Facial Muscles

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The Facial Muscles, and in particular those in the lips, help to shape the sound and air stream into recognizable speech. Visible in this image (click on it), these muscles move the face in response to our thoughts, feelings, emotions and impulses. Actors work very carefully to learn how to isolate each muscle. It is useful to learn to recognise the various muscles in order to better isolate them, so that any extraneous movement is eliminated and the muscles used are those desired. Also by recognising the muscles' shape, it is easier to understand how the face is moved by these muscles.

They are:

  • frontalis: the forehead
  • corrugator: the brow
  • nasalis: the nose
  • obicularis oculi: around the eye
  • levator labii: raises the upper lip
  • masseter: closes the jaw
  • Obicularis oris: purses the lips
  • risoris: draws the lips in a smile
  • buccinator: pulls the lips wide and tight
  • depressor labii: lowers the lower lips
  • depressor anguli oris: lowers the bottom corner of the lips
  • levator anguli oris (not shown): raises the upper corner of the lips
  • pterigoid (not shown): pulls jaw back or shut
  • mentalis: pulls chin down

This image features a clear side view of the facial muscles. You can see the temporalis muscle, those on your temples under the hairline just above your ears, very clearly. These are very active in chewing. Also visible is the large strap of the buccinator muscle (latin for bugler), which pulls the side of the mouth wide.

The platysma muscle covers the front of the neck, and is the muscle closest to the surface. This image shows the angle at which one feels the platysma best, by lifting the chin while turning the head to either side. This muscle often tries to "help" as we speak, and learning to relax it can be very difficult for some. It attaches to the jaw line and to the clavicle as it smoothes over the neck.

For speech, the most important facial muscles are those that move the lips. All other muscles we want to relax as much as possible, especially the jaw muscles. In fact, some models are now having "botox", a form of botulism toxin, injected into some of their facial muscles, like the corrugator and frontalis, so that the muscles won't work and won't create wrinkles.

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