What Is 'Ozempic Face'?

a woman frowning in the reflection of a mirror

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Key Takeaways

  • Some patients who use diabetes drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy for weight loss have reportedly noticed facial aging and sagging.
  • A New York-based dermatologist referred to this type of skin sagging due to rapid weight loss as "Ozempic face."
  • Experts say this phenomenon is common among patients who lose too much weight too quickly.

While type 2 diabetes drugs like Ozempic (semaglutide) are still in high demand for rapid weight loss, more users are noticing an unwanted side effect: the “Ozempic face.”

This term, coined by New York-based dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, refers to the facial aging and sagging that some Ozempic users have experienced.

What Is Ozempic Used For?

Ozempic is a prescription injection that is FDA-approved for managing blood sugar level in adults with type 2 diabetes. The FDA has not approved Ozempic for weight loss, but some providers could prescribe the drug for off-label use.

Steven Heymsfield, MD, a professor whose research focuses on obesity and weight loss treatment at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., said the term “Ozempic face” is misleading.

“It’s a side effect of all weight loss, it’s nothing unique to Ozempic that I’m aware of,” Heymsfield told Verywell.

Rapid weight loss can lead to sagging skin and stretch marks on other parts of the body too, not just the face. “When people lose weight, they lose it everywhere,” he said. “People are talking about Ozempic face because you can see it.”

One study showed that people who had a weekly injection of semaglutide, the active ingredient Ozempic, lost an average of almost 15% by week 68.

Ozempic face is a cosmetic side effect that some patients have treated with fillers, but it is also preventable by slowing down weight loss, Heymsfield added.

“What that tells us is that more than likely, people are not using this drug as prescribed on the label by the FDA,” he said.

Is Ozempic Face Preventable?

Gradual weight loss can help prevent sagging skin, but experts say that diet and exercise also play a role in tightening the skin.

Rocio Salas-Whalen, MD, a double board-certified physician specializing in obesity, diabetes, and thyroid disorders, said she recommends increasing protein intake during the weight-loss process to build collagen and elastin, which help with skin elasticity.

She added that patients using Ozempic or a similar drug should drink 1-2 liters of water each day to stay hydrated. “These medications can cause dehydration,” she said. “When the skin is dry from dehydration, it’s more prone to wrinkles and loss of elasticity.”

Building muscles through resistance training can also help tighten skin on certain parts of the body, but this likely won’t prevent Ozempic face.

What Are the Other Side Effects of Ozempic?

Sagging skin may be one cosmetic side effect of rapid weight loss, but experts say there are other side effects to consider when taking Ozempic or Wegovy, a similar diabetes drug that was approved by the FDA for chronic weight management in 2021.

Both Ozempic and Wegovy belong to a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists and were originally developed to manage type-2 diabetes by promoting insulin production after a meal.

“GLP-1 agonists affect gastric motility, and that means that people will have nausea and vomiting and they may have some reflux,” Heymsfield said.

Nausea can be managed by building up a tolerance to the drug and increasing doses gradually, but people looking for a “magic bullet” don’t always want to start at the lowest dose, he explained.

Wegovy comes in five doses ranging from 0.25 mg to 2.4 mg. According to Wegovy’s website, patients should increase doses every four weeks. Patients who follow this schedule would not reach the full 2.4 mg dose until week 17.

Heymsfield said patients often ask him to start at the highest dose, but he’d advise them to “go slow, eat a healthy diet, and change your ways. You’ll probably be a lot better off in the long run.”

While some people are spending thousands of dollars a month to get these drugs off-label for rapid weight loss, plenty of people are using Wegovy and Ozempic as intended to manage chronic conditions.

For people with type 2 diabetes, there is a risk of developing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, when taking these drugs along with insulin. There is also some evidence to suggest that these drugs may lead to rare side effects, such as pancreatitis, gallstones, and kidney failure.

“I think that the majority of people that are on these medications truly benefit health-wise from them,” Salas-Whalen said, “The expertise of their prescriber is key in the success and to minimize the side effects of the medication.”

What This Means For You

"Ozempic face" refers to the sagging of skin due to rapid weight loss. Experts say it's preventable by slowing down weight loss, staying hydrated, and increasing protein intake.

Correction - February 6, 2023: A previous version of this article misstated an old affiliation of Rocio Salas-Whalen, MD. This article has been updated to reflect her latest title.

1 Source
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  1. Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Calanna S, et al. Once-weekly semaglutide in adults with overweight or obesity. N Engl J Med. 2021;384(11):989-1002. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2032183