Skip main navigation

The main muscles of the face

Knowledge of facial anatomy is vital to reconstruct a face from a skull. In this article, we’ll explore the main muscles groups in the face.
© The University of Sheffield

Let’s have a look at the main muscles of the face.

1. Occipitofrontalis

Occipitofrontalis. The large muscle of the forehead.

The large muscle of the forehead. Some experts omit this muscle when reconstructing the face as it is thin and they feel that it does not contribute significantly to the overall contours of the face.

2. Temporalis

Temporalis. A fan shaped muscle that fills out the side of the head.

A thick-fan shaped muscle that closes the mouth and assists the jaw to move side-to-side to grind up food.

3. Buccinator

Buccinator. A thin muscle located on the inside of the cheek

Sometimes known as the ‘trumpeter muscle’, the Buccinator’s role is to puff out the cheeks and prevent food from passing to the outer surface of the teeth during chewing.

4. Masseter

Masseter. A thick muscle that runs from the cheekbone to the lower jaw

This runs from the cheekbone to the lower jaw and brings the teeth back together to grind up food. The Masseter is the strongest muscle in the human body.

5. Mentalis

Mentalis. A concical bundle of muscle fibres that run through the fat of the chin

Sometimes called the ‘pouting muscle’, contraction of the Mentalis raises and thrusts out the lower lip to make us pout.

6. Depressor Labii Inferioris

Depressor Labii Inferioris. A muscle which pulls down the bottom lip

This muscle pulls down the bottom lip allowing us to sulk.

7. Orbicularis Oris

Orbicularis Oris. A circular muscle around our mouth

The circular muscle around our mouth is Orbicularis Oris and this muscle brings our lips together so we can pucker up for a kiss!

8. Levator Anguli Oris

Levator Anguli Oris. Muscles which attach to the corners of the mouth.

The happy muscle, makes the corners of our mouth turn upwards into a smile.

9. Levator Labii Superioris

Levator Labii Superioris. Muscle which starts above and cross over much of the underlying Levator Anguli Oris

The muscle that deepens the furrows on either side of our nose and top lip when we feel sad.

10. Depressor Anguli Oris

Depressor Anguli Oris. This muscle lowers the corners of our mouth into a frown.

This muscle lowers the corners of our mouths into a frown.

11. Levator Labii Superioris Alaeque Nasi

Levator Labii Superioris Alaeque Nasi. This muscle runs along the side of the nose, dilating the nostril

This muscle dilates the nostrils and raises the upper lip. It’s often referred to as the ‘Elvis muscle’ in homage to Elvis Presley.

12. Zygomatic Major and Minor

Zygomatic Major. One of a pair of strap muscles that inserts into the upper lip

Zygomatic Minor. One of a pair of strap muscles that inserts into the upper lip

These are strap muscles that help to form the shape of the cheeks. Both muscles are involved in elevating the upper lip to generate a smile, with the minor muscle allowing us to curl our top lip which usually demonstrates smugness.

13. The Orbicularis Oculi

Orbicularis Oculi. A sphincter muscle that surrounds the eye.

A distinctive muscle is constructed of two parts, the palpebral and orbital. The palpebral area lies at the centre of this sphincter muscle and forms the eyelids with the orbital region encasing it concentrically. The Orbicularis Oculi muscle opens and closes the eyelids thus allowing us to blink, wink or squint in bright sunlight.

14. Risorius

Risorius. A thin delicate muscle which pulls the lips laterally to open the mouth

A very thin and delicate muscle that pulls the lips horizontally creating a large, albeit insincere smile.

If you’d like to learn more about forensic facial reconstruction, check out the full online course from The University of Sheffield, below.

© The University of Sheffield
This article is from the free online

Forensic Facial Reconstruction: Finding Mr. X

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now