There comes a day when you'll look down and notice fine lines on your decolletage. Later you'll realise they're deepening and not just because you've been sleeping on your side. Once plump even-toned skin will show signs of sun damage or even broken capillaries.
You start wondering if displaying your cleavage will invite comparisons to brassy Coro St barmaid Bet Lynch - all hoisted up with nowhere to go, with only leopard skin for company.
So face up to facts, even if during this winter weather you're more likely to be wrapping up than revealing. But if you want to keep your womanly assets in the most inviting shape now is the time to start taking care of them, so come summer you'll be happy to bust out.
The skin on your neck and chest is fine and fragile and sees a lot of sun, so like the backs of your hands this area is one of the first to give away signs of ageing. Care for it by using sun protection, keeping it hydrated and considering targeted treatments. At the very least get in the habit of smoothing some of your facial moisturiser and sunscreen further down. Be aware that liberally applying perfume can cause pigmentation when sprayed skin is exposed to sunlight, so dab it on discreetly instead.
Any exfoliation of the decolletage should be gentle. If you're unhappy with the skin's appearance you can consider appearance medicine options. IPL can help with redness and pigmentation and fillers can be considered to treat creping if you're needle hardy.
Dr Joanna Romanowska of Clinic 42 says good results can be had using the likes of Restalyne, a filler utilising hyaluronic acid which occurs in the skin naturally and can stimulate collagen production, adding to elasticity and firmness. Treatments aren't cheap though and after six months or so, you may need another.
For something less invasive, a few salons offer special care regimes. One of these is at the Forme chain of day spas, where, as an extension to a facial, a special Bioelements decolletage treatment is offered which left my skin looking smoothed out.
Add on specialised bust and throat creams - the French are big fans of these - and you may see more lasting results.
1 Shiseido White Lucent Brightening Serum for Neck and Decolletage $89
Moisturises while it works to lighten age spots and freckling. This Vitamin C-enriched serum has a creamy gel-like texture that absorbs well. It should be massaged in. Plant extracts are said to help smooth roughness and bring luminosity to the skin.
2 Clarins Bust Beauty Firming Lotion $83
This firming lotion is recommended for use to tone the skin from the base of the breasts to the chin. It contains firming pomegranate extract and hydrating vitamins. The fluid cream has a nice light fragrance and can be used in conjunction with Clarins Bust Beauty Extra-Lift Gel (S92), which has a slight tautening effect. Stockists should also offer complimentary Clarins Bust Beauty Guides for the truly motivated.
3 Bioelements V-Neck Smoothing Creme $139
For use from chest to chin, this light, nourishing cream contains anti-ageing peptides, lighteners and hyraluronic acid. It has an inviting botanical aroma and is lovely to apply. To be used daily under sunscreen and at night and suitable for oily, dry and normal skins.
4 La Mer, the Body Refiner $250
This luxurious, fine-grained exfoliating cream is massaged on to wet skin once or twice a week. Rinse off for a smoother finish if you can afford it.
5 Dermalogica Antioxidant Hydromist $69.30
Moisture is a key need of drying skin and this enriched spray-on mister gives an extra boost to moisturised skin with its mild flash-firming properties. Can also be used to refresh the face or neck and chest during the day, including over makeup. Great in-flight for a quick pep up.
Dermalogica, with its skin mapping analysis and zoned treatments, also offers targeted in-salon advice for the decolletage.
6 Giovanni Hydrate Body Lotion. Cassifleur White Tea $23
There's plenty of nice body lotions out there, but this organic option appeals because it's light enough for delicate areas, contains essential oils, is affordable and comes in a pleasingly shaped bottle that's easy to dispense from.
7 Bobbi Brown All Over Bronzing Gel SPF15 $60
Cheat nature by bringing a youthful even glow to the skin with this gel which comes out of the tube deceptively dark. Designed for the face, its use can easily be extended to even skin tone across the chest so it looks summery all year long. When summer does arrive, ensure you always wear an SPF15 or above not just on your face, but on your decolletage as well, and remember to reapply at lunchtime if you're out flaunting the flesh.
In expert hands
A friendly Floridian gives me a rubdown and confirms what I've started noticing when I glance down. At 40-plus, says Jeff Losito, vertical lines will become evident and skin tone will roughen.
The international trainer for professional skincare company Bioelements, says all is not lost, but I should pay attention to ensure signs of ageing don't become more deeply etched. He prescribes V-Neck Smoothing Creme and says: "Neck creams are too rich for the decollete."
Regular salon treatments are also recommended. I don't have the heart to say I'm not sure I can be bothered with yet another cream and why can't skincare companies just come up with one wonder product. But after a thorough cleansing, a gentle exfoliation and the application of a mask to pump moisture into my clarified chest area - all while towels are judiciously juggled to maintain my modesty - I'm thinking he has a point.
My decolletage looks and feels firmer and it's clear Losito understands women's concerns. When he's not on the road for Chicago-based Bioelements he keeps in touch with consumer needs by working in his own salon in St Petersburg.
He says the best results come to clients who have a therapist who can custom fit their products. It's the most satisfying aspect of his job, which he says has changed over the years from offering a relaxing time to an expectation of visible results.
"When I started in the business it was all about luxury, but now it's considered an essential."
The Decollete Restorer treatment is offered for $29, as an add-on to Bioelements facials at Forme day spas. Viva went to the Parnell spa, Ph 377 9274 or see www.formespa.co.nz.By Janetta Mackay Email Janetta