While the neck is technically not part of the face, it does makes a very important contribution to one’s appearance. A sharp neckline helps highlight the jawline and makes a clear transition between the two. When the neck is too full or hangs downward, it may be the result of too much fat, loose or saggy skin or a combination of both.
How to reshape the unsightly neck requires an understanding of why it is that way. As a general rule, a younger patient’s neck has more fat than skin. Conversely, older patients usually have more loose skin than fat…and skin that may have lost much of its elasticity.
Many neck contouring treatments are touted that range from non-surgical energy therapies to actual surgery such as liposuction and necklifts. The degree of effectiveness of any of these neck procedures depends on how well the treatment changes the amount of fat in the neck, tightens the skin or preferably does some of both. When the patient’s problem matches what the treatment does best, an improved neck shape will occur. If not, results will be poor.
One effective neck contouring treatment is liposuction. As the only known treatment method that can remove fat, it is no surprise that it is a part of almost any surgical neck procedure. A basic principle of liposuction is that the skin must contract afterwards. Part of its reshaping effects relies on the skin shrinking down to the slimmed down neck. What is unique in neck liposuction is that the skin must actually shrink upward.
While traditional liposuction does not have any direct effects on creating skin tightening, that has changed with the use of Smartlipo or laser liposuction. The heat created by the melting of fat and the ability to directly treat the underside of the skin with the laser energy creates better skin retraction and some degree of actual skin tightening.
Smartlipo has been and remains my preferred technique when liposuction of the neck is done as a stand alone procedure. When used in younger patients with fuller fatty necks, good skin retraction and reshaping can be seen. It is very common for the neck to feel very firm for weeks afterwards. This is a temporary skin effect that takes a month or two to soften and go away.
In older patients with significant skin sagging, the tightening effects of Smartlipo are limited due to the amount and quality of the skin. When requested to do it in a few patients who refused any other form of surgery, I have seen a few impressive neck reshaping results. But I do not consider it the treatment of choice in the older neck and patients should temper their expectations accordingly. Its benefits are also obviated when liposuction is done as part of a face or necklift where skin undermining and flap repositioning are far more effective methods for neck reshaping.
Dr. Barry Eppley