Ozempic is one of the most talked about weight loss drugs these days. While celebrities and influencers rave about the rapid weight loss with the drug, few mentioned the downsides. Now that Ozempic has gone mainstream, at least one side effect has appeared: “Ozempic’s face.”
The phrase refers to a gaunt facial appearance in those who take Ozempic, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, associate professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai. To be clear, however, the drug itself doesn’t have a direct effect on your face, but rather “leads to rapid weight loss that impacts both the body And the face,” he says.
ICYMI, Ozempic is an FDA-approved prescription medication used to treat type 2 diabetes in adults, says Natasha Bhuyan, MD, family physician at One Medical.
Ozempic itself is not FDA approved for weight loss. But the active ingredient of the drug, semaglutide, East and it is available in a higher dose in another drug, Wegovy, which is used to treat obesity related to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. “Some clinicians prescribe Ozempic off-label for weight loss. But doctors use stringent criteria to determine if the drug is right for an individual,” says Dr. Bhuyan, such as BMI or body fat percentage.
Meet the experts:
Joshua Zeichner, MD, is associate professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai.
Benjamin Bikman, PhD, is a professor of cell biology and physiology at Brigham Young University who studies metabolic function.
Natasha Bhuyan, MD, is a family physician at One Medical.
Here’s what you need to know about the “Ozempic face”, other side effects you may experience during treatment, and what you can do to reverse the changes in your skin.
First: What is Ozempic and how does it work?
Ozempic is a weekly injection designed to improve blood sugar control. Its active ingredient, semaglutide, mimics the action of a naturally occurring hormone in the body that stimulates the release of insulin after eating, called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). The extra insulin helps lower blood sugar and prevent spikes. GLP-1 also signals satiety, helping to suppress appetite and reduce food intake.
Basically, Ozempic works by slightly increasing metabolic rate and increasing the burning of fat from fat cells, says Benjamin Bikman, PhD, a professor of cell biology and physiology at Brigham Young University who studies metabolic function and co- founder of HLTH Code.
Why does the “Ozempic face” occur?
The name may sound new and scary, but “Ozempic face” is simply sagging skin caused by rapid weight loss, much like what you would see after bariatric surgery and extreme dieting. “Think of your face as an overinflated balloon: If you let the air out, the stretched balloon will sag as it shrinks to its smallest size,” says Dr. Zeichner.
Sagging is the result of loss of fat and muscle under the skin. “When people lose weight, they tend to lose muscle mass, which can lead to sagging skin. Rapid weight loss will lead to sagging skin and loss of elasticity, especially if people don’t exercise. exercise and not getting proper nutrition,” adds Dr. Bhuyan. “Genetics may also play a role.”
Note that the so-called Ozempic face does not happen to everyone who takes the drug. This is another reason why it’s important to have careful medical supervision when taking Ozempic, notes Dr. Bhuyan.
What other side effects can Ozempic cause?
Side effects associated with the use of this drug include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, headache, says Dr. Bhuyan.
The best way to avoid these effects is to consult your doctor to make sure Ozempic is right for you. “Only people with a certain BMI or higher should be prescribed this,” says Dr. Bhuyan. “And it’s important to understand their goals for taking this and their ability to make other lifestyle changes before prescribing it to anyone.”
For those who do not meet the BMI threshold, there are alternative ways to lose weight. “Some people benefit from meal planning, using an app to track their activity, nutrition counseling, and more,” Dr. Bhuyan said.
People with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma, a cancer that forms inside the thyroid gland, or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2, which causes tumors to form on the endocrine glands , absolutely must stay away from this drug. “There are other conditions, like pancreatic disorders, where the drug may not be safe,” adds Dr. Bhuyan. If in doubt, talk to your doctor first.
So, can you fix “Ozempic’s face?”
Please note: Ozempic’s facial impact doesn’t really need to be “fixed” since there’s technically nothing wrong with it, says Dr. Zeichner. Still, if you’re really bothered by the way your skin looks after starting Ozempic, there are a number of dermatological treatments that can restore lost volume under your skin.
- Injectables and fillers. “It’s not about filling in a line or crease, but rather restoring full volume to the face,” says Dr. Zeichner. “This can be accomplished with a variety of fillers, including Restylane, Juvederm, Sculptra, or Radiesse. It’s important to contact your doctor to decide which product is right for you.”
- Face lift. If you’re in your 40s and older, you might be a candidate for a facelift, says Amir Karam, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in San Diego, Calif. “People have these types of surgeries all the time after bariatric surgery when they’re morbidly obese and have massive weight loss,” he says. “They undergo a full body post-bariatric transformation, including reshaping and tightening, due to all that extra loose fascia and skin that is unable to tighten up after weight loss.”
Note that these treatments are usually not covered by insurance and can be expensive. “Typically, fillers cost between $800 and $1,200 per syringe. In some cases, patients may need five or six syringes to see significant improvements,” says Dr. Zeichner. “But the good news is that the effects are long-lasting and can persist for up to two years.”
Ultimately, Ozempic may not be the safest (or healthiest) way to lose weight if you’re not a legitimate candidate for the drug. “Patients have requested Ozempic because they want to use it short-term to boost weight loss,” says Dr. Bhuyan. “However, studies show that when people stop using Ozempic, many gain back some of the weight they lost. That’s why it’s important to really understand the different aspects of the drug before using it. This might be the right approach for some people, but others might not enjoy it.”
Emily Shiffer is a former digital web producer for Men’s Health and Prevention and is currently a freelance writer specializing in health, weight loss and fitness. She is currently based in Pennsylvania and loves all things antiques, cilantro, and American history.