Why Does My Face Look Fat? A Plastic Surgeon Explains

Chubby cheeks aren't just for babies.

Originally Published: 
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What causes face fat? If the reflection that greets you in the mirror every morning is a fat face, you likely have a bit of extra weight overall. In other words, weight gain in the face is generally a symptom of weight gain everywhere else. Although genetics and hormonal factors can contribute to why your cheeks are so chubby and why your face looks fat, there are plenty of lifestyle adjustments that can help men slim down and keep the moon face from coming out. Because a fat face with a skinny body is a rare combo, the secret trick of how to lose face fat is as simple and annoying as losing weight anywhere else: improved diet and exercise.

The Science Behind A Fat Face

A chubby face is a result of extra fat deposits building up around the sides of a person’s face. This causes it to become gradually rounder, fuller, and puffier. Medically, this is called moon face.

“Facial bloating will tend to fluctuate day to day depending on the underlying issue causing it,” says Joseph Cruise, M.D., a plastic surgeon in Orange County, California. “Excess facial fat typically occurs from weight gain resulting from a poor diet, lack of exercise, aging, or genetic conditions. Fat is usually more visible in the cheeks, jowls, under the chin and neck.”

A person’s facial muscles and overall bone structure can also play a small part in forming a puffy face or chubby jowls. Faces can appear fuller when the masseter muscles between the jaw and cheeks are overdeveloped, Cruise says. But generally speaking, weight gain in the face is caused by weight gain overall.

There are some important exceptions. Specific medical conditions lead to “moon face.” It’s usually 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 periods of time. Cushing’s syndrome is typically caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland or by other adrenal gland diseases that affect hormone production. It 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.

How to Lose Face Fat

In the absence of underlying conditions, getting slimmer cheeks comes down to meeting broader weight loss goals. Face exercises can help, but they’ll mostly just make you feel awkward in front of the mirror if you’re still downing burgers regularly. 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.”

Your Cheat Sheet on How to Lose Face Fat

  • Weight gain in the face is usually a symptom of weight gain overall.
  • A fat face could also be a side effect of steroid treatment or a symptom of Cushing’s syndrome. Medically, this is referred to as “moon face.”
  • Limit sugar, alcohol, and salt intake, drink plenty of water, and eat more vegetables and fewer carbs to slim out your face.
  • Aim for at least eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Include cardio or aerobic exercise into your workout routine.
  • Facial bloating tends to fluctuate from day to day, so give it a few hours if you’re looking more bloated than usual.

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