What Is 'Ozempic Face'? Here's Everything You Need to Know About This Common Phenomenon

Woman looking at face in mirror.

It seems the pop culture and social media narrative surrounding Ozempic won't end. The anti-obesity medication that inspired punch lines at the Oscars and an Oprah primetime special has also seemingly spurred numerous non-clinical diagnoses, including "Ozempic butt," "Ozempic breath" and even "Ozempic face."

Wait, what's Ozempic face?

"Ozempic Face has emerged as a buzzword in the realm of weight loss medications, coinciding with the rise of the weight loss epidemic," explains Dr. Viktoryia Kazlouskaya, MD, PhD, FAAD, a clinical dermatologist.

While at this point, another Ozempic-related buzzword—including the related "Ozempic face aging"—may induce some eye rolls, medical professionals think it's important to discuss potential side effects and address social media fodder about anti-obesity medications.

"We do not want patients to be caught off guard or worried that something is wrong with them," says Dr. Katrina Mattingly, MD, the chief medical officer of Option Medical Weight Loss. "Being armed with this knowledge allows anyone who is taking this drug to be more likely to continue their journey with a positive mindset."

And helps people separate fact from fiction. "There is a lot of misinformation on the internet, and the best source of information is a trained medical professional," says Dr. Mir Ali, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center.

We did just that. Here's what to know about Ozempic face and aging, including why you might notice changes to your appearance and what to do about it.

Related: These Ozempic Before and After Photos Give a Real-Life Glimpse of What Life is Like on Weight Loss Medication

How Does Ozempic Work?

Ozempic is a drug manufactured by Novo Nordisk that's used to help people with Type 2 diabetes maintain blood sugar. Yet, it's become a catch-all for a class of injectable medications that can help people with obesity or who are overweight with select conditions lose significant weight. How? Put simply, "Ozempic and other GLP-1 [medications], like Wegovy and Mounjaro, mimic a hormone or hormones in the body that induce satiety and also slow the emptying of the stomach, so the patient feels less hungry and feels full for longer periods of time," Dr. Ali says.

Additionally, Dr. Mattingly says the medications improve communication between the brain and stomach—nixing "food noise" in the process.

"There are GLP1 receptors in the brain," she says. "When the medication binds, it helps to signal that you feel satisfied, decreasing appetite. We make better nutrition choices when we are not ravenous."

A 2021 clinical trial indicated that patients who took once-weekly 2.4 mg doses of semaglutide (the dosing for Wegovy) lost an average of about 15% of body weight after 68 weeks.

A longer trial published in 2022 looked at patients over two years and also found that patients who were overweight with specific conditions or obese lost significant weight on semaglutide and said that GI discomfort was the most reported side effect. Researchers noted this discomfort was mild to moderate.

So, what's the deal with Ozempic face aging—or, more generally, the effects the anti-obesity medication may have on what you see in the mirror first thing in the morning?

Related: 'I'm an Obesity Medicine Specialist, and Here's What I Want Everyone to Know About the New Oatzempic Weight Loss Drink'

What is Ozempic Face?

Here's what it's not: A medical diagnosis. However, Ozempic face is something people taking anti-obesity medications are reporting that they have experienced, and it's worth discussing. "Ozempic face is the change in a person's facial appearance after using Ozempic for weight loss," Dr. Ali says.

Dr. Mattingly says patients taking anti-obesity medication may lose buccal fat (around the cheekbones) and subcutaneous fat (in the skin's deepest layer).

"This fat maintains our skin's integrity, structure and plumpness," Dr. Mattingly says. "Patients who take Ozempic often look gaunt due to the hollowness and bony protrusion of the facial skin after fat loss."

Of course, fat and weight loss are two desired outcomes. However, Dr. Kazlouskaya echoed Mattingly's sentiments and reminded people that these changes happen all over the body, not in one targeted place like the belly. "Fat serves as a natural cushion for the skin, contributing to its youthful oval or round contours and maintaining skin tone," Dr. Kazlouskaya says.

Related: Thinking About Trying Ozempic? Here's What You Can Expect Week by Week

What Does Ozempic Do to the Face?

Are Ozempic and face aging linked? Might Ozempic cause rashes and acne? The truth is, the evidence is currently anecdotal.

"Despite the temptation to attribute tired and sagging facial features solely to weight loss, the true cause may be multifaceted and not yet fully understood, given the novelty of these medications," Dr. Kazlouskaya says. "It will likely take several decades to comprehensively grasp both the positive and negative effects, as is typical with newly introduced medications. Some users have also reported acne and other skin rashes, which could be attributed to hormonal changes or the medication itself."

However, weight and fat loss can prompt differences in facial appearance, whether someone lost the weight using a medication or solely with lifestyle tweaks.

"Our faces harbor numerous fat pads, both deep-seated and superficial, which play a crucial role in maintaining a youthful appearance," Dr. Kazlouskaya says. "The loss of these fat deposits can lead to visible signs of aging such as sagging, heaviness, wrinkles, and jowls, ultimately contributing to an older-looking appearance."

Additionally, rarely—but in some cases—Dr. Kazlouskaya says people may not be consuming enough vitamins, minerals and proteins due to diminished appetites.

Still, anti-obesity doctors agree with  Dr. Kazlouskaya and say it's important not to pin all facial changes on weight loss experience while Ozempic or medications like it.

"The amount of change in the face depends on several factors, including age, race, genetics, sex and overall general health," Dr. Ali says.

Indeed, people within a certain age bracket appear more likely to report having Ozempic face.

"Ozempic face is more likely to occur in middle-aged and older people," Dr. Mattingly says. "Many do not show obvious signs of aging until the fat loss. That's when the skin gets lines and sags, causing them to appear older."

Dr. Mattingly adds that people who started at a higher BMI also have greater odds of noticing Ozempic face. But people who begin taking the medication at a lower BMI aren't immune, either.

"Patients who have lived at a higher weight or BMI for a long period and have more pounds to lose, in general, may have had more fat mass occupying their face," Dr. Mattingly says. "There may be more sagging skin than an individual who started at a lower BMI or body fat percentage and did not have the same amount of fat layered underneath their facial skin."

How Do You Fix Ozempic Face?

If you're experiencing unwanted facial changes while on Ozempic, speak with your doctor or dermatologist. "When addressing patients experiencing skin changes and hair loss while on Ozempic, my initial focus is on emphasizing the importance of preserving collagen," Dr. Kazlouskaya says. "I educate them on monitoring their calorie intake and essential nutrients, utilizing freely available apps for easy tracking. Many individuals are unaware of their calorie deficits and insufficient protein intake, which inevitably manifests in their skin's appearance."

If protein intake is insufficient and someone struggles to get it from food, Dr. Kazlouskaya might recommend collagen supplementation. A solid skincare routine can also help.

"Sunscreen is essential in preventing sun damage and collagen breakdown, further safeguarding against premature skin aging," Dr. Kazlouskaya says. "Topical creams containing retinoids and peptides can aid in replenishing lost collagen and addressing sagging skin, although achieving significant results can be challenging."

Surgical interventions can offer dramatic outcomes, but Dr. Kazlouskaya says they can get pricy—ditto for dermal fillers.

"Non-surgical procedures aimed at stimulating collagen production, such as radiofrequency (Thermage), ultrasound-based technologies (Ultherapy or Sofwave), microneedling or microneedling with radiofrequency, as well as various laser treatments, present viable alternatives," Dr. Kazlouskaya says.

Next up: Here's what Actually Happens When You Stop Taking Ozempic