Leave it to the French to come up with this sophisticated word for the ultra-feminine and sultry sweet spot of a woman's neck, shoulders and chest area. Difficult to pronounce and impossible to ignore, the décolletage has remained a mystery despite necklines revealing more and more over the years on the runways and red carpet. Get the low down on priming one of your greatest assets.
What is it?
The meaning of a decollétage refers to the area exposed when we wear a dramatic, plunging neckline that tantalises what lies beneath! It derives from the French word decolleter, which means "to expose the neck" by removing (de) a woman's collar (collete.)
From Hollywood powerhouse Anne Hathaway at the AmfAR Benefit Gala, to German leader Angela Merkel at the opening of Norway's National Opera House in Oslo, exposed skin from the neck down has these days become a bold statement that can make you the talk of the town–for better or worse!
Décolletage, the Delicate
The beauty industry dazzles us with trendy new products launched seemingly every minute (powdered, drinkable Collagen, anyone?). But while we lather and pamper our faces to perfection, how often do we remember the thin, delicate skin on our necks? How about the skin on our shoulders and chests?
Smooth, supple, even-toned skin on the face gives you enviable confidence. Yet so many of us neglect our décolletage. It's so important to look after your face, neck AND chest!
Dermatologists say the decolletage runs from the bottom of the chin down to the nipple, so it's a broad area to cover. It is a fragile canvas so needs the same amount of attention you'd put into your skincare routine.
Dr Aamer Khan, founder of the Harley Street Skin Clinic and aesthetic practitioner specialising in non-invasive treatments of the face and neck, says he finds it surprising how many women 'neglect' their decolletage.
"I am constantly surprised by how many women we see in our clinic who have neglected their décolletage and think skincare or sun protection stops at the chin."
Here are our tips for keeping your delicate décolletage youthful:
Sleep on it:
If you're a side-sleeper, it might be time to turn your back on the habit - all in the name of beauty! Clinicians suggest sleeping on your back to prevent the slow and steady wrinkling of the thin skin of your decolletage overnight.
Sun Protection: The Basics
Let's start with the basics, and it doesn't get more simple than the ole '80's advertising jingle: Slip. Slop. Slap. Sun protection forms the backbone of excellent skin care. The sun is a friend and a foe. Exposure to sun triggers our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which is essential to keep the bones healthy. We also get a little boost of endorphins from soaking up that healthy golden light.
But as with all good things, moderation is key. Exposure to harmful, dehydrating and damaging UV rays for long periods makes you susceptible to skin cancer and skin aging. Neglecting sun protection leaves you vulnerable, even if you're diligent about everything else.
Preventing Sun Damage
Always remember to put on enough sunscreen, no matter the weather and no matter where you go. Foundation or makeup with SPF isn't good enough for coverage.
According to the Cancer Council of Australia, sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before UV exposure and reapplied at least every two hours. However if you swim, sweat, or dry with a towel, you should immediately reapply.
The 5mL Rule
That tells us how often, but not how much. The Cancer Council of Australia advices:
"For an adult, the recommended application is 5mL (approximately one teaspoon) for each arm, leg, body front, body back and face (including neck and ears). That equates to a total of 35mL (approximately seven teaspoons) for a full body application."
The sun emits UVA and UVB, two types of ultraviolet radiation that you need to protect yourself from. For protection from both, look for the words "broad spectrum."
Natio Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50+
(AUD 17 for 100 mL)
Anti-Aging: A Race Against the Clock
On the décolletage in particular, two of the major concerns are sagging and the appearance of vertical wrinkles on the chest. Both problems come from the body's quickly diminishing supply of collagen and elastin.
"Collagen and elastin are fibers that make up the supporting structure of the skin. Collagen gives skin its firmness while elastin keeps skin tight. Both of these fibers are plentiful in young skin and start to break down with natural aging and as a result of sun exposure," explains LA-based dermatologist Dr. Patricia Farris.
An article on skin anti-ageing strategies in the journal 'Dermato-Endochrinology' sheds light on the collagen conundrum:
"There are two main groups of agents that can be used as anti-aging cream components, the antioxidants and the cell regulators. The antioxidants, such as vitamins, polyphenols and flavonoids, reduce collagen degradation by reducing the concentration of FR in the tissues. Thecell regulators, such as retinols, peptides and growth factors (GF), have direct effects on collagen metabolism and influence collagen production."
Bounce Back with Niacinamide
Here's a superstar: Niacinamide. It reduces hyperpigmentation (dark spots and discolouration), reduces fine lines and wrinkles, and hydrates the skin.
The dermatology industry tells us: "Niacinamide (vitamin B3) regulates cell metabolism and regeneration, and it is used in 5% concentration as an anti-aging agent. In some studies, improvement of skin elasticity, erythema and pigmentations after 3 months of topical treatment has been observed.
SkinCeuticals metcall renewal
(AUD 158 for 50mL)
Stay Smooth with Vitamins C and E
Décolletage treatment does not end at stopping wrinkles and sagging. A healthy texture is very important in maintaining youth. Thank goodness we can count on vitamins C and E!
Vitamin C induces the production on collagen. Vitamin E smooths the skin and improves its ability to maintain humidity.  Use a product with a combination of Vitamins E and C because this results in greater antioxidative protection than one or the other vitamin on its own.
Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster (0.67 fl oz.)
(AUD 69 for 20mL)
Soothe with Honey
While a blushing glow may turn heads, redness and irritation aren't welcome on any woman's décolletage. Stay hydrated and free from irritation and redness with a moisturising mask that works as you sleep.
For beautiful skin as smooth as honey, we recommend:
COSRX Ultimate Honey Overnight Mask
(AUD 18 for 60mL)
This lightweight wash-off mask leaves no traces on your pillow! In addition to its moisturising effects, this product has 85% bee propolis extract that reduces inflammation, leaving you with a healthy, glowing complexion.
Whether you prefer to stay buttoned-up, or display your décolletage to the world, maintaining beautiful skin on your neck and chest requires a diligent commitment to self-care. The good news is that this habit makes for a relaxing experience, as it involves a lot of massaging nature's goodness into your chest!
Homage to the Décolletage
To celebrate the power of a healthy décolletage, we can thank these beautiful ladies who inspire us with their confidence and youthful glow: