Why the face is thin and the body is full

It’s time to straighten this one out.

One of the biggest criticisms body positivity faces is that it excludes thin people. Most of the popular accounts or activists are people with bodies that are seriously curvy, visibly fat, or at least a little bit chubs (oh hey). So occasionally a thin person, noticing this, says that they feel excluded, usually with something along the lines of:

“I thought body positivity was supposed to be for all bodies, why aren’t there more thin people on your account?”

And their observation is pretty much right, there aren’t that many thin people reppin’ bopo right now. The big players in the bopo world are mainly plus size models, fatshion bloggers, curvy activists and fat (fat) acceptance writers. There isn’t a whole lot of skinny going on – but there is a reason for that, and it’s a really important one too.

But before we dive into that, I need to make it clear that all people can and do struggle with body image issues, whether they’re fat, thin or anything in between. Even people we see as physically ‘perfect’ battle the same internal demons about food and weight as the rest of us. Some of the most iconically beautiful female figures of our generation have struggled to accept their bodies – Demi Lovato talks openly about her battle with eating disorders and body image, Kim Kardashian has spoken about sitting in the bathtub in tears because she hated her curves so much, and even Beyonce apparently dislikes her ears (and we all know that Beyonce’s ears are gonna be as flawless as the rest of her). Seriously, anyone can hate their body, regardless of how they look to the outside world. And every single person’s struggle with body image is valid, important, and worthy of being heard.

So why does it sometimes feel like body positive spaces aren’t celebrating thin bodies the same way that they’re celebrating fat bodies? The simplest answer is to just look around you. Thin bodies are celebrated everywhere we turn, they fill our TV screens, they dominate social media, they grace the covers of millions of magazines, they sell us everything from toothpaste to designer jewels, and their prevalence helps to uphold the message that the only way to be beautiful is to be thin. And it’s been that way for a long while. The 67 Project by Refinery 29 recently estimated that although 67% of women in America are plus sized, only 2% of the images of female bodies we see in the media are plus sized. The overwhelming cultural message of the last 100 years (give or take a Marilyn Monroe or two) has been that thinner is better and that the rest of us need to spend our lives chasing thinness or hating ourselves forever. Our culture already celebrates thinness, it’s ingrained into everything we know, body positivity was made to be the counter-culture.

The aim of body positivity has always been to give representation to the body types that aren’t recognised as beautiful or valid in our culture. In other words, the body types that the media doesn’t want to acknowledge actually exist – fat bodies, bodies with ‘flaws’ like cellulite and scars, rolls and blemishes, people with different skin tones (women of colour especially, since mainstream media has always been incredibly whitewashed), disabled people, older women and members of the LGTBQ+ community. Basically anyone who has a body that does not fit the conventional beauty standards of today – that is who body positivity was made for.

Bodies that fall outside the thin ideal specifically have taken centre stage because obsession with our weight is something that affects nearly all of us, including the people who belong to other marginalised groups as well. The thin ideal is so widespread in our culture that none of us get out unscathed by the pressure to conform to it, body positivity gives us a way of escaping that pressure. Bopo itself has roots in the radical fat acceptance movement – in the 1970s a feminist group called The Fat Underground brought size prejudice to the attention of the world (and did awesome things like storming Weight Watchers meetings and asking the leader to provide a single shred of evidence that dieting is effective (which of course they never could)). Fat, queer women of colour fought damn hard over the years to be recognised, to be seen and heard and to refuse to have their identities invalidated. So it’s understandable that when a thin, white, conventionally gorgeous woman comes along and says that she feels excluded from the movement, despite the fact that the media has excluded everyone BUT her for decades, people get frustrated. It’s kind of like one woman being given a whole cake every single day while the woman next to her lives off the crumbs, and when that second woman finally gets a little slice of cake for herself the first woman wants that too. Mmm cake.

The body positivity we have today is an extremely watered down version of what it once was – even my existence in the community proves that. I totally recognise the privilege I have – I don’t face the same prejudice and discrimination that the people who fought for this movement did, and do still experience. I know that the success of my account is largely because people think I haven’t taken it ‘too far’ aka. ‘too fat’ (you can read more about that here). I do believe that there is a place for all bodies in this community, but we have to be respectful of its roots, its core values, and not turn it into something that it was never intended to be. Weight Watchers claiming to be body positive is a perfect example of this movement being torn to shreds and co-opted by the very people the movement has always been against – you cannot make billions convincing women that they need to lose weight to be good enough and then claim to be body positive (no matter how different WW is now than it was, it still profits from our insecurities and pedals the message that thinner is better).

Recently more members of the bopo community have recognised the need to branch out more fully into fat acceptance, and to see it as a distinct from the bopo we have now. Visibly fat women in our culture face a completely different experience in the outside world than those of us with smaller bodies do. We might have equal internal body image issues, but how the world treats us based on our appearances just isn’t the same, and fat acceptance specifically focuses more on those injustices and forms of discrimination based on size. I fully support the fat acceptance movement, but I understand that I don’t really belong in it. And I can respect that 100%.

So do thin women belong in the body positive community? I think they can. Like I said, we all battle body image issues, and thanks to photoshop the ideal bodies we see in the media don’t actually represent any of us anymore. And in the eyes of diet culture we’re all flawed, thin and fat alike. Which means that we all need to reclaim our bodies and speak out against unrealistic standards of beauty. Not to mention the fact that the current cultural ideal is super curvy, super toned, hourglass bombshell – leaving even naturally thin people behind and creating a whole new set of insecurities about being too slim. Body positivity is about teaching us all that we’re good enough exactly as we are – thin people are included in that as well. As long as we recognise our privilege and don’t distort the true meaning of the movement, the more the merrier.

And let’s be real for a minute – the body positive movement is not claiming that thin isn’t beautiful. It’s not trying to push the current ideal out entirely. It’s not saying that ‘real women have curves’ and using body shaming to lift one group higher than the other. It’s simply saying make room for us all. Let us all be seen. Let us all feel beautiful. And thin people have to realise that their bodies have been occupying that spotlight for a damn long time, and that maybe it isn’t such a bad thing if a movement comes along that tries to even out the playing field a bit. They’re welcome to join in too, as long as they don’t try and turn it into the same oppressive standard that people come to bopo to escape from. Don’t bring the diet culture. Don’t bring the message that one body type is better than the other. What you can do is bring your insecurities, your ‘flaws’, and your want to be seen as more than just a body. Together we can all help to dismantle the idea that we’re not good enough exactly as we are, no matter what size we wear.


Method 1 Assessing the Need to Lose Facial Weight

  1. Look in the mirror.

    If you have a normal size body but feel that your face is not slim, consider whether you might have a distorted notion of your proportions.

    • Look at closely related family members. Do they have the same facial proportions as you? You may have a genetic predisposition to a certain layout of weight around your face. Also, some forms of facial chubbiness may be related to your youth and “puppy fat” tends to pass with aging.
    • Ask people you can trust to be honest to you. Do they think your face is chubby or do they think it is appropriately proportioned?
    • Is your face “puffy”, as opposed to being fat? Puffiness can be caused by poor nutrition, salty foods, lack of sleep, alcohol or drug intake, medical conditions, lack of exercise, etc.
    • Talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to reassure you as to what facial fat proportions are appropriate. Also, your doctor can discard possible problems such as edema (swelling).
  2. Check your posture.

    Slumping posture can cause an appearance of a fatter face by forcing a double chin look. Any fat you do have will simply shift to the most comfortable placement and if your posture pushes your neck and chin downward, this may fatten your face.

    • Stand and sit up straighter, so as to align your spine properly. Ask for help from a physiotherapist or doctor if you’re not sure how you should be standing or sitting to ensure good posture.
    • Breathe deeply. It is harder to slump when you breathe more deeply, as you need to straighten up to fill with air.
    • Remind yourself to hold your shoulders back, tilt your head and chin up more and look people in the eyes.
    • Posture improving exercises exist; ask your physiotherapist for more details or check online sources. Pilates, yoga and similar exercises will help too.

Method 2 General Nutrition and Diet

Good overall nutrition for your body impacts your face as well.

  1. Eat healthily. Restrict the amount of calories you consume to those needed for a person of your height, gender and age. Calorie tables are available from government authorities responsible for nutrition information in your country. Or, ask your doctor for advice appropriate to you.

  2. Lose weight if you’re overweight.

    When you lose body fat, you will also lose fat around your face. Be aware that it isn’t possible to target one zone of the body for weight loss––when losing weight, the whole body, including the face, will be impacted. By following a nutritionally balanced diet to lose weight, along with regular exercise, you should find any unwanted facial fat reduces as well.

    • It is important to discuss dieting with your doctor, to ensure that you follow a well-balanced diet and avoid fad dieting that can harm your body.
    • Cardiovascular exercises and strength training are best for weight loss and toning.
    • Eat plenty of fiber and leafy green vegetables. Avoid foods high in sugar and fat.
    • Try to avoid alcohol or minimize its consumption drastically. Alcohol contains non-nutritious calories and dehydrates your body too. Dehydration can cause your face to appear bloated.
  3. Keep well hydrated.

    Having sufficient water intake will help you to flush out excess sodium that may be creating puffiness in your face.

    Adequate water will also help to flush out toxins in the body that may be contributing to an unhealthy pallor.

Method 3 Facial Exercises

There are over 50 muscles in the face, which some experts believe can all benefit from facial exercises.

  1. Don’t treat facial exercises as a cure-all.

    The idea of facial exercising has its devotees but never rely on this alone as a way to reduce facial fat, as having a slimmer look still comes back to losing weight healthily in general and exercising the whole body. However, that said, facial exercises are good to do in conjunction with dieting because they can be some help in preventing the sagging and wrinkling that occurs after a large weight loss.

  2. Try facial yoga.

    Yoga poses that force your head downwards are considered to give the facial muscles a good workout, along with deep breathing exercises. As a bonus, this helps to keep you looking younger.

  3. Say X and O many times in a row. These two letters will force your mouth and cheeks to contract in such a way as to make the muscles move a lot. Repeat as many times a day as you wish.

  4. Chew chewing gum or bubblegum.

    The constant chewing action will use many muscles in the face and if you enjoy chewing gum, it’s not going to be hard to do.

    • Chew sugar-free gum. Avoid adding any more sugar to your diet than needed.
  5. Open your mouth as roundly and widely as you can.

    Hold it for a few seconds. Then relax.

    • Repeat this about 30 times in a row, three times a day (morning, noon and evening).

Method 4 Using Makeup to Minimize larger Areas of the Face

Makeup is used to disguise all manner of things on the face. It can also be used to reduce the sense of breadth.

  1. Use blush that is darker than the hue of your skin. Draw it from the exterior of the face to the inner. It gives an impression of more sculpted cheeks and looks good.

  2. Use contouring to thin the face.

    Contouring can make a less defined face seem thinner, by accentuating the cheekbones and using shading to tone down and highlight different parts of the face.

    • Contouring can make already-slim faces seem hollow and tired. Be careful how much contouring is used.
    • Ask for a contouring lesson with a local makeup artist. This person will be able to best advise you on what to play up and what to tone down with respect to your own face. It takes time to learn to contour well, so keep practicing.
  3. Arch your eyebrows.

    Arched eyebrows that have a little thickness (but not too much) can slim down a face.

    These can be made to stand out by using a shade slightly darker than your natural eyebrow color.

  4. Use concealer to cover up under-eye circles. These circles can add the appearance of weight to your face.

  5. Use lighter lip color. Darker lipstick colors can give an impression of heaviness. By using lighter lipsticks, you can make lips appear slimmer.

Community Q&A

Add New Question

  • For how many days should I do it? And should I do it in the morning, or some other time?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Exercise is to be done on a regular basis, just keep doing it. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do it, whenever you can make the time is fine.

  • Will exercise help me lose fat from my face?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Yes! Keep in mind that exercise will cause you to lose fat over your entire body, however.

  • I have the desire to lose my weight, but how can I control my appetite?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Try drinking a glass of water before meals to reduce your appetite, and eat vegetables high in fiber, such as carrots, to make you feel full.

  • How can I lose weight from my face?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Drink lots of water, eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise to lose weight in your face.

  • Does chewing gum an hour a day in the morning help in reducing facial fat?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Yes, but it would do so slowly. For best results, chew gum for a few hours per day.

  • I have a desire to lose weight and I’m exercising and eating more healthy meals. Why am I not losing weight?

    wikiHow Contributor

    It might be because of your metabolism. It also depends on how long you have kept up with these healthy habits. See your doctor for detailed advice tailored to your specific needs.

  • Will draining blood from your cheeks reduce your face fat?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Draining blood from your cheeks will not reduce face fat because it would be removing blood, not fat. Trying to remove anything from your face is dangerous, especially if there is not a physician present.

  • How can you tell if your face is puffy as opposed to fat?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Check out your sugar and sodium intake. Eliminate them from your diet completely for a week, and see if it makes a difference in how your face looks.

  • Okay but I’m young. How can I make my face less fat in days without makeup?

    wikiHow Contributor

    if you are young, don’t worry about it! You are young and you shouldn’t worry about these kinds of things. Puberty will take its course and it might take away or redistribute your facial fat. Also, makeup doesn’t make your face less fat, it just creates an illusion that it is.

  • How do I get a guy to think I am attractive in junior high?

    wikiHow Contributor

    Be yourself! Nature will take its course.

Show more answers

Unanswered Questions

  • How do you reduce face redness? And what is the cause?

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  • Don’t starve yourself to get slimmer!
  • Keeping your facial skin in excellent condition is essential for feeling better about how your face looks. Your face is the window to the world, so make it look as beautiful as possible by following a daily skincare and cleansing routine that suits your skin type and lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be complex or expensive and your gender doesn’t matter––just find a skin cleansing and moisturizing routine that works for you and stick to it.
  • Avoid candy and swap it out for some carrots with a fat free dressing.
  • Faces are prone to accumulating fat; as such, it may actually be a useful indicator for you to consider going on a diet to tone up your whole body.
  • Your natural body shape will have an impact on how large, wide or fatty your face appears.
  • Face sculpting creams do exist but do your research before spending large amounts of money.
  • Saying the letters ‘M’ and ‘N’ with maximum movement of your jaws, is yet another way that helps you to accomplish the task.
  • A fuller face helps to keep most people looking younger. For many people, embracing the facial fat is the way to stay looking young for longer! After your 40s, you will start to lose facial fat naturally and lower BMIs mean that wrinkles stand out more on the face.
  • Your whole body weight effects your face’s weight so try losing body weight.
  • Make sure you are constantly hydrated. Dehydration causes an increase of sodium in the blood which may result in a puffy face.
  • Draw attention to your eyes and away from your lower face, which tends to show weight the most. To do this use makeup to do a dramatic eye look or make your eyes look bigger.
  • Eat healthy and avoid anything with lots of salt,sugar,or chemicals.
  • As you grow older your fat might go away.
  • There are certain medical conditions that can cause puffiness around the face. Hypothyroidism is one of them. Else well as others.


  • Chewing for a long time can result in aching jaws.
  • There is no such thing as “spot reduction” weight loss; there is no one way to target an area of the body and lose weight only there. You will need to be prepared to lose weight generally in order to lose some facial weight.
  • Facial surgery is as serious as any other form of surgery and shouldn’t be considered lightly. There are many blood vessels in your face that can make such surgery tricky. Even when done well, facial surgery will leave scarring.
  • Losing too much weight from your face can result in you appearing much older, with shallow and sunken parts of your face. Anywhere between 15 and 25 percent body fat is essential for keeping the face youthful in appearance.

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Categories: Featured Articles | Losing Weight

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Português: Perder Peso no Rosto, Italiano: Perdere Peso nel Viso, Français: perdre du poids au niveau du visage, Español: perder grasa facial, Русский: похудеть в лице, 中文: 减掉脸上的赘肉, Deutsch: Im Gesicht abnehmen, Bahasa Indonesia: Menurunkan Lemak pada Wajah Anda, Nederlands: Afvallen in het gezicht, Čeština: Jak zhubnout na obličeji, العربية: خسارة الوزن من الوجه, Tiếng Việt: Giảm béo cho khuôn mặt, ไทย: ลดน้ำหนักบริเวณใบหน้าของคุณ, 日本語: 顔痩せする, 한국어: 얼굴살 빼는 방법

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Epidermis and Dermis

I used to assess new idea proposals for a big pharmaceutical company.  Smaller companies with novel ideas, products and technologies would pitch them to me and some clever but non-technical colleagues.  A lot of the ideas were very involved and needed a lot of explanation.  One of the things I learned from that was that any scientific idea or concept can be explained in plain English by someone who themselves understands it.  Jargon is useful shorthand among people in the know, but you should be able to say what you mean without resorting to it if you need it.

This came to my mind the other day when reading a thought provoking paper entitled “Transepidermal water loss and skin site: A hypothesis”  by Jonathan Hadgraft, one of the UK’s top experts of skin penetration and Majella Lane (International Journal of Pharmaceutics Volume 373, Issues 1-2, 21 May 2009, Pages 1-3, read the abstract here).

It’s an interesting and well written paper that asks the question, why is the skin on the face different to skin elsewhere on the body.  But I have to say that it probably isn’t going to be a page turner if you don’t have some background in the subject matter.  But as I’ve said, if I have understood it myself then explaining it to a non-specialist shouldn’t be a problem.

I think we have all noticed that the skin on our face is more sensitive than that on most of our body.  What makes it different?   One published paper observed that water is lost from the face more quickly than from the arm.  It seems that although the skin is a very good barrier it is a less effective barrier on the face.

If you could examine the cells that make up the top layer of the skin with a really good microscope, you would see that the ones on the face are smaller than those on the arm.   Another paper reports that the enzyme responsible for releasing the skin cells from the surface of the skin is more plentiful on the face.  This suggests that evolution has favoured smaller skin cells on the face for some reason.

How does this affect sensitivity?  Anything trying to get across the skin, either water getting out or chemicals going in, has to negotiate its way through the barrier created by the skin cells.  This means that on the face the path anything trying to get into the body through the skin has to take is shorter. One way to think of it is that it is a bit like a ball bearing trying to get through a pin ball machine.  The ball bearing is the molecule and the skin cells block its progress.  The skin cells in the face are smaller so present less of a barrier.  The face is an easier pinball table with smaller obstacles.

(Do remember though that even the skin of the face is a formidable barrier to chemicals, whether natural or man-made, getting across it. Reports that 60% of cosmetic ingredients getting into the body across the skin are complete rubbish.)

I asked for permission to include a figure from the paper here, but the publisher wanted £13 for it,.  so I’ve done my own version.  It took me a lot longer than I thought and should probably have coughed up the money, but here it is anyway.

The path of a chemical trying to penetrate the skin

I have blogged before that there are more pores on the skin of the face as well.  So all in all the protection that the skin of the face gives you is not as good as that of the rest of the body.

Why the face should be marked out in this way I don’t know.  But  you can be sure that there is some selective advantage.  Perhaps thinner skin allows more expressiveness on our faces.  Probably humans, as social animals, survive better with a face where the skin is thin enough to more clearly communicate what we are thinking. The ability to use your face to express your emotions gives you enough of an advantage to overcome the loss of a bit of extra water.

What are the practical implications of this?   Well one consideration is that you need to take more care of your face than the rest of the skin on your body.  So if you have found an expensive face cream don’t waste it elsewhere.  It is quite likely that the rest of your body doesn’t need it.  A lot of people believe that they have sensitive skin but it could well be that all they have is a sensitive face.  One last implication is for doctors and dermatologists.  When people seek there advice about skin allergies they often respond with a patch test.  In a patch test a whole series of chemicals is applied to patches on the back to see if they produce a reaction.  This is probably okay most of the time, but if the face is much more sensitive than other parts of the body then you might miss problems that are only going to affect your face.


There’s a saying in Hollywood, first coined by the glamorous Sixties actress Catherine Deneuve, which will strike a chord with women the world over: ‘At a certain age, you have to choose between your face and your ass.’

We all know it’s true. Once you get past the age where your metabolism keeps lumps and bumps at bay and your skin is too fresh-faced for wrinkles, you can’t possibly keep both your face and body in a state of youthful perfection.

The middle-aged women who choose to prioritise their faces are easy to pick out in a crowd. Their bodies may bulge in all the wrong places, but they have the enviable visage of a 30-year-old, with line-free foreheads, plump cheeks and dewy skin. All of which draws attention away from their steadily sagging bodies.

Annmarie Sweeney, 44, a healthcare assistant from Cheshire, says that since losing a lot of weight over the past ten months, she now looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognise the woman she sees

Nigella Lawson said she had no intention of losing weight in 2011 because it would age her – however, after her marriage breakdown she looked noticeably gaunt 

Nigella Lawson, 56, is one such woman. The curvy food writer and chef announced in 2011 that she had no intention of losing weight, despite fluctuating between a size 12 and 16, because she feared it would add years to her face.

‘If I lost 40lb ,’ she said, ‘I would age ten years straight away.’ 

And the women who have done just that – focusing on their body instead of their face – know all too well what she means.

For in a bid to regain the lithe, toned figures of their youth, increasing numbers of middle-aged women are developing a condition known as ‘diet face’.

It occurs when women over 40 lose weight or embark on a strict healthy eating plan. 

As the pounds drop off, the years start showing up on their faces. Wrinkles and crow’s feet that were once plumped by fat appear out of nowhere; their previously apple-like cheeks look hollow and skin turns sallow.

Jo Laybourn, 44, from Chelmsford, Essex, who works for a children’s charity, says that since she has lost 4st, she’s become conscious of the lines around her mouth

Rather than recapturing their youth, these women – having finally achieved the figure of a much younger woman – end up looking several years older than they actually are.

Scientists have recognised the phenomenon for some time. In 2009, a team of researchers in the U.S. found that losing as little as 10lb – or the equivalent of one dress size – can age an older woman by four years.

In women over 38, the study authors said, a full face looks younger than a thin, gaunt one.

‘Losing fat from the face gives the appearance of being unwell,’ says Harley Street facial surgeon Dr Ayham Al-Ayoubi.

‘With weight loss, many people develop a hollow area under the eyes and their skin becomes dehydrated and wrinkly, making them look old. A plump, arched face is a sign of youth; one that is concave and bony looks far older.’

Annmarie says that when she was bigger (left) she could have passed for being in her twenties. She says that after losing weight she now has hooded eyes and wrinkles

Jo says she now feels fitter and healthier but thinks the downside is that she looks drawn and old

Even celebrities aren’t immune from developing ‘diet face’ after losing weight. The gaunt, hollow-cheeked look has become commonplace among middle-aged A-list actresses and models – so much so that surgeons are fielding soaring numbers of requests for procedures that reverse its effects.

A recent survey of surgeons worldwide revealed a 50 per cent rise in cheek plumping and fillers among 40 to 59-year-olds in a bid to restore their youthful complexions.

Among some of the most high-profile sufferers are stars whose extreme diet regimes have taken a heavy toll on their looks.

In the 20 years since she came to fame, Victoria Beckham, 42, has gone from chubby-cheeked Spice Girl to having jutting cheekbones, circles under her eyes and a permanently pinched expression.

When, in 2014, she appeared at an awards ceremony in London after a period out of the spotlight, fans remarked that her face looked ‘old’, ‘miserable’ and ‘too skinny’.

Madonna, pictured left in 2015 and right in 2008, has seen her looks change vastly due to different dieting and exercise regimes 

 Victoria Beckham, 42, has gone from chubby-cheeked Spice Girl to having jutting cheekbones

Madonna and Friends actress Courteney Cox have the affliction, too, attributing their drawn, lined faces to an obsession with keeping their figures in shape.

‘In Hollywood, to get your bottom half to be the right size, your face may have to be a little gaunt,’ admitted 51-year-old Cox, who works out four times a week to maintain her bikini body.

Madonna, 57, a notorious fitness obsessive, conceded: ‘Several years ago I knew I had to choose between my face and my body. I always knew I’d choose the latter.’

But Fern Britton, 58, is possibly the most striking example of a diet face in the public eye. 

Before the TV presenter had her £8,000 gastric band fitted in 2006, she was known as the bubbly face of This Morning, whose youthful smile and sunny demeanour were more remarkable than her size 16 figure.

Afterwards, when she dropped five stone to become a slimline size 12, viewers said that she appeared to have aged dramatically, with bags under her eyes, lines around her mouth and sagging jowls that had never been there before. 

Actress Courteney Cox, 51, has attributed her drawn, lined face to an obsession with keeping in shape

Fern Britton, 58, is possibly the most striking example of a diet face in the public eye. After dropping five stone to become a slimline size 12, viewers said that she appeared to have aged dramatically

Jo Laybourn, 44, who lives in Chelmsford, Essex, with Mark, her husband, and works for a children’s charity, says that since she has lost 4 st, she’s become almost wary of smiling because she’s so conscious of the lines around her mouth. 

She says her weight has always fluctuated, but during her two pregnancies she gained a lot.

‘After giving birth to Ben, who’s now eight, and then Joshua, who’s five, my weight went up to around 13st 7lb and I was a dress size 16.

‘Towards the end of 2014, I saw a hideous photograph of myself looking huge – and that spurred me on to start losing weight.

‘I lost more than 4 st in seven months, by eating healthily and exercising, and now I’m a size 8. 

Jo was spurred on to start losing weight after she saw a ‘hideous’ photograph of herself at the end of 2014 

Jo says she does not regret losing weight, but if she could afford to splash out she would get some fillers to get her youthful plumpness back

‘I feel fitter and healthier – but the downside is the effect this weight loss has had on my face. I look drawn and old. I have deep wrinkles around my eyes and lines down either side of my mouth.

‘I didn’t see it coming. I thought getting fit would make me look and feel younger, but instead it’s given me an aged face.

 ‘I don’t regret losing the weight, but if I had all the money in the world I’d have some fillers to get my youthful plumpness back.’

So what exactly causes ‘diet face’ – and can anything be done to reverse it?

The key lies in the make up of the human face, which is comprised of several different fat compartments, located both immediately under the skin and within our bone structure.

When we’re young, these compartments are readily supplied with nutrients, keeping them plump and youthful. As we age, however, these nutrients are diverted elsewhere in the body, causing the fat pockets to start deflating.

‘This leads to gravitational descent,’ explains Dr Costas Papageorgiou, a surgeon who specialises in facial rejuvenation.

‘Volume loss in one area can affect neighbouring tissues, leading to a cascade of ageing signs: eyebrow deflation, jowling and neck laxity.’ 

Annmarie says her face now looks drastically different –  when she was bigger it was round and plump 

She said she started losing weight after a traumatic few years in which she lost her mother to pneumonia and then suffered a heart attack herself 

 This natural deflation begins in our late 30s and is accelerated by weight loss, which breaks down the scaffolding under the surface of our skin and causes the face to sag.

‘Older, thinner skin is more vulnerable to volume changes of the fat compartments,’ says Dr Papageorgiou.

‘Weight loss unveils the bony anatomy of the face, especially in the forehead and eyes, which in turn accelerates the ageing process.’

Annmarie Sweeney, 44, a healthcare assistant from Cheshire, says that since losing a lot of weight over the past ten months, she now looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognise the woman she sees.

‘I started losing weight after a traumatic few years in which I lost my mother, Maureen, 66, to pneumonia and then suffered a heart attack myself,’ she says.

‘It was the wake-up call I needed to get myself in shape.

‘With the help of a personal trainer and a rigorous no-sugar diet, I’m now not far off my target weight of 10 st and I’m a size 10 for the first time in years.

‘My work colleagues say they don’t recognise me – and I know that’s in part a compliment to my new figure, but it’s also because my face looks so drastically different.

‘When I was bigger, it was round and plump, and I could have passed for being in my twenties.

‘Today, however, I have hooded eyes, wrinkles on my brow and excess skin that hangs down from my chin and makes me look older.

‘People tell me they don’t notice it, but I’m very self-conscious about my face and neck.’ 

Suzanne Cohen, 42, says her husband, who’s a 42-year-old lawyer, told her to stop dieting because it was ageing her face so. The mother of three boys, aged seven, 14 and 15, from Finchley, North-West London, says she has always been a yo-yo dieter and lost weight running everyday 

‘I’d pound the pavements every day, racking up mile after mile. The first place I noticed the weight dropping off was from was my face – and instead of looking younger, I started to look gaunt and old,’ Suzanne says

Slimming also causes stress to the ligaments in our face. Dr Jonquille Chantrey, a Cheshire-based cosmetic surgeon, says this can make the skin look like it’s melting. ‘The ligaments in the face support the soft tissue. If weight is lost, these can stretch and relax, contributing to the face appearing to sag,’ she explains.

‘Although these women feel more body confident, they can look more tired because the shadows on their face have shifted.’

What’s more, the very act of losing weight by restricting what goes into our body can have a direct and unexpected effect on our face.

When we lose weight, it tends to disappear from the face first, followed by the breast, buttocks and finally the hips and abdomen.

This is because fat in the face is superfluous and our bodies aren’t biologically primed to retain it, whereas the body hangs on to fat in the hips and buttocks for childbearing purposes. As a result, restricting calories can cause the face to become malnourished, explains Dr Aamer Khan, of the Harley Street Skin Clinic.

‘As a survival method, the body starts to divert nutrition to the essential organs, so the non-essential parts of the body – the skin and soft tissues of the face, neck, decolletage and hands – suffer,’ he says.

She said that when she was ‘fat’ she had a ’round face and podgy, young-looking cheeks’. Now that Suzanne is thinner, she said her cheeks have lost their plumpness and the wrinkles have set in

This affects women in very different ways, depending on their genetics and ethnicity.

Asian women, for example, are born with more fat in the deeper layers of their skin and so age naturally at a slower rate, even when dieting.

Caucasians have thinner skin, so when they diet in middle age, says Dr Papageorgiou, ‘their face will behave like a deflated balloon’.

Suzanne Cohen, 42, says her husband, who’s a 42-year-old lawyer, told her to stop dieting because it was ageing her face so.

The mother of three boys, aged seven, 14 and 15, from Finchley, North-West London, Suzanne says she’s always been a yo-yo dieter.

‘At my biggest, after the birth of each of my children, I weighed 11st 7lb. Today, I’m two stone lighter and wear a dress size 10.

‘I lost the weight by running. I’d pound the pavements every day, racking up mile after mile. The first place I noticed the weight dropping off was from was my face – and instead of looking younger, I started to look gaunt and old.

‘I wouldn’t say my face dropped, but it definitely started to sag downwards as the pounds peeled away.

‘When I was fat, I had a round face and podgy, young-looking cheeks. Now that I’m thinner, they’ve lost their plumpness and the wrinkles have set in.

‘I’m lucky to have my mother’s genes, so I don’t have too many fine lines yet. But losing all this weight has made me look more like her than ever before.

‘I cover the lines with make-up, but when I’m bare-faced, people could think I’m far older than I am.’ 

Experts say that until the age of 35 or 40, our skin is pumped full of collagen but this drops dramatically around the time of the menopause. Losing weight left Ulrika’s Jonsson’s face more wrinkly

 So why is it that dieting doesn’t have the same ageing effect on younger women?

Until the age of 35 or 40, our skin is pumped full of collagen – the natural protein that gives it strength and elasticity. This declines at a rate of 1 per cent to 1.7 per cent a year from that point onwards, and drops dramatically around the time of the menopause, due to the decline in the amount of oestrogen our bodies are producing.

Without collagen, the skin loses its ability to ‘bounce back’ into shape, so as the fat in the face melts away, it’s left slack and droopy rather than stretched tight.

We’re also more prone to losing fat in the face as we get older, and less able to replace it. This is because younger women have a thicker dermis – the inner layer of skin containing the blood vessels and hair follicles – which acts as an extra shield for our looks.

‘This makes the face more resilient to the underlying volume changes of the fat pockets,’ says Dr Papageorgiou. ‘For example, the skin of a young patient undergoing neck liposuction will be thick and elastic and able to adapt to the new contour, while older patients can have significant sagging once the fat has been removed.’

Even if they do regain weight, this is unlikely to go back into the face. Because we don’t need fat in this part of the body, it will naturally settle elsewhere. As well as being the first place we lose fat, the face is the last place it tends to go back on.

An ageing face seems a high price to pay for a supple young body, especially considering all the work that goes into dieting in middle-age.

But even higher are the costs required to rectify ‘diet face’.

Experts recommend facial fillers, made from hyaluronic acid – a compound found naturally in the body – that can plump out the deflated fat pockets in the face. These cost around £150 a go, with most people needing a course of five.

What’s more, the effects last only up to 18 months and so the treatment has to be repeated or diet face will return.

‘Fillers can be used in very small doses, injected directly into the affected fat pads to recreate the lifted, smooth look,’ explains Dr Chantrey, who has performed the procedure on thousands of patients in the past eight years.

‘Temples, upper cheeks and under the lower eyelid tend to be the first key areas.’

For damage to the eyelids, chin and neck, the best option is a face lift, which pulls excess flesh upwards and inwards via an incision at the hairline. This is pricier still, costing upwards of £7,000.

With all this to contend with, it’s worth bearing Catherine Deneuve’s old adage in mind. And perhaps, when you reach that certain age, you might choose to put your body second and your face first.


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