What Is “Ozempic Face?” Doctors Explain Why It Happens
The side effect the internet won’t stop talking about.
There’s truth to the old adage “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” While the saying can be applied to a vast array of quick fixes, it’s certainly relatable to the use of Ozempic for quick weight loss. A brand name diabetes medication that contains the drug semaglutide, Ozempic has become one of the buzziest topics in aesthetics because it’s being used off-label by non-diabetics to lose weight. While the hype around the Ozempic originated in Hollywood via rumors of certain celebrities taking it, the medication is now going viral for causing an aged appearance, a side effect dubbed “Ozempic Face.”
Ozempic face is characterized by gaunt or sagging skin and looking generally more tired. “Ozempic face is rapid deflation of the facial structure attributed to weight loss,” says Dr. Lyle Leipziger, chief of plastic surgery at North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center. “Everyone's facial structure is different so rapid weight loss affects each person differently.”
Ahead, TZR gets to the bottom of Ozempic Face, including what causes it, how to reverse it, and how to prevent it in the first place.
First, How Does Semaglutide Like Ozempic Work?
Semaglutide balances glucose in the body by helping the pancreas produce more insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. It’s currently FDA-approved for use by Type 2 diabetics, and is administered via a shot. “But the insulin effect only occurs in a glucose-dependent fashion, so if blood sugars are normal, the semaglutide won’t trigger pancreatic insulin release — which is why it’s able to be used in patients who don’t have diabetes, with zero concern for low blood sugar,” Dr. Caroline Messer, a board-certified endocrinologist in New York City specializing in thyroid disease, diabetes, and weight management, previously told TZR. The drug also causes fullness and suppresses hunger, meaning those taking it will get full faster while eating less.
While Ozempic is the most popular brand name of semaglutide, others include Rybelsus and Wegovy. All three are being used for weight loss, but Wegovy is the only FDA-approved semaglutide for clinical obesity.
Why Does Ozempic Cause Aging In The Face?
Originally coined by New York City cometic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, Ozempic Face is a result of how certain people’s bodies respond to rapid weight loss and not the drug itself. Essentially the skin doesn’t have enough time to adjust to the rapid weight loss.
“This side effect is not exclusive to Ozempic, and can occur with any type of weight loss be it from another medication, diet, or exercise. This type of change in the face can also happen in the whole body with rapid weight loss,” says Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen, board-certified endocrinologist and obesity specialist at New York Endocrinology.
Because Ozempic suppresses hunger, the body is getting less protein, which can also contribute to facial volume loss. “The body needs protein for collagen and elastin production. So if you’re lessening your protein intake, you’re more prone to losing collagen in the skin,” Dr. Salas-Whalen explains. Dehydration is another factor that can make skin more prone to sagging and wrinkles, and Dr. Salas-Whalen says this medication can also cause dehydration from the reduced intake of food.
Finally, a person’s age can make them more prone to Ozempic Face. “If the person is in their mid-life, perimenopausal or menopausal when the estrogen is already dropping, they’re more at risk of sagging,” Dr. Salas-Whalen tells TZR. Smoking is another added risk.
How Can Ozempic Face Be Reversed?
To put it simply, regaining weight will restore some volume in the face. However, if that’s not an option, a dermatologist plastic surgeon can use fillers to minimize this side effect of Ozempic.
“Some patients may benefit from fillers performed over time to improve the volume lost, while other patients may significantly benefit from facelifts along with fat grafting volume replacement,” Dr. Leipziger shares. “In my view, a key part of the modern facelift is the judicious restoration of volume with fat transfer, while also elevating, tightening, and repositioning the sagging facial skin.”
How Can Ozempic Face Be Prevented?
The easiest way to prevent Ozempic Face is to opt for a weight loss method that is a marathon rather than a sprint. Dr. Salas-Whalen says she recommends patients do not lose more than one to two pounds a week, and that it’s beneficial to monitor the progress with a doctor.
“I always discuss increasing patients’ protein intake while they’re on a weight loss plan,” she says. Also, it’s important to do regular resistance training and exercise because if you build muscle, you’re going to fill in the gaps the fat loss creates and that will help the skin will adjust better.”
While Ozempic continues to make headlines for its off-label use, it’s important to remember that the medication isn’t dangerous. When used as intended, it improves the quality of life for those with diabetes and clinical obesity.