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Chubby cheeks are adorable on a baby or young child—we seem to have an evolutionary urge to pinch them, don’t we? Yet, somehow, those round faces seem to lose their appeal for some people after a certain age and they may want a quick fix to make their faces slimmer. , Well, there aren’t any quick fixes, but some lifestyle changes can help.
How to lose weight in your face
The best way to lose weight in your face is to lose weight overall.
Many internet sites support face fat spot reduction claims—in other words, tricks to lose weight in your face. However, many studies show that you can’t just target one particular area for weight loss (Ramírez-Campillo, 2013). Just like doing tons of sit-ups may make you stronger, but won’t necessarily shrink your belly fat by themselves, you can’t really lose weight in your face without losing body fat overall (Vispute, 2011).
So, why do some people carry weight in their faces while others don’t?
As mentioned, facial fat is often a reflection of your overall weight status. For some people, there may be a medical reason behind their face puffiness, like long-term corticosteroid use or Cushing syndrome (a medical condition that causes “moon facies”). But for most, increasing facial fat is a sign of whole body weight gain. This is not surprising if you consider that over 40% of American adults have obesity (CDC, 2020).
While your weight plays a role in facial fat, so do your genetics, body shape, and other factors that you cannot control. Some people gain weight in their faces, others in their bellies or hips, and still others in a combination of places. Sometimes you may notice face puffiness, which can be due to water retention or swelling—this is not fat and may change on a day-to-day basis.
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8 lifestyle changes for a slimmer face
Losing weight can be challenging—there are no shortcuts. Studies show that the most effective way to lose weight, including face fat, is to eat fewer calories than you use up; this translates to a combination of diet and exercise (Johns, 2014). However, it takes time to see a change—no one loses weight overnight. The good news is there are some lifestyle changes you can adopt in combination with weight loss to achieve a slimmer face.
1. Avoid excess sodium
Sodium is an essential mineral that the body needs to function. Not only is it part of table salt, but sodium is found in a lot of our food. Unfortunately, Americans are eating too much sodium; around 90% of people in the U.S. consume more than the recommended daily amount of 2300 mg of sodium (Jackson, 2016). Most of this excess comes from foods that we get outside the home, like processed foods and eating out (Harnack, 2017).
Water follows sodium. When you take in excess sodium, your body holds on to water, called water retention or bloating. You can see this in swollen ankles or face puffiness, especially in the morning. Read food labels and avoid too much sodium whenever possible. While this habit can help your face look slimmer, it can also improve your blood pressure and is part of a heart-healthy diet.
2. Incorporate more fiber/whole grains
Another diet modification you can make is to eat more fiber and whole grains. Eating a diet rich in fiber promotes weight loss, which can decrease facial fat (Miketinas, 2019). Whole grains and fiber are also beneficial for your overall health and well-being; they lower your risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more (AHA, 2016). Similarly, decreasing the amount of refined carbs, like sugary drinks, white bread, etc., can improve your overall health as well.
3. Drink more water
When you don’t drink enough water, your body goes into conservation mode and holds on to more water (Popkin, 2010). This could contribute to face puffiness. Drinking water, especially before meals, could also help with weight loss (Jeong, 2018).
So how much water should you be consuming? There is no hard and fast rule regarding how many cups of water you should drink per day. We get water from different sources, not just our water bottle—many foods also have water in them. Problems start to arise if you take in less than 1.8 liters (61 cups) of water from your food and drink in a 24-hour period (Armstrong, 2018).
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4. Limit your alcohol intake
Too much alcohol can lead to, among other things, dehydration. As we’ve mentioned, dehydration can cause water retention and affect the slimness of your face. If you have ever experienced a night of heavy drinking, you may have noticed that your face looks more puffy and swollen in the morning. Alcohol intake also increases your risk of weight gain and developing obesity (Traversy, 2015). Consuming alcohol in moderation, and drinking more non-alcoholic beverages, might prevent your face from looking larger.
5. Get enough sleep
Studies show that there is a relationship between your sleep and metabolism. Some suggest that there may be an association between lack of sleep and weight gain due to changing hormone levels, causing you to eat more and store fat. Increased body weight can lead to more facial fat. Getting enough sleep may help you maintain your weight and keep your face looking slimmer (Hirotsu, 2015).
6. Exercise regularly
Most people think of dieting when it comes to losing weight, including face fat. Exercise is just as important—not only for fat loss but also for your overall well-being. Any amount of physical activity is better than none. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends 150-300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity “cardio” (aerobic exercise) like brisk walking combined with two days a week of strength training (USDA, 2018). High-intensity cardio, like running or jogging, may lead to more weight loss, including losing facial fat (Chiu, 2017).
7. Facial exercises or face yoga
Many internet sites advocate specific facial exercises or “face yoga” to lose face fat, improve muscle tone, and look younger. The data is inconclusive as to whether these exercises actually work; these studies use various facial exercises, stretches, facial massage (Van Borsel, 2014). One small study suggests that using these facial exercises for 20 weeks may improve face appearance, but more research is needed (Alam, 2018). Examples of facial exercises include (D’souza, 2014):
- Lifting and lowering the eyebrows
- Bringing the eyebrows together by making an “angry face”
- Squeezing eyelids shut
- Forcing your lips out (imagine exaggerated “kissy face”)
- Extreme forced smile
- Puffing out your cheeks and moving air from side to side
As mentioned above, spot reduction is not likely to work on its own. However, these exercises may help make your face slimmer in combination with other weight loss measures.
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8. Facial rollers
Facial rollers or massage rollers claim to decrease facial puffiness by improving lymphatic drainage and stimulating blood flow. The thought is that by improving the lymphatic drainage, you reduce fluid retention in your face. One study showed that these rollers might enhance blood flow in the face (Akane, 2018).
Another potential theory is that facial rollers work by cooling the skin. Most of these rollers are made of stones, often jade or quartz, or metal—these are materials that are usually cold to touch. Applying these cooling rollers can potentially decrease inflammation and swelling in your face (think of people putting cold cucumbers on the eyes).
While it is possible that jade rollers may improve facial swelling or puffiness, they cannot decrease excess fat in your face–the only way to do that is to lose weight.
Losing facial fat: the bottom line
If your face puffiness bothers you, there are things you can do about it. While you can’t specifically target losing weight in your face, losing weight overall can give you a slimmer face. Combining this with other changes like good hydration, eating a nutritious diet of low-sodium and high fiber foods, and decreasing your alcohol intake may help you lose facial fat.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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Dr. Steve Silvestro is a board-certified pediatrician and Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.