There are a few common reasons why someone may start to develop fat under their chin:
- Weight gain – Overall weight gain can lead to increased fat deposits in areas like under the chin.
- Genetics – Some people are just prone to storing fat in this area due to their genetic makeup.
- Age – As we get older, we tend to lose collagen and elastin leading to sagging skin which can give the appearance of fat under the chin.
- Posture – Poor head and neck posture can make fat under the chin more noticeable.
Developing excess fat under the chin, commonly referred to as a double chin, is a common concern for many people. This fat deposit is medically known as submental fat. While sometimes simply an aesthetic issue many dislike, a double chin can also be an indication of weight gain or age-related changes. Understanding the common causes of submental fat can help you determine how to best address and treat the issue.
What Causes Fat to Develop Under the Chin?
There are several potential causes for fat developing in the area under the chin:
One of the most common reasons people develop fat under the chin is simply overall weight gain. As we gain excess body fat, some of that fat is deposited in the chin area. The chin and neck do not have large muscle mass, so excess fat more readily accumulates in these spots compared to other areas like the arms or legs. If weight gain is the cause, losing excess body fat through diet and exercise should help reduce the amount of fat under the chin.
Some individuals are just prone to carrying excess weight and fat deposits in certain areas, including under the chin, due to their genetic makeup. People whose parents tended to have chubby cheeks or double chins are genetically predisposed to also have this trait. The distribution of fat on the human body is largely determined by your DNA. If your genetics promote submental fat accumulation, you may struggle with it despite maintaining a healthy overall weight.
Aging can also contribute to excess fat under the chin. As we get older, our skin loses collagen and elastin which are proteins that help keep skin firm and elastic. This loss of collagen and elastin causes the skin to sag. Areas that sag due to age-related collagen and elastin loss include under the eyes, around the mouth, along the jawline, and of course under the chin. This sagging skin gives the appearance of extra fat even if no additional fat has actually been deposited.
The posture of your head and neck can also impact how pronounced fat under the chin appears. Frequently bending your neck forward to look at phones or other devices can lead to an unnatural curve in the neck. This head forward posture makes fat under the chin and along the neck more noticeable. Improving posture can help reduce the appearance of fat under the chin.
Other Contributing Factors
A few other factors may make fat accumulation under the chin more likely or apparent:
- Lack of muscle tone – Poor muscle tone in the jaw, chin, and neck area can make fat more pronounced.
- Excess sodium intake – A diet high in salt can lead to fluid retention all over the body including under the chin.
- Alcohol consumption – Heavy alcohol intake is linked to puffiness and swelling in the face.
- Smoking – Smoking can accelerate age-related collagen/elastin loss leading to sagging skin.
- Allergies – Seasonal allergies or food intolerances can cause inflammation that leads to temporary swelling under the chin.
Medical Conditions Related to Fat Under the Chin
While weight gain, age, and genetics are the most common factors behind fat accumulation under the chin, in some cases a medical condition may be the root cause. Some health conditions associated with excessive submental fat include:
An underactive thyroid means your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism slows your metabolism making you more prone to weight gain, which can show up as excess fat under the chin. Treating the thyroid imbalance could resolve the issue.
Cushing’s Syndrome is a disorder in which chronic high levels of the hormone cortisol are present in the body. Cortisol triggers fat accumulation in certain areas including the face and neck. If medication fails to control the excessive cortisol, surgery may be required to treat Cushing’s Syndrome.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a common hormonal disorder affecting women. It often causes weight gain that can manifest as submental fat. Lifestyle measures and medication can help manage PCOS.
Sarcoidosis is a rare inflammatory disease that produces small clumps of cells in various organs of the body. When it affects facial tissues, swelling and fat deposits can occur under the chin. Sarcoidosis requires medication, usually steroids, to control inflammation and prevent permanent organ damage.
When to See a Doctor
In most cases, fat under the chin is not a medical concern. However, you should consult your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- The fat under your chin seems to appear suddenly or grows quickly
- The area under your chin is tender, painful, red, or warm
- Along with chin fat, you experience other symptoms like fatigue, hair loss, changes in skin or vision, or excessive thirst/urination
- You have difficulty swallowing or experience shortness of breath
Rapid fat growth, pain, or other symptoms may indicate an underlying medical condition requires treatment. Sudden swelling and shortness of breath can signal a rare but dangerous condition called angioedema that requires immediate medical care.
Lifestyle Changes to Help Lose Fat Under the Chin
If the fat under your chin is related to being overweight, genetics, or age, making a few key lifestyle changes may help minimize its appearance. Lifestyle adjustments to consider include:
Losing excess body fat
Losing weight through diet and exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce a double chin if it is caused by being overweight. Focus on an overall healthy calorie deficit to promote safe weight loss. As you lose excess body fat, you should also see improvements in the fat under your chin.
As shown in the table, exercises like jogging and using the elliptical can burn significant calories to help create a calorie deficit for weight loss.
Engaging in targeted toning exercises
Doing exercises that target the muscles of the chin, jaw, and neck areas can help tone these muscles which makes fat less noticeable. Some useful toning exercises include:
- Head turns – Turn head slowly side to side and up/down
- Neck stretches – Gently tilt head to each shoulder, avoiding hyperflexion
- Jaw clenches – Clench jaw muscles then relax
- Chin lifts – Look towards ceiling to lift chin then relax
Aim to engage in toning exercises for the chin at least three times per week for best results. Proper posture when doing these exercises is important to prevent neck injury.
Improving your posture
Working on body posture, especially your neck/head position, can make a surprising difference in the appearance of submental fat. Stand up straight with shoulders back and gaze forward, avoiding letting your head jut forward. Avoid looking down at devices excessively. Use proper ergonomics when sitting at desks. Keeping good posture takes practice but helps prevent neck strain and makes fat under the chin less obvious.
Smoking can accelerate collagen and elastin loss which leads to sagging, wrinkled skin. Quitting smoking may help slow this aging process reducing the appearance of facial fat related to skin sagging.
Staying properly hydrated with water can minimize fluid retention and puffiness under the chin. Aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water daily avoid sodas and limit alcohol and sodium consumption.
Medical Treatments for Double Chins
If lifestyle measures are not sufficient, there are a few medical treatment options that can eliminate fat under the chin:
Fillers like hyaluronic acid can be injected under the skin of the chin to add volume which makes fat deposits less visible. Results are temporary, lasting 6-12 months. Possible side effects include bruising, redness, and soreness at the injection site.
Kybella is a prescription injectable drug made of deoxycholic acid that dissolves fat cells when injected into an area like the chin. Multiple treatments spaced one month apart are usually needed to complete treatment. Swelling, bruising, numbness, and nerve injury can occur with Kybella.
This non-invasive fat reduction treatment uses controlled cooling to selectively reduce fat cells. A device is applied under the chin to cool underlying fat then frozen fat cells die off and are eliminated by the body over several months. Temporary side effects can include numbness, redness, and bruising in the treated area.
A series of injections of pharmaceutical and natural ingredients specifically targeted to dissolve submental fat are delivered under the skin. Multiple sessions are needed but mesotherapy is less invasive than liposuction. Side effects may include pain, swelling, numbness, infection, and scarring at injection sites.
Plastic surgery procedures that remove excess fat under the chin include:
- Liposuction – Small tube sucks out fat through tiny incisions
- Submental liposuction – Modified liposuction technique targets chin fat
- Neck lift – Excess skin and fat removed, muscles tightened
Risks of surgical procedures include bleeding, infection, nerve damage, and scarring. Recovery takes several weeks. Compression garments are worn for a month or more after surgery to help reduce swelling and encourage skin retraction.
Natural and Home Remedies for Submental Fat
Less invasive remedies that some people try in hopes of improving the appearance of double chins include:
- Neck massage – Gentle massage to encourage circulation and lymphatic drainage
- Facial exercises – Targeted exercises to tone chin muscles
- Chewing gum – Thought to work muscles under chin
- Good posture – Prevents worsening from gravitational pull
- Skin care – Firming creams aim to tighten loose skin
No strong evidence proves these natural remedies lead to substantial reductions in submental fat, but they may provide minor temporary improvements. Maintaining good skin care and posture are certainly beneficial overall. Consult your dermatologist if considering topical chin slimming products to ensure they are safe for your skin type.
Fat accumulation under the chin, often called a double chin, is a common aesthetic complaint. The underlying causes are typically weight gain, genetics, age-related skin changes, or posture issues. In rare cases, an underlying medical condition may be to blame. Prior to treatment, it is important to understand the factors that are causing you to develop fat under your chin. Losing excess body weight, engaging in targeted exercises, and improving posture can help reduce the appearance of a double chin. Medical procedures like injectable fillers, fat dissolving injections, and surgical options may produce more dramatic improvements when lifestyle measures fall short. With consistent effort using appropriate treatments, you can successfully minimize unwanted submental fat.