Muscles of the Face - dummies

By David Terfera, Shereen Jegtvig

The face is so expressive. Facial muscles let you show how happy, frown when you’re displeased, or show your flirtatious side with a wink. You can show the world you’re angry or sad or maybe even bored. You can do other things with your face too, like kiss your baby goodbye, play a French horn, and keep your food in your mouth when you eat.


The muscles of facial expression are located in the subcutaneous layer on the scalp, face, and neck:

  • Occipitofrontalis: This muscle has two bellies (the thickest part of the muscle):

    • The frontal belly originates from the epicranial aponeurosis (fibrous tendon) and inserts into the skin and subcutaneous tissues of the eyebrows and forehead. It elevates the eyebrows and wrinkles the skin of the forehead.

    • The occipital belly originates at the superior nuchal line of the occipital bone and inserts at the epicranial aponeurosis. It retracts the scalp.

  • Orbicularis oculi: Originating on the medial part of the orbit and lacrimal bone, this muscle inserts into the skin around the orbit. It closes the eyelid.

  • Orbicularis oris: This muscle originates on the medial mandible and maxilla and the skin around the mouth. It inserts into the lips. It closes the mouth and protrudes the lips.

  • Buccinator: This muscle originates on the mandible and the alveolar processes of both the mandible and maxilla. It inserts at the angle of the mouth and the orbicularis oris. It presses the cheek against the molars and helps keep food between the teeth when chewing.

  • Platysma: Originating in the subcutaneous tissue of the areas above and below the clavicles, or collarbones, this muscle inserts into the mandible, the skin of the cheek, the lower lip, the angle of the mouth, and the orbicularis oris. It depresses the mandible and tenses up the skin of the neck and lower part of the face.