Your face is getting fatter because the rest of your body is about to follow suit, according to plastic surgeon Dr. Joseph Cruise says. Cruise says your increasingly jowly face is just the first place bulk tends to shows up, often due to a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and hormonal factors. (Although he allows that, occasionally, this can be a temporary result of bloating). The medical profession even has a somewhat hurtful name for excess fat deposits that build up around the face—moon face.
“Facial bloating will tend to fluctuate day to day depending on the underlying issue causing it,” Cruise told Fatherly. These underlying issues include drinking too much alcohol, eating too much salt, or an undiagnosed food allergy. Actual weight gain comes from poor diet, lack of exercise, aging and genetic factors, and is more visible in cheeks, jowls, and under the chin and neck.
Moon face happens when extra fat deposits build up around the sides of the face, causing it to become gradually more round, full, and puffy. A person’s facial bone structure and muscles play a small part (when the masseter muscles between the jaw and cheeks become overdeveloped, faces can look fuller, Cruise notes). Occasionally, moon face can be a side effect of steroid treatment or a symptom of Cushing’s syndrome, which occurs when the body is exposed to excess cortisol for long period of time. Cushing’s is typically caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, or other adrenal gland diseases that affect hormone production, and can be treated with medication, radiation, and surgery. Other symptoms of Cushing’s include a fatty hump between your shoulders, erectile dysfunction, decreased fertility, pink and purple stretch marks, and depression.
Still, absent other symptoms, weight gain in the face usually comes from weight gain overall, Cruise says. That’s not to say that tackling face weight is simple, but does come down to having broader weight loss and wellness goals. Facial exercises can help, but will mostly just make you feel weird in front of the mirror if you’re still housing burgers regularly without working out. Instead, try limiting sugar and salt intake, drinking plenty of water, getting more sleep, and managing your stress.
“Weight loss can change the shape of your face,” Cruise says. “Integrate lifestyle changes to get your body healthier as a whole and incorporate exercise and a healthy well-balanced diet.”