Spend enough time on TikTok and you’ll notice that everyone on there is obsessed with how to get a sharper jawline. If you have a good one, it’s a flex that’s worthy of a viral challenge video. And if you don’t have a defined face, there are plenty of people ready with advice to help you get one. From exercises to massage techniques to fillers and liposuction, you’ll find a multitude of suggestions that range from wacky to practical. But which actually work? And why is everyone so obsessed with their jawlines anyway?
While social media trends might indicate otherwise, this interest in getting a defined jawline is nothing new. Wanting a sculpted face is a perennial desire says Dr. Steven M. Levine, a board certified plastic surgeon with his own practice in New York City. “Certainly even decades before I started practicing, of all the aesthetic improvements people can make that require surgery, a jawline is on top of the list of what patients want,” he explains. The rationale? It implies youth and a toned physique — you’re young, conventionally hot, and therefore socially desirable.
It’s these anxieties over aging and appearance that explain why this video by htmljones (which has since been taken down) made waves last year. In it he talked about how millennials preferred to shoot videos from above and Generation Z would shoot from below the chin. Commenters who were older defended their choice, citing they knew what would flatter their aging faces.
“It’s a sour topic for the older generation as the younger generation flaunts what they're born with,” says Dr. Shereene Idriss, a board certified dermatologist in New York City who owns Idriss Dermatology. “But it’s an unrealistic expectation of aging. Unless you’re born with an extremely strong jawline, chances are it will get smaller and pushed back as you age. As a result, the volume will shift and fall so you start to lose the contours, especially in your early to mid- thirties.”
Whether it’s the loss of volume, a lack of a strong bone structure, or a stubborn pocket of fat in the chin, there are many reasons as to why individuals would want to enhance their jawline. (And yes, eliminating fat is a divisive procedure, as body positive advocates fight against fat phobia.) However, if you’re curious, here’s what works and what doesn’t.
Mewing, which is touching your tongue to the top of your mouth, was one technique that went viral last year. The rationale is that you’re strengthening the muscle in the area, creating a toned jawline. For some TikTokers, this usually is done in tandem with using sleep apnea tape at night, to reduce mouth breathing.
Before you write this off as being a scam, Dr. Idriss says there’s some validity to it. “People who are mouth breathers tend to have a weaker jaw line,” she explains, “You can train muscles in that area but if you [lack] the bone structure to begin with, you're never going to have a Brad Pitt jawline.” So try it, but don’t expect the miraculous before and afters you see on social media.
Another common DIY technique on TikTok has been to Gua Sha your neck and jaw. Gua Sha, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice, is mainly used for the neck, back, and shoulders, as a healing method to fend off colds and flu or relieve pain. According to Sandra Lanshin Chiu, a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, and founder of Treatment by Lanshin, it improves and amplifies healthy circulation and blood flow. “In my practice, the cosmetic [changes] are rooted in health benefits,” she says. “I find that it helps reduce the bottom heaviness of the face, while plumping volume back into the cheeks, where people usually use fillers.”
This “heaviness” is due to the fact that your neck is full of lymph nodes and by moving the fluid around, through use of the Gua Sha tool, you may see lymphatic drainage which can temporarily tighten the area. Chiu recommends following a properly trained Chinese medicine practitioner on the proper technique, like her video, and to do it regularly, three to four times a week. That said, like mewing, this does not magically reduce fat or create new bones, “Differences in how a person carries weight in their face and bone structure will all play into the results,” Chiu explains.
If sagging skin is the issue, electrical facial devices like NuFace may offer moderate results. They work by sending a mild current through the area, which theoretically tightens and tones the muscles and stimulates collagen, thereby lifting the jawline. “I think they're only effective as long as you use them, so if you want efficacy, you should use them regularly,” says Dr. Idriss. Once you stop, your face will revert to how it looked prior to starting the routine. And like all other at-home treatments, don’t expect an overly dramatic change.
For some patients, it’s a lack of prominent bone structure that results in a weak jawline and no amount of mewling or Gua Sha can help. And while you can’t magically grow a new jaw, you can use a mixture of fillers and a neuromodulator (like Botox) to sculpt your face.
Should you want to go this route Dr. Idriss recommends both fillers and Botox. She commonly uses a mix of Radiesse, a calcium hydroxylapatite injectable, and Restylane, which is made with hyaluronic acid. The two fillers, in combination, layers onto what bone you do have, while Botox immobilizes your masseter muscles (the largest of the muscles in the jaw region) so that it will grow weaker and smaller, which in turn will help define your bone structure and sculpt your chin and neck. “You want to look at bone structure and musculature before you begin so you can keep a person's essence intact and enhance [their] beauty,” she explains.
Injectables can be expensive. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, as of 2020 Botox and fillers average anywhere from $500 to $700 per doctor visit, but it’s hard to pinpoint an exact price as how much you need varies from face to face, and providers all have their own pricing system. It’s safe to assume it’ll add up in the thousands. As far as how often you’ll need touch ups, that can also vary. In Dr. Idriss’ experience Radiesse and Restylane last anywhere from a year to 18 months while Botox wears off in about six months. And if you’re more active, anecdotally, she’s noticed that those who do CrossFit and runners tend to metabolize injectables faster.
Non-Invasive Fat Reducing Treatments
If you have a pocket of stubborn fat on your chin and you prefer a minimally invasive procedure, you can opt for a treatment that bursts your fat cells, effectively killing them off. Two common methods are Kybella and Coolsculpting.
With Kybella, a patient will receive an injection of synthetically produced deoxycholic acid, which dissolves the membrane of fat cells. You’ll experience some bruising and swelling in the weeks following, but over time it will reduce. This method may require several injections over the course of a year to be fully effective.
Coolsculpting uses a vacuum-like device that’ll suck onto the treatment areas and freeze your fat cells, a process known as cryolipolysis. Your lymphatic system processes and eventually expels them. Some have called the device as possibly claustrophobic inducing, since it feels like a hand pressed against your throat. Another uncomfortable part of the process is when the physician massages the frozen fat. Like Kybella, results are not immediate and you may need several sessions over the course of a year to see a difference. (There is also a risk of paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, which model Linda Evangelista experienced with her Coolsculpting treatments over the last few years.)
Depending on how much fat you want to eliminate, one treatment may be more effective than the other. Kybella is generally recommended for smaller bits and will cost you on average, $900 nationally, depending on your doctor. Coolsculpting is ideal for a bigger surface area and will run around $1,500 on average. Regardless, Dr. Idriss says you will want to be within 10 pounds of a weight you’re comfortable with, as these cells may be killed off but you can produce more as your body fluctuates.
And although these treatments are minimally invasive, there are risks involved, so be sure to discuss them with your doctor.
Should you want to go the plastic surgery route to remove fat, Dr. Levine says liposuction can be an option. Unlike Coolsculpting, this method — which requires sedation and uses a long needle called a cannula to suck out fat — will allow you to see results in a shorter span of time. It also may require as little as one session. However, this will cost on average, $3600, which makes it a pricier option. It’s generally an outpatient procedure, but swelling, bruising, and recovery can take upwards of six weeks.
Lower Face Lift
Often patients who have done Kybella and Coolsculpting and found themselves dissatisfied with their results wind up consulting plastic surgeons like Dr. Levine. “Usually what they need is a neck lift or a lower facelift as these non-invasive treatments decrease fat, but won’t tighten the jawline,” he says. In this case, loss of skin elasticity is the reason behind a weak jawline. Sagging skin or jowls tend to be due to the natural aging process but factors like sun damage, smoking, and stress can exacerbate it. Depending on how old you are when you get this treatment and how you maintain it (sunscreen is a must), this can last a decade or more. Of all the treatments, a lower face lift is one of the most expensive, costing on average $8,000.
For those who lack the prominent bone structure and prefer something more permanent than fillers, a chin implant can be an option. Dr. Charles Lee, a board certified plastic surgeon who owns Enhance Medical Spa in Beverly Hills, California is known to discuss them on TikTok, where he goes by @drlee90210. Consisting of a silicone implant, it’s inserted through the lower lip and slides in between the natural bone and tissue. Since this is surgery, it’ll require anesthesia and pricing depends on your doctor. As far as recovery time, patients can return to work within two weeks but you’ll need to wait four to six before exercising.