Carrying extra fat anywhere on your body can be frustrating, but when it appears in the form of a double chin, it can be particularly maddening — and difficult to get rid of. While weight gain and obesity can be two of the reasons that double chins appear, that’s often not the case. In fact, the causes of a double chin can vary and may have nothing at all to do with your weight.
“While it’s true that a double chin is the result of an extra layer of fat that accumulates in the neck area, that doesn’t always mean it’s an issue of gaining weight,” says Jessica Trammell, Skin Care Center Aesthetic Supervisor at U.S. Dermatology Partners Shoal Creek in Liberty, Missouri. “There are other ways that fat can accumulate under your chin, so in order to know how to treat it, you have to know what’s causing it.”
Some of the other reasons you get a double chin can include:
- Age. As we get older, our skin loses elasticity and begins to sag. In some people, this extra skin can contribute to the appearance of a double chin.
- Posture. Sitting with your head slumped forward and your shoulders rounded can, over time, create the appearance of a double chin. “Unfortunately, in today’s world, where so many people are spending a lot of time in front of a computer, this is becoming more common,” Trammell says.
- Genetics. Even more than weight gain, genetics will play a significant factor in getting a double chin. “If your family has a history of poor skin elasticity or if it’s common for people in your family to have double chins, you have a much greater chance of getting one yourself,” says Trammell.
How to Solve the Double Chin Dilemma
The official term for a double chin is submental fat, and recent studies have found that this fat is stored in a separate “compartment” in the neck. Because of its unique attributes and the way it is stored, studies have shown that treating double chins might require a different approach than treating fat in other areas of the body.
If your double chin is the result of weight gain, cutting back on the amount of fat and calories you consume could help you lose weight. However, keep in mind that we don’t get to choose where we lose weight, and it may not eliminate your double chin completely — particularly if you are genetically predisposed to developing one.
Exercises to minimize a double chin may have some benefit, but they can only strengthen the neck muscles and cannot actually “burn” the fat or reduce the sagging of that skin.
“Neck exercises can improve your posture, but they can’t spot reduce fat in the neck,” Trammell says. “Fortunately, there are new ways that you can quickly and safely reduce a double chin.”
In the past, one of the most effective treatments for a double chin has been liposuction. While this procedure can address a double chin and has a proven track record, there are other less invasive treatments that have gained popularity for reducing fat in double chins.
Kybella Treatments for a Double Chin
Kybella is an FDA-approved injection that gradually destroys the fat cells until your chin profile improves. The clear, colorless, sterile solution contains deoxycholic acid, which is a molecule that occurs naturally in our bodies and helps us break down and absorb fat. When it is injected underneath the chin as a targeted application, it immediately begins to destroy the fat cells.
Your skin care provider can determine if Kybella is right for you and how many treatments will be necessary. The treatments, which last about 20 minutes, are usually performed six to eight weeks apart, and many patients will see visible results in just two treatments.
During a treatment, you’ll receive several injections. After the Kybella is injected, you will have some swelling and may have redness as well. You can use either a topical numbing medication or an ice pack to alleviate some of the pain. You may also experience bruising in the days following a treatment.
While Kybella is considered safe overall, patients who have trouble swallowing or who experience numbness beyond the injection area should contact their practitioner immediately.
During the months that you are receiving Kybella treatments, you’ll notice your double chin's fullness gradually reducing. Since the treatment is designed to destroy the fat cells, the effects are permanent, and the fat cells will not return.
CoolSculpting Treatments for a Double Chin
The approval of CoolSculpting as a way to reduce or eliminate a double chin adds another option for treatments. CoolSculpting uses extremely low temperatures to freeze fat cells in targeted areas. Freezing kills the fat cells, and the dead cells are then absorbed back into your body until you eliminate them through your lymphatic system as bodily waste.
CoolSculpting is a simple procedure. Your practitioner will use a small vacuum applicator to freeze the targeted area. A treatment will generally last between 35 minutes and an hour, and during that time you’ll feel a certain amount of pulling or tugging on the areas being treated. You’ll also experience an intense cold sensation and may have some stinging or cramping at the site of the treatment.
Results from CoolSculpting can be seen quickly, often in as little as three weeks, but your appearance will continue to improve over the next two to six months as your body continues absorbing and eliminating the dead fat cells. Just as with Kybella, the number of treatments you’ll need will be determined by your provider. And, like Kybella, CoolSculpting offers permanent results since the fat cells have been killed and disposed of.
For both Kybella and CoolSculpting, it’s important to keep in mind that if you gain weight in the neck and chin area after receiving the procedure, it may not be distributed evenly and can appear wavy or lumpy. Also, it’s very important to only receive these treatments from an experienced practitioner to ensure that the procedure is administered evenly and provides proportionate reduction throughout the area.