After losing more than 15kg over this past year, I found myself having a classic Clueless Monet moment. While the image in my full-length mirror reflected my newfound strength and energy, the face staring back at me in my magnifying one looked puzzlingly tired and, somehow, older.
Fine lines around my eyes and forehead had become exaggerated, and my undereyes looked hollow and purplish. It wasn’t all in my head. A trip to the dermatologist for a Visia scan (a diagnostic tool that shows skin damage) revealed my skin’s age to be four years older than my true one. Um, what?!
I’m definitely not alone in this experience. “I see it very frequently,” says dermatologist Dr Mona Gohara. “Sagging, wrinkling, and fine lines are more apparent with even a 5kg weight loss,” she says.
The reason? “Like all the other parts of the body, our face has fat, and that fat actually makes us look more youthful,” explains dermatologist Dr Anne Chapas. “People who have higher BMIs generally tend to look younger.” And since you can’t spot-reduce fat (Working Out 101), if you lose weight, you’re losing it from your face too.
Those who have lost and gained multiple times in the past, are older, or have sun damage are particularly affected in the face by new weight loss. That’s because sun damages elastic fibres (which also reduce with age), making it harder for skin to really bounce back, says Dr Chapas.
Thankfully, a few skin-care tweaks - and perhaps a trip to the dermatologist - give you ways to address your top complexion concerns so your face can match how absolutely awesome and energised you feel on the inside. Start here…
Premature drooping of the jawline (a.k.a. jowls) is one of the most common issues. When you drop kilos, you’re also shedding the components that make your skin plump, like subcutaneous fat, collagen, and elastin, says Dr Gohara. And while you can’t rebuild fat with skin care, you can spur the growth of new collagen over time with ingredients like retinol (in Origins Plantscription Retinol Night Moisturiser with Alpine Flower), growth factors and peptides.
For more pronounced - and faster - results (typically within four to six weeks), Dr Gohara likes noninvasive Ultherapy, a type of ultrasound technology that uses heat to stimulate collagen. “It damages the skin so that it’s mad, and then the skin reacts by creating collagen,” she explains. It sounds scary, but the “injuries” are microscopic.
Suddenly noticing crow’s feet where there weren’t any before? “Fine lines can definitely become exaggerated with weight loss,” says Dr Gohara. Her fix: a product with hyaluronic acid (try StriVectin’s moisturiser). “It sends hydration into the skin and plumps it up to give you both immediate results and long-term benefits, because it can actually drive your body to create its own hyaluronic acid.”
Fat under the eyes helps mask the dark blood vessels below. So less fat equals dark circles. A collagen-stimulating cream with retinol can help, as can a light-reflective eye cream, like L’Oréal Paris’s, which makes circles appear less hollow. But a trip to the derm’s office is the best bet. “For a quick fix, the number one thing we do is filler. It’s injected into that area, and it can immediately correct that sunken look - patients walk out almost fully corrected and they don’t need to put concealer there anymore,” says Dr Chapas. She prefers hyaluronic acid-based Restylane for this area because it comes off as natural and lasts anywhere from one to three years.
An unexpected but extremely frequent side effect is surprise breakouts. “Switching your diet often has implications in terms of your skin,” says Dr Gohara. A possible trigger: protein shakes. “Whey proteins are especially notorious for creating acne,” she says.
Treat your newfound spots by washing with a salicylic acid (a gold-standard anti-acne ingredient) face wash and using a glycolic acid-infused face pad. And always use a non-pore clogging moisturiser (look for “noncomedogenic” on the label). Try Neutrogena Foaming Scrub.
First published: 6 Dec 2019