Maybe you’ve put on a few pounds “all in your face.” Or maybe you’ve lost weight, but your face hasn’t gotten the memo. What’s behind suddenly rounder cheeks?
“Generally speaking, when we gain or lose weight, we are not increasing or decreasing the number of fat cells, called adipocytes,” says Stephen S. Park, M.D., F.A.C.S., president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. “Instead, the cells themselves are enlarging or shrinking. That is why some people will report always having a problem area, regardless of weight. They have more fat cells in that area than other people do.”
What’s more, other born-with-them characteristics, such as your bone structure and the size of structures nestled in your face (like your saliva glands), can make a face look fuller, says Park. And while there’s nothing you can do to change your genetics or spot-reduce fat, there are some ways you can help thin out a ballooning face:
1. FIGHT WATER RETENTION
“Excess alcohol, sugar, and salt intake are all linked to fuller faces,” says medical weight-loss expert Sue Decotiis, M.D. They can all cause your body’s tissues—including those in your face—to hold onto water. Cut down on your consumption of these face-bloaters, and up your intake of water. When you are dehydrated, your body is more apt to retain any water flowing through it.
2. TREAT ANY FOOD INTOLERANCES
People with food allergies or intolerances such as gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome often complain of fuller faces, she says. (Here’s how to tell if you have IBS or just a sensitive stomach.) Bloating is a common symptom that something’s not right with your digestive process. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, it’s unclear why IBS (which affects up to 15 percent of U.S. adults) causes bloating, but gas within the gut appears to have nothing to do with it. Seeing your doctor can help you address any underlying issues that are leading to puffiness.
3. YOUR HORMONES ARE SURGING
If your face swells during “that time of the month,” you may benefit from talking to your gyno about steadying your hormones. Right before your period strikes, your body experiences a spike in the hormone progesterone, which is to thank for most PMS symptoms, including facial swelling, says Decotiis. If you’re also experiencing hot flashes and your periods are irregular, you may be entering into perimenopause, which leads up to menopause and can last for years. Think that’s an older woman’s problem? Think again. In some women, perimenopause starts as early as their mid-thirties. (Here are some early signs that perimenopause may be in your future.)
Originally written for Women’s Health Magazine.