Stop Using Terms Like “Ozempic Face”
There’s no question that semaglutide (brand names Ozempic and Wegovy) has been a game-changer for weight loss, and thus it’s no surprise that the media has spun a lot of misleading notions about it for click-bait. You have likely heard terms such as “Ozempic Face”, “Ozempic Butt”, or “Ozempic Body” – referring to the saggy appearance of skin following significant weight loss.
The Problems with these terms
Technically speaking, the drug Ozempic was approved for use in type 2 diabetes, not for obesity. Wegovy is the brand of semaglutide that is indicated for obesity, and yet there’s no talk of “Wegovy Face”. Perhaps “Ozempic Face” just has a better ring to it. Regardless, the term is annoying.
These terms imply that the medication is uniquely responsible for these effects, but the conversations about this weight loss trend generally don’t acknowledge that weight loss from any method can do the same. It is impossible to spot-reduce fat, and there’s certainly nothing about the medication that specifically targets the face [or butt].
In a way, the use of these terms comes across as a criticism of those who would use a medication to achieve weight loss. Why don’t we hear about “Gastric Bypass Face”, “Lap Band Face”, or “Biggest Loser Face”? Highlighting a negative side effect of the medication, therefore, not only imparts shame to those who pursue weight loss via that approach, but also serves as a deterrent to use of the medication.
Fat Loss and Skin
Fat provides a smoothing effect to the skin, as it fills in what would otherwise be wrinkles. Fat beneath the skin causes a bulging effect that keeps the skin taut and drives skin stretching as needed to accommodate the expanding body mass. As we age, of course, there is decreased elasticity of the skin – decreased ability of your skin to tighten up when it is no longer being stretched.
Following significant weight loss, there is inevitably going to be a decrease in subcutaneous fat that results in “deflating” the skin and resulting in some degree of skin sagging. It may take a year or two for the skin to tighten up on its own, and there are tactics to accelerate the natural resorption of this excess tissue.
Endless Pursuit of Vanity
One “solution” to the facial changes offered by plastic surgeons is the surgical transfer of fat to the face or use of other fillers. There are also attempts at using radiofrequency treatments, ultrasound, and surgery to correct these changes. As people get excited about their perceived improvements, the availability of these interventions can set up an endless pursuit of the desired appearance. However, the cost of such interventions is often not justified by the barely noticeable results. Furthermore, there are downsides to these interventions in terms of potential complications.
The Big Picture
It’s no surprise that I’m not a fan of vanity. I am interested in genuine health, rather than superficial appearances. Obviously, people in general want to look good, but it’s important to realize that weight loss tends to make people look younger and more vibrant even with sagging of the skin. The metabolic changes seen with fat loss are profound and have the potential to dramatically change the trajectory of one’s health.
Lifestyle changes are critically important for long-term health, and the use of other methods for weight loss needs to be carefully evaluated in terms of risks and potential side effects. Use of the GLP-1 agonists to achieve weight loss appears to be quite effective and is a safe alternative to surgery. We have seen this class of medications in action since 2005 when Byetta (exenatide) was first approved for type 2 diabetes.
Sagging skin from weight loss is not a pathologic condition and certainly does not need, nor warrant, a misleading term such as “Ozempic Face”. It takes time for the body to adapt to significant changes in body composition. Let’s embrace the [sometimes slow] progress towards genuine health.