What Is ‘Ozempic Face?’ Doctors Explain The Side Effects Of Ozempic
Ozempic is one of the most talked about weight loss pills today. While celebrities and influencers have raved about using the drug for quick weight loss, few have mentioned its downsides. Now that Ozempic has gone mainstream, at least one side effect has been revealed: the “Ozempic face.”
The phrase refers to the gaunt look of someone taking Ozempic, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology.Just to be clear, though, the drug itself won't have a direct effect on your face, but “causes rapid weight loss, with effects on the body and face,” he said.
ICYMI, Ozempic, is an FDA-approved prescription drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in adults, explained Natasha Bhuyan, MD, family medicine physician at One Medical.
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Ozone itself is no FDA approved for weight loss. However, the active ingredient semaglutide in the drug, yes It is used in higher doses in another drug, Wegovy, used to treat obesity related to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. “Some clinicians do prescribe Ozempic off-label for weight loss. But physicians use cautious criteria to determine whether a drug is right for an individual,” such as BMI or body fat percentage, Dr. Bhuyan said.
Meet the experts:
Joshua Zeichner, MD, is an associate professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai.
Benjamin Bikman, Ph.D., is a professor of cell biology and physiology at Brigham Young University, focusing on metabolic function.
Natasha Bhuyan, MD is a Family Medicine Physician at One Medical.
Here's what you need to know about Ozempic face, other side effects you may experience while taking it, 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 you eat, 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 fat burning in fat cells, says Benjamin Beekman, PhD, a professor of cell biology and physiology at BYU who studies metabolic function and co-founder of HLTH Code.
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Why is there an “ozone face”?
The name may sound new and intimidating, but “ozone face” is just loose skin from rapid weight loss, not unlike what's seen after bariatric surgery and extreme dieting. “Think of your face as an overinflated balloon: If you let the air out, the elongated balloon sags because it shrinks to a smaller size,” explains Dr. Zeichner.
Sagging is the result of loss of fat and muscle under the skin. “As people lose weight, they tend to lose muscle mass, which can lead to sagging skin. Rapid weight loss can lead to sagging and loss of elasticity in the skin, especially if people are not exercising and getting proper nutrition,” adds Dr. Bhuyan. “Genetics can also play a role.”
Note that not everyone who takes the drug develops the so-called Ozempic face. Dr. Bhuyan noted that this is another reason why careful medical monitoring is important while taking Ozempic.
What other side effects can Ozempic cause?
Side effects associated with the use of the drug include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, and headache, Dr. Bhuyan said.
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 can prescribe it,” Dr. Bhuyan said. “Before prescribing this drug to anyone, it is important to understand what they are taking this drug for and their ability to make other lifestyle changes.”
For those who don't meet the BMI threshold, there are other avenues for weight loss. “Some people benefit from meal planning, using apps to track their activity, nutritional counseling, and more,” says Dr. Bhuyan said.
People with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer (a cancer that forms inside the thyroid gland) or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 syndrome (which causes tumors to form on the endocrine glands) should definitely stay away from this drug. “There are other conditions, such as pancreatic disease, where the drug may not be safe,” Dr. Bhuyan added. If in doubt, consult your doctor first.
So, can you fix the “Ozempic face”?
Just a note: Dr. Zeichner says Ozempic's effect on the face doesn't really require a “repair” because there's nothing technically wrong with it. Still, if your skin condition after starting Ozempic really bothers you, there are a number of dermatological treatments that can restore lost volume beneath the skin.
- Injectables and fillers. “It's not about filling in lines or creases, it's about restoring facial volume across the board,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “This can be achieved with a variety of fillers, including Restylane, Juvederm, Sculptra, or Radiesse. It is important to speak with your doctor to determine which product is right for you.”
- Plastic surgery. If you're in your 40s or older, a facelift might be a good candidate, says Amir Karam, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in San Diego, California. “When people are morbidly obese and have lost a lot of weight, they've been having these types of surgeries after bariatric surgery,” he said. “With all the excess loose fascia and skin that can't re-tighten after weight loss, they go through a full-body post-weight loss transformation that involves sculpting and tightening.”
Note that these treatments are often not covered by insurance and can be expensive. “Typically, the cost of a filler per syringe is between $800 and $1,200. In some cases, a patient may need as many as five or six syringes to see noticeable improvement,” Dr. Zeichner said. “But the good news is that the effects are long-lasting and can last for more than two years.”
Ultimately, Ozempic may not be the safest (or healthiest) way to lose weight if you're not a legal candidate for the drug. “I've had patients request Ozempic because they want to use it short-term to start losing weight quickly,” says Dr. Bhuyan. “However, research shows that when people stop using Ozempic, many regain 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 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 & Prevention and is currently a freelance writer specializing in health, weight loss and fitness. She currently lives in Pennsylvania and loves antiques, cilantro, and American history.