Tech neck and Zoom dysmorphia are real—but they don't have to be a pain in the neck.

By Jennifer Benjamin
February 19, 2021
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When WFH life first began, I was a bit taken aback by my own Zoom reflection. Aside from the occasional look-over in the mirror, I normally didn't stare at myself for that long—let alone for hours at a time. Then, as weeks turned into months turned into forever, and I was forced to spend extended periods of time looking at my own face, all of my flaws got thrown into sharp focus.

Apparently, it's not just me. This "do I really look like that?" phenomenon has been dubbed "Zoom dysmorphia," because, while it's not what you look like IRL, it is what you look like in the breakout room. 

While most of my trouble spots have been easy to disguise with makeup and lighting, my neck area is still an issue. "We use the phrase 'tech neck' to describe the creping, sagging, and wrinkling of the skin around our neck and décolletage that is exacerbated simply by our positioning when we're using our phones and computers," explains Michele Green, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "When we are constantly bending the neck to look down at our various devices, we are unwittingly contributing to the deepening of the lines around our necks and advancing the aging process in the area." 

Credit: Getty Images

And when you're spending hours on Zoom, it's tough to ignore. "While you can play up your eyes and lips with makeup, and frame your face with your hair, it's harder to hide your neck, which is on full display," explains Jessica Wu, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in Los Angeles, Calif. "Also, if there's bad lighting that casts shadows, any small creases are magnified and look worse than they do in real life." (Hot tip: A quick fix is just to use a laptop stand or tripod for your phone, so that you're looking up at the camera, rather than tilting your chin down.) 

If you tend to stare down at screens often, your neck skin might need something extra. Cosmetic dermatologists have been targeting tech neck with various in-office treatments for years. Fillers like Botox or RHA 2 are used to fill in the horizontal lines and relax the neck muscle, and Kybella injections can permanently dissolve a double chin. There are also laser skin resurfacing treatments like Fraxel and radiofrequency treatments like Thermage, both of which are used to stimulate collagen production, which smooths fine lines and reduces the appearance of wrinkling after one treatment. 

To take care of the problem area at home—which is simpler and more budget-friendly—you'll want to look for OTC products that increase elasticity and boost hydration. "The thin, delicate nature of the skin on your neck makes it especially susceptible to loss of collagen and elastin," says Dr. Wu. "Also, neck skin lacks oil glands, which is why it often looks dry and crepey, so a rich neck cream or oil is essential." 

Below, a few expert-approved products to try: 

1

$52, ulta.com

Retinol is essential for boosting cell turnover, and this clean formula uses picão preto (a plant-based retinol alternative) to gently smooth the skin on your neck, reducing the likelihood of a red, flaky reaction. It also contains peptides and hyaluronic acid to boost hydration in this notoriously dry-skinned trouble spot. 

2

$23, walmart.com

The anti-aging brand once again delivers with this rich formula, packed with super-hydrating peptides and moisturizing extracts that plump up the dry, sagging skin on the neck. One application will keep the delicate skin thirst-quenched for 24 hours. 

3

$85, michelegreenmd.com

This twice-a-day formula from Dr. Green improves the elasticity of the skin on the neck, as well as lifts and minimizes the horizontal fine lines. Essentially a superfood cocktail for your skin, it hydrates and repairs with moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, antioxidants like caprylic, brightening agents like niacinamide, and skin-tightening caffeine

4

$134, amazon.com 

Using patented technology that works to balance the skin’s microbiome, this Amazon favorite is formulated with eight different peptides for plumping, as well as antioxidants that enhance and brighten the skin’s appearance. 

5

$52, sephora.com

With collagen, elastin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, this rich cream helps to smooth out the creases and fine lines while also preventing the delicate skin from future damage. 

6

$94, amazon.com 

Recently reformulated, this award-winning advanced neck cream uses the Gravitite-CF Lifting Complex to tighten the skin, minimizing creasing and reducing sagging. It also contains brightening ingredients that will improve the appearance of sun damage on your decolletage.