December 13, 2017
Double Chins: Can You Inject Them Away?

Double Chins: Can You Inject Them Away?

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

From an evolutionary stand­point, the shape of the human chin may have developed, at least in part, to signal the quality of a mate (with broad chins on males attract­ing females and narrow ones on females attracting males). But many people today have more chin than they care to have—in the form of a “double chin,” which refers to a specific layer of fat under the chin (called submental fat) that gives the appearance of a second chin.

Double chins are more common in older and overweight people. With aging, neck skin loses elasticity and fat accumulates. Making matters worse, the fat pad droops, while the glands under the jaw bone and the band of muscle on the sides of the neck may also lose tone. But many young people and those at healthy weight have double chins, too, due to genetics (which determines where fat is stored), bone structure, and skin laxity.

Inject it away?

A new treatment for moderate to severe sub­mental fat, called Kybella, has been getting a lot of buzz since it was approved by the FDA in 2015. It is being touted as a nonsurgical alternative to more invasive procedures like liposuction and surgical “neck lifts”—and as an adjunct to procedures that use lasers, ultrasound, or radiofrequency to improve the contour of the neck and chin. The treatment consists of injecting a drug, deoxycholic acid, which destroys the cell membranes of adipo­cytes (fat cells). This triggers a mild inflam­matory reaction, which then mobilizes the body to clear out the debris left over from the breakdown of the cells. Up to 50 injections are given under local anesthetic per session, and may take four to six sessions, each separated by at least a month, to get results—with the benefits lasting, so far, up to four years.

The FDA gave Kybella a thumbs up based on two large clinical trials, which showed it was better than a placebo in reducing chin fat and increasing patient satis­faction. But adverse effects—including temporary nerve damage, trouble swallow­ing, and skin ulcerations—can occur, espe­cially if the drug is improperly injected near a major nerve, lymph nodes, or salivary glands or into the skin rather than into fat tissue. More common is pain, swelling, bruis­ing, numbness, redness, or hardness around the injection sites. And the procedure is not for everyone: It should not be done, for instance, in people with infections and clot­ting issues. Younger people tend to be better candidates because their skin is tighter.

Can You Exercise Away Your Double Chin?

Despite a multitude of websites hawking various facial exercises—such as pucker­ing your lips while stretching your neck—none have been shown to be effective in reducing chin fat. Same goes for special mouth devices and electric facial toners.

Bottom line

A double chin is a cosmetic issue only, though it’s often related to being over­weight or obese, which are health risks. But if you are extremely bothered by having one—and losing weight overall hasn’t helped enough—you can talk to a derma­tologist or cosmetic surgeon to weigh the pros and cons of possible options. Kybella appears to be beneficial, but it’s too early to know the long-term effects. It’s not covered by insurance, and full treatment can cost several thousand dollars. And because it’s new, doctors may not be very experienced at giving the injections, though they must complete a training program.

Be especially wary of cosmetic medical spas that offer other injection procedures to get rid of unwanted chin fat, often under the umbrella term “mesotherapy.” These typically use unregulated drug formulas whose safety and effectiveness have not been adequately tested. A few years ago, the FDA warned consumers about misleading claims being made for an injection regimen called Lipodissolve and its serious side effects, though many practices continue to offer it.

Also see Do Skin Serums Work?