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What is Ozempic Face and how can I avoid it?

1 min Read

Weight loss medications like Ozempic have completely changed how we think about weight management, shedding pounds, and improving metabolic health. But along with all the positives (and there are plenty), you may have also heard about “Ozempic face” and other side effects. Before you consider taking this GLP-1 medication, here’s what you need to know. […]

Weight loss medications like Ozempic have completely changed how we think about weight management, shedding pounds, and improving metabolic health. But along with all the positives (and there are plenty), you may have also heard about “Ozempic face” and other side effects. Before you consider taking this GLP-1 medication, here’s what you need to know.

About Ozempic

Ozempic, scientifically known as semaglutide, belongs to a class of medications called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. Originally prescribed to help regulate blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, Ozempic has now become famous for its secondary benefit of promoting weight loss, though it has not been FDA approved as a weight loss medication. The drug is administered by injection.

Understanding “Ozempic Face”

“Ozempic face” actually isn’t a medical term. It’s an informal way to describe facial changes observed in some people on GLP-1 medications like Ozempic. In fact, these facial changes can occur as the result of any weight loss method – including diets, different types of medications, or bariatric surgery. These changes typically involve:

  • Loss of facial fat: As individuals lose weight, facial fat stores can diminish, leading to a gaunt or sunken appearance, particularly around the cheeks, temples, and jawline. This can also lead to loose, sagging skin. 
  • Fine lines and wrinkles: Rapid weight loss can sometimes exacerbate pre-existing wrinkles or cause new ones to develop due to skin laxity.
  • Changes in skin tone and texture: Dehydration, a potential side effect of GLP-1s, can contribute to dry and dull skin.

What’s behind the phenomenon?

Several factors contribute to “Ozempic face”:

  • Weight loss: The primary driver is significant weight loss, which affects facial fat distribution like any other area of the body. Reduced facial adipose (fatty) tissue can lead to a more defined and sculpted (sometimes “hallowed” looking appearance.). Rapid weight loss may be more noticeable on the face compared to other body areas. Excessive muscle loss that can occur with weight loss medications can also be a contributing factor.
  • Age and skin elasticity: Individuals with naturally thinner skin or those experiencing age-related loss of elasticity might be more susceptible to noticeable changes. Rapid weight loss affects elastin and collagen, which are necessary for the skin’s structure.
  • Genetics: Individual genetic predispositions for facial structure and skin aging can play a role.

Addressing your concerns

While “Ozempic face” can be a valid concern, here’s what you need to remember:

  • Not everyone experiences it: The experience can vary significantly for different people, and several different factors influence your susceptibility (see above).
  • The effects are temporary: In most cases, facial changes associated with weight loss gradually improve as the skin adjusts to the new body composition.
  • Embrace the positive changes and focus on overall health: The potential benefits of GLP-1s in managing weight, diabetes, and cardiovascular health can significantly outweigh your aesthetic concerns. Focus on the positive aspects of improved health and well-being. Celebrate the achievements that come with your commitment to a healthier lifestyle.

Minimizing your risk

While there’s no guaranteed way to altogether avoid “Ozempic face,” some strategies might help:

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  • Try to lose the weight gradually: Aim for a slow and steady pace of weight loss (2 pounds per week) to give your skin time to adapt. It can be common to lose weight quickly with medications like Ozempic (especially in the first few weeks), but this does tend to taper off. So don’t panic if the scale shows rapid loss in the very beginning.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and fluids throughout the day (even when you don’t feel thirsty). Also, consume foods with high water volume, like vegetables, fruit, and soups.
  • Have a protein-first approach to eating. Adequate protein intake can help preserve lean mass, including facial muscles that contribute to the way you look.
  • Take care of your skin: Implementing a consistent skincare routine can contribute to skin health. Use moisturizers and products that promote collagen production, helping your skin adapt to the changes more effectively.
  • Use sunscreen: Protect your skin from UV sun damage, which can accelerate fine lines, wrinkles, and premature aging.

Every individual’s experience is unique. Consult your doctor to assess your specific risks and benefits associated with GLP-1s. Open communication with your healthcare provider is crucial for making informed decisions that align with your goals and concerns.

Beyond “Ozempic Face”

“Ozempic face” might be an unexpected and unpleasant consequence. But it’s actually a sign of the medication’s success in promoting weight loss. Understanding the underlying mechanisms and taking proactive steps can help you confidently navigate these changes. 

Remember, weight loss encompasses more than just the numbers on the scale. Embracing a holistic approach to prioritizing healthy, high-protein eating, physical activity, and stress management can significantly impact your physical and mental well-being.

And that will keep your face smiling.

Note: Ozempic is not FDA approved to treat obesity or for weight loss.

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Linda Anegawa, MD is Noom’s Chief Medical Officer where she brings decades of experience in academic primary care, bariatrics, advisory board service, and leadership in digital health. She is certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons, and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.