What is Ozempic Face? Doctors explain the side effects of Ozempic

Ozempic is one of the most talked about weight loss pills today. Although celebrities and influencers rave about the rapid weight loss with the drug, few have mentioned the downsides. Now that Ozempic has gone mainstream, at least one side effect has come to light: “The face of Ozempic.”

The expression refers to the thinness of the faces of those using Ozempic, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, assistant professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic and clinical dermatology research at Mount Sinai. However, to be clear, the drug does not have a direct effect on your face, but rather it “leads to rapid weight loss, which has an effect on both the body and face,” he says.

ICYMI, Ozempic is an FDA-approved prescription drug used to treat type 2 diabetes in adults, explains Natasha Bhuyan, MD, a family physician at One Medical.

Ozempic himself is No FDA approved for weight loss. But the drug’s active ingredient, semaglutide, Is and is available at a higher dose in another drug, Wegovy, which is used to treat obesity associated with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. “Some doctors prescribe Ozempic off-label for weight loss. But doctors use careful criteria to determine if the medication is right for an individual,” Dr. Bhuyan says — such as BMI or body fat percentage.

Get to know the experts:

Joshua Zeichner, MD, is an assistant 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 how metabolism works.

Natasha Bhuyan, MD, is a family physician at One Medical.

Here’s what you need to know about the “Ozempic facial,” other side effects you may experience while taking the medication, 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 called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which stimulates the release of insulin after eating. The extra insulin helps lower blood sugar and prevent spikes. GLP-1 also signals satiety, which helps reduce appetite and reduce food intake.

Basically, Ozempic slightly raises the metabolism and increases fat burning 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 the HLTH Code.

Why does “Ozempic face” happen?

The name may sound new and scary, but the “Ozempic face” is simply sagging skin caused by rapid weight loss, not unlike what you’d see after bariatric surgery and extreme dieting. “Think of your face as an overinflated balloon: If you let the air out, the stretched balloon deflates as it shrinks to its smaller size,” explains Dr. Zeichner.

The decrease is the result of the loss of fat and muscle under the skin. “When people lose weight, they tend to lose muscle mass, which can lead to loose skin. Rapid weight loss causes loose skin and loss of elasticity, especially if people don’t exercise and get proper nutrition,” adds Dr. Bhuyan. “Genetics can also play a part.”

Note that the so-called Ozempic face does not happen to everyone who takes the medication. This is another reason why it is important to have careful medical monitoring when using 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 check with your doctor that 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 this for 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 activity, nutritional counseling, and more,” says Dr. Bhuyan.

People with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer, cancer that forms inside the thyroid gland, or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 syndrome, which causes tumors to form in the endocrine glands, should definitely stay away from this drug. “There are other conditions, such as pancreatic disorders, where medication may not be safe,” adds Dr. Bhuyan. If in doubt, talk to your doctor first.

    So can you fix the “Ozempic face?”

    Note: The Ozempic facial effect doesn’t really need to be “fixed” because there’s nothing technically wrong with it, says Dr. Zeichner. Still, if the appearance of your skin after starting Ozempic really bothers you, there are several dermatological treatments that can restore the volume lost under the skin.

    • Injections and fillers. “It’s not about filling in lines or wrinkles, it’s about completely restoring volume to the face,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “This can be achieved with a variety of fillers, including Restylane, Juvederm, Sculptra, or Radiesse. It’s important to consult with your doctor to determine which product is right for you.”
    • Facelift. If you’re over 40, you may be a candidate for a facelift, says Amir Karam, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in San Diego, California. “People have this type of surgery all the time after bariatric surgery when they’re morbidly obese and have massive weight loss,” he says. “They go through a full-body post-bariatric makeover, including contouring and tightening, due to all that loose excess fascia and skin that can’t re-tighten after weight loss.”

    Note that these treatments are usually not covered by insurance and can be expensive. “In general, fillers cost between $800 and $1,200 per syringe. In some cases, patients may need up to five or six injections to see significant improvements,” says Dr. Zeichner. “But the good news is that the effects are long-lasting and can last up to two years.”

    Ultimately, Ozempic may not be the safest (or healthiest) way to lose weight if you are not a legitimate candidate for the drug. “I’ve had patients ask for Ozempic because they want to use it in the short term to kick-start weight loss,” says Dr. Bhuyan. “However, studies show that when people stop taking Ozempic, many regain some of the weight they lost. That’s why it’s important to understand the different aspects of the drug before using it. It may be the right approach for some people, but others may not benefit.”

    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. He currently lives in Pennsylvania and loves all things antique, cilantro, and American history.

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