Currently set to Index
Currently set to Follow
Skip main navigation

The muscles of the face

In this article, we'll recap the main muscle groups covered in the previous step.
© The University of Sheffield
A knowledge of facial anatomy is vital to be able to reconstruct a face from a skull. In this article, we’ll explore the main muscles groups in the face.
This information is also available as a download at the bottom of this step and we will be watching a video showing each of these muscles as they are reconstructed in the next step, so you may find it useful to have this article as a reference.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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!

Levator Anguli Oris

Levator Anguli Oris. Muscles which attach to the corners of the mouth.
The happy muscle, making the corners of our mouth turn upwards into a smile.

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 either side of our nose and top lip when we feel sad.

Depressor Anguli Oris

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

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.

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.

The Orbicularis Oculi

Orbicularis Oculi. A sphincter muscle that surrounds the eye.
A distinctive muscle that 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.


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

Forensic Facial Reconstruction: Finding Mr. X

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education