Like many words, when said in French, they take on an elegance that is sometimes lost in the English translation. Décolleté or ‘décolletage’, used to describe the area of skin that is on display when wearing a low-cut top, is perhaps, one such example.
Except for our faces, our chest and neck, is the area of skin, most susceptible to the formation of wrinkles. This in part is because the ‘thin’ skin, which covers most our body and is between 0.07 and 0.15mm deep, is particularly thin and delicate on our décolletage. ‘Thick’ skin, which is up to 1.5mm and found on the palms of our hands and soles of our feet on the other hand, is far more robust and virtually wrinkle-free.
When this innate delicacy is combined with its position on our bodies, which means that it is frequently exposed to sunlight, it is easier to understand its susceptibility to both fine and deeper wrinkles. In addition, it is prone as well, to pigmented sunspots and sometimes the development of stretchmarks after pregnancy, breast feeding or even through cycling patterns of weight gains and losses.
As with everything in our lives, the extent to which our decolletage is affected by such environmentally and naturally induced changes is in part determined by our genes, which dictates our own unique skin texture and tone, colour, and structure.
It is good to know however that whatever our genetic predisposition, our age, and its current condition, we can all help to prevent further damage to our decolletage, as well as repair some that has already occurred by adopting some simple beauty routines, moving forward. Looking after your decolletage is all about daily routine. The small changes that you make to protect and repair it now, will help to keep it looking and feeling firm and radiant in the months and years to come.
Protecting moisture levels
Replacing cleansers containing harsh solvents and detergents for gentle versions using natural ingredients that clean while they nourish and repair, can help to retain moisture in the epidermis, the top layer of the skin of our decolletage.
Meanwhile, eating foods providing omega 3 and 6 fats like salmon; olive, rape, flax, and walnut oils can also help to maintain hydration in this upper most layer of skin from the inside out.
The retention of water helps our skin to appear less ‘strained’, dehydrated, and lined.
Protecting against sun damage
Using, a good quality sun protection cream with a high sun protection factor, each day, can meanwhile, help to shield our décolletage from damage by ultraviolet (UV) rays. Left unprotected, UV rays trigger production of free radicals, which collide with collagen fibres in the middle layer of skin, known as the ‘dermis’. Collagen hardens and becomes tangled as a result, leading to the delicate skin on our decolletage losing its elasticity and becoming prone to wrinkling.
Use of an effective sun protection cream on our decolletage can be enhanced by applying creams and serums containing antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E along with hibiscus extracts. These antioxidants grab hold of ‘free radicals’ and help to render them harmless and in effect, protecting our collagen.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants enhances this protection, from the inside out. Apricots and green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and berries are all packed with these protective compounds. So too are nuts, seeds, wholegrains and again, hibiscus, which provide a plethora of colourful orange, red and yellow antioxidant pigments that combine to defend collagen from free radical damage.
Protecting collagen against sugar damage
Collagen can be physically disrupted not only by the action of UV rays, but by eating refined carbohydrates and sugar-rich foods, by causing surges in blood sugar. This triggers a chain reaction in our skin, culminating in collagen fibres clumping together, thickening, and again making skin more prone to wrinkles and lines. Replacing white bread, refined breakfast cereals and rice with wholegrain versions and cakes, biscuits, puddings and sweets with nuts, seeds, fruits, and natural yoghurt can balance blood sugars while also packing in skin-friendly nutrients that further promote collagen health.
Protecting our collagen from damage is one essential element of decolletage care but so too is helping our skin to produce more, good quality collagen day by day. For this, our bodies need an adequate supply of protein-rich foods in our meals and snacks. Pulses, nuts, and seeds along with soya milk and yoghurts, dairy, fish, eggs, poultry, and lean red meats, all provide this.
Specific proteins in peas appear to stimulate cells in our skin called fibroblasts responsible for making collagen as do extracts of the herb Centella Asiatica and hibiscus. Collagen production also requires plenty of vitamin C which we can eat in citrus fruits, berries and green leafy vegetables and peppers and apply externally in serums and creams.
In addition, levels of the hormone oestrogen play a vital role in collagen production in our skin. It is vital for stimulating the fibroblast cells that make collagen and as levels fall in our skin, its elasticity is reduced, dryness increases, and wrinkling becomes more obvious.
Oestrogen levels in women’s bodies begin to decline from our mid 30’s onwards. Bolstering with plant compounds called isoflavones that have oestrogen-like activity, may be helpful. Isoflavones can be found in soya and therefore soy milk, tofu and tempeh made from soybeans. They are also present in extracts of the African herb kigelia, which has been applied to the skin and used for centuries as a traditional beauty aid. It can be found in specialist creams and serums to help improve skin firmness.
Maintaining skin plumpness
Lying between collagen fibres are spongy cells that give the middle layer of our skin its softness. Present even in the very thin skin on our decolletage, they need the trace mineral silica found in green beans, honeydew melon and oats, to keep them healthy.
A water-loving compound called ‘hyaluronic acid’ is also present in this layer of our skin. By attracting water molecules, a good level of hyaluronic acid can effectively plump our skin up and help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid can be applied to our skin within serums and creams.
The hormone oestrogen has a further plumping-role to play making plant isoflavones and extracts of herbs such as kigelia, great additions to our décolletage beauty regime.
Evening out skin tone and sunspots
It is vital to consult your doctor if you are aware of any freckles or moles that have changed shape or concern you on your decolletage, or elsewhere on your body to rule out skin cancer. If all is well, then it can be worth looking into natural ways of toning down and evening out the appearance of age spots.
Research indicates that natural ingredients such as vitamin C, the super nutrient called ‘ellagic acid’ found in pomegranates and papaya, ‘arbutin’ in blueberries and raspberries and the B vitamin niacinimide can help achieve this goal.
Registered Nutritionist AFN
PG Dip Dietetics,
Associateship King's College (AKC)