Ladies, Get It Off Your Chest

Décolleté

“No Woman’s Land”

As I was completing a series of very successful treatments on a patient’s face recently, I asked her if she had any other concerns.  She replied, “I hate my chest!  Thank God this is winter and I can wear a turtleneck and a scarf!”.

The upper part of a woman’s chest just below the collarbones is known as décolleté, which is French for “without a collar”.  This area of skin is very delicate as it is thinner, has fewer glands, and less collagen than the face.  Décolleté is also prone to effects of hormone fluctuations as well as muscle atrophy that occurs with aging.

Plus, this area is exposed to environmental effects, particularly the sun, and many women tend to frequently overlook the area when applying any sort of skin product, especially sunscreen.  Because facial products don’t make it down there and body products don’t make it up there, many aestheticians and dermatologists refer to this area as a “no woman’s land”.

In addition to being completely untreated, the delicate skin of the upper chest is subject to the effects of body positioning.  Sleeping on one side, for example, can produce vertical wrinkling in this area of delicate skin.

However, don’t worry ladies; there is hope.  Prevention is the number one most effective approach to preventing décolleté damage.  Anytime this area is exposed to the environment, it needs to be protected with sunscreen.

Additionally, during the winter when the skin is not exposed, moisturizing this dry area is extremely important.  Applying a moisturizer to the damp skin after showering will help, especially if the moisturizer is gently massaged into the skin.

For those of you who already have damage done to that area, all hope is fortunately not lost for you either.  Many laser techniques that I use on the face can also be used on the upper chest area.

When there are darkened areas such as “sun or age spots”, these can be lightened and cleared over a series of treatments.  Broken blood vessels and capillaries can also be treated in a similar fashion with laser.

When more extensive upper chest damage is present, including wrinkling, more aggressive therapy with fractional skin resurfacing such as Fraxel may be necessary.  Although Fraxel is more intensive and does require additional recovery time, it is best suited to treat this fragile area and eventually restore the skin to a more youthful appearance.

In summary, as always, prevention is the key, especially to a delicate area such as the upper chest.  When this area is exposed to the sun, always use sunblock.

In the dry winter air,  moisturizing is also very important.  But have no fear, when damage has been done, many tools are available to treat and restore this area.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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