If you’ve been active on social media recently, you’ve likely seen mention of the drug Ozempic. Perhaps you’re even taking it, either for type 2 diabetes or as a weight-loss aid. If so, you may have also come across more recent accounts of an unpleasant apparent effect of the drug which has been colloquially referred to as “Ozempic Face”.
This apparent condition has been reported by some patients as causing an aging or wrinkling effect on their facial skin that they find distressing. But, like anything on social media, the truth is hard to determine. So, we created this article to help clarify some of the context around #OzempicFace, to help you approach social media and your own health from a more informed perspective.
Please note that the authors are not medical professionals or experts, and that the information in this article is not medical advice, cannot be guaranteed as accurate or complete, and does not endorse the reader taking any particular course of action regarding their health. Always discuss with a doctor before making any changes to your medical regimen.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is an anti-diabetic medication that has recently come to the center of mainstream attention for its weight-loss-inducing potential. Also known by its generic name semaglutide, it was historically given primarily for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Semaglutide belongs to a class of drugs that mimic or interfere with the activity of a hormone called GLP-1, causing various effects on the body’s metabolism and digestion of food and blood sugar. For type 2 diabetics, this can play a helpful role in controlling weight and blood sugar levels, which are two common struggles associated with the condition. However, the same properties have been noted to help some non-diabetic individuals lose excess or unwanted body weight.
Initially, semaglutide was, and still is, prescribed as off-label Ozempic by some doctors to their obese patients, as a way of helping them overcome their weight struggles. More recently, a form of semaglutide branded Wegovy was FDA-approved for the treatment of chronic obesity in adults. The social media stratosphere has since been abuzz with influencers and personalities promoting the drug as a way to lose weight quickly and with less hassle. Such has been the surge in popularity caused by this promotion that many diabetics have since struggled to find supply amidst the resulting shortages.
The Friendly Side of Fat
The word “fat” carries an awful lot of baggage in modern times. Almost universally, people have strong negative associations with the word, and generally view it as something to be lost or minimized. But the truth is that fat exists for a reason and plays many important roles in our body, and without some level of it, we’d be in deep trouble. This is why even the most ripped and lean bodybuilders, whose every vein and muscle fiber are visible on stage, still tend to have a body composition somewhere near 2-3% body fat. It’s simply not possible, or desirable, to eliminate every last bit of the stuff.
As it turns out, fat is also an unsung hero of our overall appearance. It helps provide the plump, smooth, and full appearance of our facial skin that we associate with youthfulness, though we may only realize we’ve taken it for granted once it’s gone.
Why is this true? Well, our skin naturally adapts to cover the volume that our bodies occupy. This means that, as we gain weight and grow, our skin literally grows and stretches around our body (good thing, or else we’d be ripping out of our skin with only a few pounds of weight gain). One downside, though, is that our skin often has a much harder time adapting in the other direction, which is to say, it doesn’t shrink as well as it expands. So, if we lose a lot of weight, and fast, we end up with more skin than we actually need to cover our bodies. The result is something similar to wearing an outfit that’s a few sizes too big: the extra material simply drapes off of us instead of clinging to our fat and muscle beneath the surface.
What is Ozempic face?
Some people who have bought into the recent trend of rapid weight loss with Ozempic have discovered the importance of fat the hard way. “Ozempic Face” is the term that has been coined to describe a possible symptom of rapid weight loss caused by the medication. It describes the gaunt, sagging, or “deflated” appearance that some patients develop in their face post-treatment.
As we describe above, sagging is a likely consequence of having excess skin on our faces. Our bodies have a difficult time reducing the surface area of facial skin once we eliminate much of the fat formerly padding our cheeks, jawlines, and foreheads, and as a result the excess skin wrinkles, sags, and droops off of our faces.
Is Ozempic really to blame?
The term “Ozempic Face” may be somewhat misleading. First of all, this is not a medical term, nor is it a recognized medical condition. But more importantly, the sagging face denoted by this term is likely not exclusively, or even directly, caused by Ozempic. In other words, Ozempic Face simply results from rapid weight loss of a sufficient amount, whether that happens to be caused by taking Ozempic, or by any other method. One caveat is that Ozempic is still not fully understood, and there may be some other mechanism to blame for Ozempic Face other than rapid weight loss, but current evidence gives no indication of such a mechanism’s existence.
Other weight-loss medications or extreme diets could cause similar rates of weight loss, in which case excess skin and sagging features are just as likely to occur. For examples of this, check out extreme weight loss transformations on shows like “The Biggest Loser”; often, the contestants in the “after” pictures will have a droopy or saggy appearance to their skin, despite achieving their results non-pharmaceutically through some kind of fitness and diet boot-camp.
So, if Ozempic is not unique in causing saggy skin, why has it specifically been given a bad rap? The answer may have something to do with its recent popularity in mainstream culture. Many social media influencers played a role in popularizing the drug, touting its weight-loss properties to their loyal followers. This has caused an acute awareness of the drug in the general population, and therefore, an elevated awareness of the emerging side effects of this drug, like Ozempic Face.
Can Ozempic Face be Avoided?
It’s important to remember that Ozempic can, but does not have to, cause rapid weight loss. Some doctors have suggested that the dosage of the medication is an important factor in determining how quickly the weight-loss-inducing effects will potentially materialize. This could mean that choosing a dosage on the lower end of the recommended range could be one way of arriving at a slower, steadier weight-loss pace that could, in turn, give your skin more time to adapt to the shrinking size of your body (and importantly, your face).
A benefit of taking a slower course is that you are more likely to notice any changes in your facial appearance early on. If this happens, depending on your priorities, you might wish to lower your dosage or stop taking the medication altogether, to prevent further sagging. However, we must stress that any changes to your medication must only be made with the supervision and approval of a doctor. Stopping any medication abruptly and without medical advice is not something we recommend. This could be especially true if you are taking Ozempic to treat type 2 diabetes, as you may suffer adverse consequences to your blood sugar regulation.
If you do decide to stop taking this medication, please be aware that patients commonly report regaining some or all of the weight that they lost while on Ozempic after stopping. Obesity is a chronic condition, and without enduring changes to your lifestyle, including your diet and activity levels, becoming overweight or obese once again is a possible outcome.
Can the Wrinkles be Reversed?
So, you have Ozempic Face: what now? Well, it’s important to note that there’s nothing inherently harmful about having a bit of saggy skin on your face, and most of us will end up there as we age anyways. Treating this symptom alone is therefore not medically urgent or necessary. But, you may feel self-conscious about your altered appearance and would like to turn back the clock a little. Fortunately, there may be options available to do just that, but they aren’t likely to be cheap.
Facial fillers are cosmetic products that are injected below the skin of the face by a dermatologist, plastic surgeon, or another medical professional. These gel-like injections come in a variety of formulations, including from synthetic processes or even from your own “donated” fat from elsewhere on your body. But, they all do essentially the same job, which is to restore the plumpness that your lost fat formerly gave your face.
As their name suggests, they do this by literally “filling” the space between your skin and the sub-structure of your face. The most popular category, hyaluronic acid fillers, do so by attracting and retaining natural bodily fluids at the injection site. This specific filler category has the benefit of being temporary (lasting 6 months or so), natural, and easily reversible in the event of a negative reaction or misapplication.
However, we must stress that these procedures are not cheap, and as cosmetic procedures, may not be covered by your insurance. They also may not be medically advisable for each individual, as different products can cause adverse reactions or side effects in different individuals. If you are considering taking this route, be sure to consult your doctor, and your bank account balance, before moving forward.
Being comfortable in your own skin is an important part of your well-being. If you and your doctor have decided for you to try Ozempic or Wegovy to help you lose weight and feel better about your body, or simply to reduce the risk of obesity-related diseases, then we wish you success in achieving your weight-loss goals.
However, before starting any medication, a proper understanding of the risks and complications potentially associated with it is vital. Before taking Ozempic for weight loss, be sure to speak to your doctor about the possibility of Ozempic Face (and the many other potential side effects). Having a plan for what to do if or when you start to see sagging or wrinkly skin appear on your face will help you approach your weight loss journey with a greater sense of confidence, and will make you more likely to reach a place of comfort with your own body in the end.