your skin laxity. She thinks one of the best ways to prevent turkey neck is Sofwave, an in-office device that stimulates collagen production. “It uses high-frequency ultrasound technology to heat tissue just below the surface of the skin leading to tightening and powerful stimulation of collagen production that improves the quality of skin, reduces laxity, and helps to ward off signs of aging,” she explains. The tightening results of Sofwave last up to a year and cost about $2,000, according to RealSelf.

Since you have so many options, my suggestion would be to book a consultation with a cosmetic dermatologist and a plastic surgeon now. Explain your concerns and ask them to lay out all your choices. Then think about the cost over time — and ask the doctors to be real with you about that, too. The average cost of a neck lift is about $6,000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, but once you include anesthesia, an operating room, and other costs, you’re looking at at least $10,000. That’s a lot of money, but if you get several cosmetic procedures — buying you five, or maybe even ten, years before the skin is so saggy that plastic surgery is the only option — it might be worth saving your money now and putting it toward plastic surgery down the line.

Let’s be clear: I am not pushing you to get surgery — or to get any of these treatments! I may have lost you way back at “dissolvable barbs,” and you could be over on happily adding neck creams to your cart. If that’s the case, I get it! I just think a lot of people underestimate the risks and costs of noninvasive treatments, and it’s smart to consider cosmetic procedures in tandem with surgical options. If you’re going to be proactive about maintaining your skin and appearance as you age, you might as well go all in on your research and think about the risks (mental and physical), rewards (also mental and physical), and costs of all the options before the situation feels overwhelming and you’re making a rushed decision. No matter what you decide, I’m supportive — unless you choose to skip the sunscreen. That one’s nonnegotiable.

The Best Neck Creams

Dermatologist approved for preventing turkey neck.

Jennifer Sullivan answers all your beauty-related questions with practical advice and zero judgment. Send your questions to (By emailing, you agree to the terms here.)

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Can I Tighten My Saggy Neck Without Surgery?