If you’ve been thinking that all that pandemic snacking has left you with more, as the internet puts it, “face fat” than you used to have, we encourage you to look farther than the camera on your phone or computer. It may not be reflecting reality.
A group of researchers surveyed dermatologists this past year and, in a paper published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, describe the phenomenon of “Zoom dysmorphia.” In other words, that Zoom and other tech that you use with front-facing cameras makes you look different than you actually do, and that it’s driving people to get cosmetic procedures to change how they look. In reality, the camera isn’t reflecting how you truly look, anyway.
If that’s not it, then okay, maybe weight gain really is showing up in your face. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as targeted facial weight loss. But there are ways to better expose your jawline or cheekbones and have your face look slimmer without getting surgery.
The first, unsurprisingly, is full-body weight loss. When you lose weight everywhere, you usually lose it in your face, too. So don’t fall for any hype that promises face-specific results. “As much as it would be great to be able to pick and choose where we lose weight, it isn’t possible,” explains Nicole Avena, Ph.D., a nutrition and dieting expert and neuroscience professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “We really don’t have control over where our body loses fat from first when we start to lose weight.”
While you can’t really lose weight in your face, there are a few things you can do to expose your facial structure if you feel your face is puffier than usual:
Cut back on salt to reduce facial puffiness
“Water is attracted to sodium like a magnet,” says Melissa Majumdar, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Any time we eat foods that are high in sodium, we’ll retain more water, which can cause bloating and the feeling of puffiness.” To lower your sodium intake, Majumdar recommends cutting down on processed foods (yes, that does include bacon), and boosting your potassium intake to balance out your electrolytes.
“Adding in more fresh foods like produce can accomplish both the short-term goal of less puffiness and the long-term goal of weight loss,” Majumdar says. She notes that “most fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium.” So are legumes, so fill up on foods such as lentils, pinto beans and kidney beans.
Befriend the non-alcoholic drink, at least some of the night
If you notice your face looks swollen the morning after a few drinks, that’s because alcohol dehydrates the body—so your skin tries to retain as much water as possible. Cutting down on booze can help your faux “face fat,” as can making sure you drink enough water. Keep in mind that cutting down on alcohol these days doesn’t mean giving up on taste. These kind of amazing non-alcoholic beers prove that point well.
Check with a doctor
If changing your diet and cutting out alcohol don’t make a difference, you might want to get a check-up. Allergies, a bacterial skin infection called cellulitis, or a sinus problem won’t cause weight gain in your face, but can all cause facial swelling, and they’re all treatable.
Nina is a health and culture reporter who has written for SELF, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, the New York Times, and more.
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