Inside Ozempic Face And The Risks Of The Diabetes Drug

Ozempic (semaglutide injection) is a prescription medication that is intended, per its website, to treat type 2 diabetes; but it has gained increasing popularity as a weight-loss drug on social media and elsewhere. Its use for weight loss has become so widespread, in fact, that People reports that comedian Chelsea Handler discussed having been previously prescribed the medication without realizing it.


Taking any prescription medication for a purpose for which it has not been approved by a regulatory body ("off-label") is risky, though it should be noted that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved the similar medication Wegovy — also a semaglutide injection but with a different dosage — in June 2021 to help adults with certain underlying conditions manage their weight. Dr. Natalie Azar explained to TODAY that it isn't necessarily a red flag, however. "(Doctors) do prescribe medications off-label, but there has to be shared decision-making and the patient has to understand that potential risks can happen. It's at the discretion of the provider."

In addition to the many concerns about patients who are taking Ozempic for weight loss without having been diagnosed with a condition such as type 2 diabetes, one of the side effects of the medication has been described as "Ozempic face." Here's what you need to know about Ozempic face and some of the other potential risks associated with Ozempic.


Ozempic face leads to an aged appearance

According to the New York Post, dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank came up with the term "Ozempic face" to describe the effects of Ozempic that patients taking the medication were seeing in their faces. Namely, it has been described as an aged appearance, given that patients have experienced sagging that typically comes with advanced age. "When we get older, definitely the facial volume changes and shifts around. But when you lose weight so acutely and quickly, you see more of a global facial wasting," Dr. Frank additionally explained to TODAY, while clarifying that the effect is not as severe as can be seen in those with some diseases.


"The loss of fat tissue from the face is very common with any weight loss, especially when is significant (15 or > 20 % of body weight). Thus people who lose weight may look more wrinkled and aged," endocrinologist Dr. Silvana Obici was quoted as telling Healthline.

Per Insider, Ozempic face does not have the same appearance as buccal fat removal and can be addressed through the use of fillers throughout the face.

Gastrointestinal side effects are the most common

Apart from Ozempic face, gastroenterologist Dr. Christopher McGowan told Forbes Health, "Overall, Ozempic is a very safe medication. The most common side effects are gastrointestinal in nature: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation." One article from NBC News described the experiences of some patients who have taken Ozempic, including the potential for severe gastrointestinal side effects. This is not only applicable to those who are taking Ozempic for weight loss alone, either.


The list of possible side effects given on the Ozempic website also highlights the side effects described to Forbes Health by Dr. McGowan. The side effects of the medication, according to its website, possibly could include the development of thyroid tumors — including cancerous tumors — which developed in rodents in related studies. In a list of additional side effects given by Forbes Health, hypoglycemia, pancreatitis, and vision changes were among those mentioned.

Although some of these side effects are much less likely, anyone planning on taking Ozempic should be aware of them.

You could gain the weight back

Whether you're taking Ozempic to treat type 2 diabetes or are taking it off-label for weight loss, there is a chance that you could gain back the weight you've lost while taking the medication. A separate piece from NBC News discussed the issue of patients who had taken Ozempic or Wegovy experiencing weight gain once they were no longer taking them. To this, researcher Dr. Domenica Rubino explained, "They are chronic medications, which means you basically take them just like you take blood pressure medicine or diabetes medicine."


People writes that content creator Remi Bader claimed to have "gained double the weight back" after no longer taking Ozempic, which she clarified that she was prescribed for the treatment of multiple health issues, and suggested that it worsened her binge eating.

Overall, it doesn't seem that using Ozempic or Wegovy solely for short-term weight loss is the best idea, and we would advise remaining under the supervision of a medical professional while taking it regardless.