I’ve written about my mom more than a few times, and just about every time I have, I get requests from readers for her to share her beauty tips. I did a post like this, featuring Mama Bella’s top five beauty tips. I still love number 5, and I try my best to live by it!

So in the spirit of celebrating Mama Bella and sharing the tips she has to impart, here’s the beginning of a new series. How long will it last? As long as she wants it to! Mama Bella Says is all about the beauty and health tips that have kept my mom looking gorgeous as she grows older.

So… how old is she? I know it isn’t right to discuss or disclose women’s ages, but I asked my mom if I could share this detail with the world. And she was as forthcoming as I knew she’d be.

“Honey, I’ll be 70 in September. I’ve never lied about my age, and I don’t plan to start now,” she replied.

So bellas — this is what almost-70 can look like if you take good care of yourself. And please note – my mom has never had plastic surgery or any injectable beauty treatments. (Not that she wouldn’t, she just never has). This is what drinking water, taking amazing care of yourself, fancy skin care products, and enjoying life’s little pleasures can do.

My mom has always drilled me about my neck. “Did you scrub the back of your neck?” “Patrice, your neck!” “And did you clean your neck today?” All through high school. Super annoying, as you can probably imagine.

However, the reasons she harped on this particular aspect of my appearance were twofold.

1. In all honesty, the back of my neck is kind of dirty. Always has been. And when I was younger, I didn’t give two hoots about how it looked. Now that I’m older, my hair is shorter, and I don’t wear a collared uniform shirt every day like I did in high school… I’m even more aware that I gotta take care of it.

2. Taking good care of her neck has been one of those invaluable beauty secrets my mother has always taken to heart. And she’s a smart lady for that — few body parts show age more vividly than the neck and the decolletage. The skin there is thin and delicate, and wrinkles easily with the passage of time. It’s one of the areas of the body that are the most difficult to cosmetically enhance. Yes, you can get a neck lift, but wouldn’t you rather not?

Don’t make me feel bad, bellas — I know I’m not the only person of color with the dirty neck phenomenon. I notice it often here in Florida, and back in the day in Trinidad, there was a laundry detergent commercial that referred to the condition of “tropical collar,” meaning a shirt collar lined with dirt from constant neck-contact. So at least I know I’m not alone, but still — what’s a bella to do?

For years, my mom has meticulously cleaned the back of her neck with rubbing alcohol. The harshest cleaning agent possible. I am not a fan.

But apparently her idea isn’t totally crazy — it is one of Gomestic’s 12 excellent uses for rubbing alcohol — right alongside cleaning your shoes, mirrors, and phones with it!

I can’t really stand the smell of the stuff, but Mama Bella swears by old-school astringents like menthylated spirits to clean her skin. Not every day, mind you — just once a week. I’ve tried her method, and discovered what works for her doesn’t necessarily work for me. For my neck dilemma, the one thing that’s really helped is regular exfoliation.

I love a good scrubby scrub, and some of the best neck stuff I’ve tried includes good ol’ St. Ives’ Apricot Scrub and Lush Ocean Salt scrub. LOVE that stuff, and it makes my skin feel super refreshed but not stripped. But these days I’ve been using a super-cheap dollar store version of an exfoliating shower towel. Use a liberal dab of your favorite moisturizing body wash of choice (say, Olay with Spa Exfoliating Ribbons or Softsoap with Shea Butter), and you’ll get great results.

I’ve even started taking Mama Bella’s advice on using a good moisturizer on my neck — I tend to use the really thick creams that really penetrate the skin, like Liz Earle’s Superskin Moisturizer (which kind of smells like castor oil, but moisturizes like crazy), or Olay Definity Night Restorative Sleep Cream, which promises to eventually alleviate discoloration, dullness and brown spots. I’ve been using it for a few months now and I gotta say, I still have some brown spots… but I do think they’re a little lighter. And this Olay blend leaves my skin super soft. Is it worth $25? I’m not 100% sold yet. I’ll keep you posted.

Beautifully aging bellas like my mama might want to reach for a product meant to target the neck’s delicate skin and specific aging issues with a product like Perricone’s firming neck therapy, which comes as part of the Beautyfix member package.

My mom loves Strivectin for her face and hands, so the Strivectin Neck Cream might be the kind of product she’s been looking for.

Thanks to her constant harping on this beauty issue, this bella’s learned her lesson relatively early. I’m taking extra care of my neck now, because I want to stave off those telltale signs of age for as long as I can.

What about you, bellas? Do you have any particular necky concerns? How’s about a question for Mama Bella? Fire away in the comments!

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jennifer says:
February 2, 2009, 12:05 am
Your mom is almost 70!!!! Girl, I woulda gave her at least 50!!!
Shell says:
February 2, 2009, 2:15 am
Reading about the dirty neck made me laugh. My mom was always on me about making sure my neck looked clean. It was annoying when I was younger. As I got older, when I saw the back of some people's neck, I was glad mom made me wash extra careful. Your mom looks gorgeous. I'm going to take your mom's tips on taking care of my neck and hands.
T.T. says:
February 2, 2009, 1:48 am
Mama Bella is GORGEOUS!!!!!!! Keep it up Mama!!!!
Sincerely says:
February 2, 2009, 6:39 am
wow your mum looks amazing!
sungoddess says:
February 2, 2009, 7:27 am
I just wanted to add a few to the list of possible cleansers, especially for us in the Caribbean who don't access to some of the stuff you listed. 1) Witch Hazel (EXCELLENT STUFF! Every civilised house needs a bottle) 2) Limacol (also excellent for lifting dirt and oil from the back of your neck. 3) Bay rum - this is my favourite, because I have a whole lot of nostalgia wrapped up in the smell of bay rum.... Your mother made you clean your neck, it was my grandmother... she would grip me in one arm, and scrub with bay rum or limacol until she was satisfied. LMAO!
African Bella says:
February 2, 2009, 8:48 am
The neck really is the first place to show signs of aging or abuse. Have you ever seen someone who has bleached her skin for years? Believe me, her neck will be 30 years older than her chronological age. Speaking of necks... I'm going to scrub mine with St Ives Apricot scrub. Thanks for the tip Afrobella!
StPatJack says:
February 2, 2009, 9:39 am
I love your mama, b/c cleaning my daughter's dirty neck is an OBSESSION for me too. I have always been into the finer details of hygiene,i.e. nails the same length, clean ears, deep moisturizing of the neck and chest ( can't stand a beautiful mature lady with a great face and a beat up leather bag for a chest...YUCK), etc. I will definately have my baby girl check out this post to let her know I am not only one that insists on a clean neck. LOL!
Wes says:
February 2, 2009, 10:11 am
Wow, your mom is GORGEOUS!!! Great post- Thanx Mama Bella!
Dad says:
February 2, 2009, 10:26 am
I think your mom forgot to add one thing......... a good husband. Doh doubt dat
zen says:
February 2, 2009, 11:53 am
It's not just a Caribbean thing. We had a commercial back in the day, for a detergent that got rid of "ring around the collar." Thanks for the awesome tips!
Rae says:
February 2, 2009, 11:54 am
Love Mama Bella!! She is truly beautiful and gorgeous!! I love Papa Bella's comment too!! LOL...too sweet
Tiffany says:
February 2, 2009, 12:58 pm
Your mom is beautiful and aging well.
Mecca says:
February 2, 2009, 1:01 pm
Your mom is absolutely gorgeous! I can't believe she is anywhere near 70! Just keep posting her beauty regiment for the rest of us!
TJ says:
February 2, 2009, 1:14 pm
Your mom looks fantastic!
NiKita W (www.theb-spot.com) says:
February 2, 2009, 2:06 pm
Wow, Momma Bella is fabulous! What are her secrets because that is how I want to be when I grow up!!!!!!!
Laquita says:
February 2, 2009, 3:45 pm
WoW - your mother is beautiful :o) Great advice. I'm taking notes...so I can look as good when I'm 70.
SDG says:
February 2, 2009, 4:16 pm
wow! She looks amazing. I have 30 more years to go and I want to be her when I grow up. Wonderful advice.
Gem says:
February 2, 2009, 4:17 pm
This was a wonderful post and a wonderful idea (Mama Bella beauty tips).
Toneah says:
February 2, 2009, 6:30 pm
Your mum looks fantastic. I too had a mother who always got on me about my neck. With her sing-song Trini accent say "Just go wash it." **chuckle** These days I use Tea Tree Oil Facial Cleansing Pad by Desert Essence (from Whole Foods). This stuff works great and cost under five bucks. My face is too sensitive for it, but it works great on the back of my neck. Only prob with it is my SO hates the smell so I have to rinse after I use it.
successfulgal says:
February 2, 2009, 6:55 pm
Your Mom is so, so beautiful! She is fierce, very elegant and has a gorgeous face! I am speechless!
Starchild says:
February 2, 2009, 8:44 pm
Mama Bella is absolutely bellisima! I do the St. Ives scrub on the neck in the shower, and then swipe with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol every day and evening. If it helps me to look as good as Mama Bella, then I will never stop! :-)
kiki says:
February 2, 2009, 8:46 pm
you know we all love your mamma!!!
Jamila says:
February 2, 2009, 10:00 pm
Your mom looks like my mom. BEAUTIFUL! People still ask me if she's my sister! But i can agree with the Witch Hazel CANT live without it!
MoniMoni says:
February 2, 2009, 11:08 pm
I agree with Witch Hazel, and I agree about the neck...Have you seen Susan Lucci and Joan Rivers? Faces tight and necks look like road maps. I use either shea butter/ponds cold cream/cocoa butter on face and neck every night. So far so good! People always say I look 24 not 42. Thanks mommy and grandma! :)
Veronica says:
February 3, 2009, 12:48 pm
I just went back and read Rule #5... I think we ALL need that in a little frame somewhere. Mama Bella rocks!
Ms. Beans says:
February 3, 2009, 1:52 pm
I love your new site and your mother looks wonderful and beautiful!!! That is what taking care of yourself does!! :) I too trouble with the "dirty" neck condition growing up as a child. I would scrub my neck do hard til it hurt. I later realize that the "dirty" neck is really not dirt but instead it might be a condition named Acanthosis Nigricans. See Link:http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic_diseases/acanthosis_nigrica.html Anyway, I started taking better of myself and loss some weight and the my "dirty" neck started to clear up(still in process :) ). Bella, I do not know if you are referring to the same "dirty" neck as me (I'm talking about the discoloration of the neck area). Great Post!
Denise says:
February 3, 2009, 6:04 pm
Love the post as usual. Your Mom looks awesome. 'Bella- Witch Hazel is good, or if you want something thta includes withch hazel along with our natural stuff you can get Aubrey Organic's Rosa Mosqueta facial toner. It works well. http://www.vitacost.com/Aubrey-Organics-Rosa-Mosqueta-Facial-Toner
Aisha says:
February 3, 2009, 7:21 pm
This post made me laugh out loud. Thanks for the great tips.
nyc/caribbean ragazza says:
February 5, 2009, 3:33 am
bella your mom is bella as well. the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. :)
pippy97 says:
February 6, 2009, 7:36 am
your mom is absolutely gorgeous
Lillybeth09 says:
February 7, 2009, 10:16 am
My great-grandmother died at 88 and did not have one wrinkle on her skin. Her secret was olive oil and Oil of Olay.
Demi says:
February 10, 2009, 3:04 pm
My mom had us use rubbing alcohol to clean our necks too!!! I still do it from time to time. The smell is not nice but it works. I just moisturize right after. Thanks for the tips. You mom is FAB-U-LOUS! Thanks for sharing!!!
T says:
March 13, 2010, 1:06 pm
Great post. My mom alwyas told me about my neck area and Ive known about alcohol like foreverand Im only 27 lol. I dont know why those harsher products clean so well. Also like my mom and many of the women in my family they look all 20 and 30 years younger than they are and wouldnt dream of botox(dont need it). Ah melanin what an awesome thing!
Rene says:
February 1, 2011, 10:24 pm
Where can I get Limacol?
Rene says:
February 1, 2011, 10:26 pm
I agree with you StPATJack. My daughter is 10 and her neck makes me want to scrub it with ajax or something. I know thats not the right stuff but my gosh.
Karla says:
March 27, 2012, 1:47 pm
I'm looking for answers if anyone can PLEASE HELP ME :( i am 25 years old and have the dirty neck effect and i am olive skinned.. It is so embarassing, i am so paranoid about my neck i am always hiding it by pulling up my shirt :/ I don't know what will work but does anyone know if the strivectin neck cream is effective for it?? I really wanna be more confident especially im the summer time :(
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Nike Linds says:
October 4, 2016, 7:39 am
Thank you for this article! I love it and will be trying some of your suggestions :) You talked about getting rid of a "dirty neck", but do you have any advice for getting rid of dark armpits? I shave regularly and scrub the area, but it still remains darker than the rest of my skin. Any help??