Are You Missing Any Facial Muscles?

If someone told you that you might not have all facial muscles, you'd think he was kidding.

When scientist Bridget M. Waller from University of Portsmouth started studying how facial expressions are formed, she already knew that some people lack certain muscles.

Her study, Selection for Universal Facial Emotion was published in the American Psychological Association Journal in 2008.

Six Universal Expressions

People around the world have six universal emotions and facial expressions to match them.

Those 6 universal emotions are:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Surprise
  • Disgust

They are present in each and every culture. But the scientists had already before, in several studies, found out that the amount of facial muscles vary from person to person.

How can people have common facial expressions if they don't have all the muscles?

In this study, the scientist took another look at the muscles that are needed for certain expressions and as a side product got some more information about the muscles that are often missing.

Commonly Missing Muscles

Universal facial expressions are possible, because there is only a handful of muscles needed to create them.

Everyone has those muscles and you can read more about them when I finish my article Facial Muscles Needed For Expressions.

While those major muscles are found from everyone, there are several other muscles that are sometimes found missing.

The facial muscles that are most often missing are:

  • Risorius - Pulls the corner of your mouth to the side
  • Zygomaticus minor - Lifts the corners of the mouth towards your ears
  • Corrugator supercilli - "The frowning muscle"
  • Procerus - Helps flare the nostrils
  • Nasalis - Compresses nasal cartilage
  • Depressor septi - Pulls the wings of the nose down and constricts nostrils

They might be missing from one side of the face or both. They also more often became asymmetric in their size and strength than the major facial muscles.

The chance of missing some of these muscles is not small either.

For example, only 4 of the 18 people studied had Risorious in both sides of their faces and 7 people did not have it at all. That means over half of the people don't have that muscle!

What If I Am Missing A Muscle?

If you are an actor of a performing artist, you might be worried now. But there is no need. You'll only notice your missing muscles by having a harder time to perform some facial tricks, like wiggling or flaring your nostrils.

What comes to facial expressions, other muscles will compensate for the missing ones.

That makes the missing muscles just a fun fact.

Finding out if you are missing one is not easy either. Facial muscles lie flat against the bones, so you cannot really see or separate them underneath the skin. The study was performed by dissectioning cadavers' faces. For non-english speakers, that means cutting up dead people.

How This Relates To Wrinkles?

Well, that has not been studied yet.

One might speculate though, whether missing muscles would decrease the overall tension in the skin and reduce wrinkles. But then again, the need to compensate for missing muscles might be more strenuous to the other muscles, thus increasing wrinkles.

In any case, the wrinkles seem to mainly form over the major facial muscles.

How This Relates To Facial Exercise?

All faces are unique. Truly, really, physically unique.

If someone claims you that you can get all the results you need just by doing a handful of facial exercises 5 minutes per day, she is probably lying.

If someone claims that her facial exercise program is perfect and fits for everyone as it is, she is probably lying too.

I can tell you how the program I am using solves this problem. It has a basic set of 28 exercises that work all the facial muscles for a balanced base build. When you find out what your trouble spots are, you just add couple of additional exercises that target those areas.

You'll be given a set of extra exercises to choose from, but you don't need to know how to pick the correct ones for yourself. The creator of the program promises that if you send her your photos, she will help you to find out the extra exercises that you need.

So when you are selecting a facial exercise program, you should stick to the programs that lets you customize the program based on your unique needs.

Go back to home page.


Selection for Universal Facial Emotion, Bridget M. Waller, James J. Cray Jr., Anne M. Burrows, the American Psychological Association, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 3, 435– 439 1528-3542/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/1528-3542.8.3.435

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