Editorial note: this article was updated on July 8, 2020.
- How does the face accumulate fat?
- How to get rid of facial fat or add contour to your face
- Lose weight through diet and exercise
- Do facial yoga and tone your face muscles
- Check in with your doctor about medicines or health issues causing a bloated face
- Try cosmetic interventions to reduce the look of facial fat
- Face fat can be solved!
Excess fat in the face, especially around the eyes, cheeks, jaw and neck can cause common insecurities like bulges, lack of definition, droopy features and a double chin. A fat face can cause you to look older than you actually are. It can also off-balance symmetry in the face. If you are seeing too much facial fat in a certain area, there are multiple measures you can take to help improve your problem areas (if they bother you, that is).
But first, it’s important to understand how fat accumulates in the face, and where exactly. This way you can address the root of what’s bothering you.
How does the face accumulate fat?
Facial fat, or a moon face, is typically a part of overall weight gain. However, it doesn’t have to be. You could have been born with your facial features, including the fat pads that come with it.
When our body has excess fat, it likes to keep storehouses of it, to use later. These are called adipose tissues. In our face, these ‘storehouses’ are called fat pads. They are layered in the superficial and deep parts of our face, sitting on top of muscle and bone.
As we age, the fat in our face can shift around, or it can decrease or increase in some areas. This is part of the natural aging process.
However, when we’re young, facial fat gain and loss can be related to several factors. Lifestyle, medications or disease can all cause a fat face, or even the opposite – a ‘sunken’ and ‘boney’ face. For example, steroids or alcohol can cause facial bloating. Excessive exercise can cause face substance loss.
The main adipose deposits (fat pads) that give you a fat-looking face are:
Jowl fat (buccal fat)
This is the fat pad that runs around the sides of your face, along your jawline and beyond, to the jowl.
An excess of buccal fat can cause a saggy appearance in the jowls. This turns into a ‘softened’ jawline, because it lacks definition by hiding the bone curve in that area. Instead, your face may look like it runs straight into your neck, from the sides.
Cheek fat (nasolabial fat, medial cheek fat, or the malar fat pad)
Sometimes, weight gain can cause our cheeks to plump up. This can give a ‘chubby’ appearance. It also creates disproportion, since other parts of the face (especially the eyes and mouth) can look smaller when the cheeks get bigger. Overall, a smile won’t be as well-defined, or the transition into other parts of the face won’t be as seamless. Extra fat in this area can also hide the much-coveted, ‘high cheekbones look,’ since bone and muscle will be blanketed by fat.
On the flip side, as we age, we can lose fat, causing our nasolabial area to sag (that’s the line from the nose to the corner of the mouth). This is because the skin has nothing to ‘hold on’ to. The sagging causes nasolabial folds, which can also make a person look older. The folds can look like cheek fat, but they are sagging skin.
Under-eye bags (orbital fat)
An abundance of fat can negatively affect the appearances of the under eye-area. Sometimes, these are called puffy eye circles. However, a distinction should be made between puffy eye circles that happen as a result of dehydration, excess salt intake or lack of sleep, and the puffy eyes that happen from fat build up. Fat build up is longer-term, and won’t necessarily change from day-to-day.
Fat build up in the orbital area can also cause a ‘racoon face,’ if it blocks light from hitting the eyes. This can create the illusion of dark under eye circles, and not just puffy under-eye circles. The same is true when there is too little fat under the eyes; the eye sockets look ‘sunken’ and skin appears darker, as a result.
Furthermore, fat tissues in the eyebrow area can cause the eyes to look lowered, which can create an angry, or sad facial expression.
‘Double chin’ fat (submental fullness)
The area under the chin is an area where superficial fat (the layer of fat nearest the skin) tends to accumulate excessively, giving way to a double chin. However, this type of fat doesn’t necessarily have to do with weight gain. Fat under the chin may be hereditary. Some patients even notice a double chin early in life.
Extra chin fat can make a person look heavier than they are. Or, it can simply be unsightly to some people.
‘Turkey neck’ (frontal neck fat or skin sagging)
A ‘turkey neck’ can look similar to a double chin, though it can be defined differently.
Sometimes, a turkey neck is actually sagging skin. It can happen on the frontal ‘stem’ of the neck, where folds of skin start to appear. Or it can happen on the skin under our chin, which starts to droop down as we get older.
This is not necessarily excess facial fat. Though, it can be. With age, an increase of fat in the neck is actually quite common.
How to get rid of facial fat or add contour to your face
The good news is that there are ways to treat excess facial fat. Below are some things you can try to ‘deflate’ your fat pads (so-to-speak). They can also add definition to your face.
Lose weight through diet and exercise
It should go without saying that diet and exercise play an important role in how we feel and how we look. Keeping your weight in check can reduce excess fat in all parts of your body, including your face.
On this note, watch your intake of salt, or foods that can bloat your face. Keep hydrated, avoid alcohol and don’t smoke. Of course, get good sleep, to avoid puffy and dark eyes, and to maintain overall health.
Do facial yoga and tone your face muscles
There are some proponents of muscle activities for the face. These are meant to reduce wrinkles and add tone to facial features. One type of exercise in this category is called “facial yoga.”
We would say to do your research before trying this. Repeated facial expressions are what cause long-term wrinkles on our face. So if you over-do this, or perform the wrong moves, it may create an aging issue later on.
There are also some facial rollers that claim to drain lymph nodes, or help to tone muscles. Also do your research on these before buying them.
Check in with your doctor about medicines or health issues causing a bloated face
If you are taking steroids, or have other hormonal health conditions, these could be causing your face to look rounder and puffier. Talk to your doctor about options to reduce these effects, if possible.
Try cosmetic interventions to reduce the look of facial fat
Cosmetically, doctors are able to use multiple techniques to tone the face and remove facial fat, or sagging skin. Traditionally, this was only possible with plastic surgery. While ‘going under the knife’ is still an option, today there are many more non-surgical methods to reduce facial fat. These are typically much safer than the risks involved with surgery.
Non-surgical, medical cosmetic technologies to get rid of facial fat include:
Belkyra™ (a.k.a. Kybella®) fat dissolving injections for a double chin
This product is FDA approved, and Health Canada approved, to remove a double chin. It uses deoxycholic acid, which is found naturally in our bodies. In the United States, it is called Kybella®.
Essentially, a needle of this special fluid is injected into the area where a person has excess fat. The process is repeated 3 to 4 times (about a month apart).
Then, all existing fat cells disappear forever. However, if the double chin was from excess weight, and not a hereditary issue, the fat could be more likely to form again.
Read more about Belkyra™ here.
Non-surgical facelifts with wrinkle relaxers and dermal fillers
Non-surgical facelifts don’t get rid of fat. Instead, they help to ‘bulk up’ certain areas of the face, so that they appear more defined. They can be used to lift cheeks, eyebrows, and more. By doing this, an illusion of a softer, thinner face is created.
A quality, non-surgical facelift will use name-brand ingredients, such as Botox® and Juvederm®. These are screened, safe solutions to use medically or cosmetically. Just as importantly, any doctor performing the procedure must be adequately trained. Precision and care must be taken to ensure that the face as a whole is being addressed from each injection point. Plus, safety concerns should be top of mind when poking the face with any needle.
Read more about non-surgical facelifts, here.
CoolSculpting® chin fat removal and neck fat removal
CoolSculpting® is arguably the most credible, proven cryolipolysis technology on the market. There are many ‘copycats’ out there. However, this name-brand machine comes with advanced research. Some clinics carry modern handpieces of varying sizes. These can address facial fat, such as chin fat and neck fat.
CoolSculpting® can be used on the whole body (not just the face). The CoolMini™ applicator can be used to get rid of chin fat, in short, 35 minute sessions. The system can provide a 20 – 25% reduction in fat, in most people (it always depends on each case).
Read more about CoolSculpting® here.
Radio-frequency skin tightening and face fat removal
While this technology is more applicable to skin tightening (which can look like excess fat), it can destroy fat cells too. Unlike CoolSculpting®, which freezes fat away, radio frequency machines melt fat away, using heat energy. They do this without disrupting the skin. Some of these machines can be used on chin, neck and jowl fat, to help contour the face.
Face fat can be solved!
Whatever type of face fat you have, and whatever area you want to thin, it may be possible. Whether through surgery or non-invasive methods (which are safer), fat cells can be removed, dissolved or destroyed. You can get rid of a double chin, buccal fat, cheek fat, eye fat and more. You can also define and contour your facial features, the way you want them. This can apply to hereditary facial fat, too.
Of course, the process of getting rid of facial fat starts with a healthy lifestyle. You’ll also want to address underlying issues that could be causing your bloating or ‘moon face.’
If you do opt for cosmetic procedures to get rid of a chubby face, be sure to pick a qualified, medically-run clinic, with a doctor on staff. A doctor should be doing the procedure if any needles are involved – always.