Why Is the Internet Obsessed With the Size of Zac Efron’s Jaw?

It was the least interesting part of that recent interview, in our opinion

Zac Efron talking to Jimmy Kimmel.
Let's stop worrying about this man's body and start listening to his well-earned perspective.
John Fleenor/ABC via Getty Image

Zac Efron didn’t buy himself a new jaw, if you were wondering, which apparently includes a significant number of people online.

The 34-year-old actor cleared the air in a new cover story for Men’s Health, with a surprisingly grisly explanation for the recent changes in his facial structure. In November of 2013, he was running through his house in socks when he slipped and whacked his face on the corner of a granite fountain. When he woke up, his chin bone was “hanging off his face.”

For the last decade, Efron says, he’s worked with a specialist to rehab the shattered jaw; but that physical therapy hit a snag when he traveled to Australia to shoot season two of his Netflix show, Down to Earth. According to Efron, when he took time off from his exercises, his masseters (the large chewing muscles at the back of your jaw, under your ears), “Just grew…[they] got really, really big.”

So. Is that result plausible? Is it even possible?

Maybe. But who cares? Rehab, reconstructive surgery…why is it anyone’s business? Efron’s body — perhaps more than any of the 21st century’s other erstwhile teen stars — has been subject to intense internet interest and outrage since before he could buy a beer. Perhaps it’s time for even just one portion of that body to be left alone?

To be sure, there is an unhealthy online obsession with jaw size. Late last year, we covered an emerging market of rubber mouthpieces that promise a “full facial workout in a few minutes.” For years, men have been taught to worry about dad bods, man boobs or skipping leg day. In some circles, insufficient jaw angularity took the baton as the next frontier in male imperfection.

A Milan-based male model named Luca Marchesi, who has 1.6 million followers on TikTok, posted a video last year showing the “results” of training his jaw for two straight months. One follower wrote, “What trainer do u use. I have a weak ass chin I wanna chisel it.”

While some research has corroborated that jaw trainers “enhance bite force,” the same has been confirmed for chewing Orbit Spearmint. Experts agree: if you chew, talk, smile and frown all day long, your masticatory muscles are fine. I tried a jaw exerciser. It gave me a headache. These Instagram-geared brands are repackaging the age-old wellness mistruth of spot reduction, which erroneously suggests you can lose fat/define a specific area with specific exercises.

However trendy jaw workouts have become though, dissecting Efron’s body has frustratingly never gone out of vogue. The new Men’s Health interview starts by talking about Efron’s biceps. The writer says: “I spot a vein so protuberant that it looks like it’s about to exit his skin.”

What a shame. Especially because buried within the article are some fantastic quotes and observations on the intersections of recovery, mental health and introspection with wellness. Efron talks about his depression after filming Baywatch (he was taking diuretics for months, in the hope of further tightening his skin); he touches on waking up at 4 a.m. to stay in shape for roles (even if shooting halted around midnight), and he acknowledges he eventually developed serious insomnia. But he’s bounced back from all of the above by overhauling his expectations and approach.

When I read the piece, I saw a man vulnerable about his ever-evolving fitness journey, who’s fought hard to find some answers, and who deserves to be taken seriously for once (or at the very least, described as something beyond a piece of himbo meat). Good for him for setting the record straight on jawgate, if that mattered to him. But for anyone who actually cares about health as a manifestation of goal-setting and growth, you might want to look past the photos of his biceps and the lines about his masseters, and take heed of some other sections of the article.

Look instead to his reverence for foam rolling, his commitment to eating real food and his willingness to adopt routines that may hurt in the short-term, but tack years on in the long-term. (On ice baths, Efron said, “That’s the simplest philosophy: Anything you don’t want to do, make it a habit.”)

Efron hasn’t had it easy. America’s always enjoyed watching its stars grow up — but the country’s also been a little too keen to watch Efron grow, period, in an uncomfortable way that has clearly taken its toll. And if he can blaze a path towards sustainable wellness decisions amidst all that scrutiny and speculation, you can too.

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