A guide to facial muscles and how they change over time
by Andrea Gregaydis
Understanding how to prevent muscle deterioration begins with an essential key: having an understanding of the muscles!
We all know that we have roughly 650 muscles in throughout the human body, but did you know that 43 are in the face alone, and 36 of those are used for facial expressions! Laugh lines, crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles; every one of our “expression lines” come from using our facial muscles. Muscles contract which causes the skin on top of them to wrinkle.
Muscles move through contraction; tightening and extension or relaxing. During contraction, the point of insertion moves while the point of origin stays fixed. As we age, muscles gradually lose tone. In fact, muscle function begins to deteriorate as early as our 30s. It is said anywhere from three to five percent of muscle is lost every decade after the age of 30.
Muscle movement also takes longer to respond to our brain signals as we age. This contributes to age related muscle loss called sarcopenia or “vanishing flesh.”
Our facial muscles are what we call skeletal muscles, which are lean muscles that attach to bones and are under voluntary control. The amount of muscle tissue and size of these muscle fibers gradually decrease over time. With age, the number of muscle fibers that contract faster decrease much more and much quicker than the number of muscle fibers that contract slower.
The Map of the Muscles
The following muscles are the muscles that we as estheticians will have the most experience with, and influence on. Let’s begin from the top and move down to help locate them easier.
Our Frontalis is the muscle that extends from the forehead to the top of the skull. This muscle is responsible for raising our eyebrows and drawing the scalp forward.
Procerus is located between the eyebrows. This muscle covers the bridge of the nose and lowers the eyebrows.
Next up is the Corrugator muscle. This is located right about the brow bone area. It is responsible for drawing your eyebrows down.
The above muscles play a big role in the formation of forehead wrinkles and those pesky eleven lines between the brows!
Moving further down the face, just below the eye, starting at the cheekbone we have:
Zygomaticus, which actually consists of two parts on each side of the face Zygomaticus Major and Minor. These muscles are located outside the combers of the mouth. They draw the mouth up and back and are responsible for laughing and smiling.
The Quadratus Labii muscles are a group of several muscles that are all located around the mouth. For instance the Quadratus Labii Superioris consists of three muscles that are located above the upper lip and raise the upper lip and nostrils. These muscles help us show distaste.
The next set of three muscles are the Quadratus Labii Inferioris, which are literally the opposite, they are located below the upper lip. These muscles pull the lower lip down or to the side and helps to express sarcasm.
The Risorius is located at the corner of the mouth, it draws the mouth up and out as in grinning. Our Caninus muscles are located above the corners of the mouth, which raise the angle of the mouth. Think of snarling, like a canine would do!
Moving just below the corner of the mouth is the Triangularis which draws the corners of the mouth downward to express sadness or frowning.
The Orbicularis Oris circles around the entire mouth and plays a role in both puckering and wrinkling the lips. Just think of kissing or whistling, or even drinking through a straw. This muscle contributes to the first signs of aging in individuals that smoke. The repetitive motion of puckering over time will show as fine lines and wrinkles along the lip line.
We complete our muscle map with the Buccinator and Mentalis. The Buccinator muscle is located between the jaws and cheek, this compresses cheek to release air, as in blowing. Finally our Mentalis, which is located at the tip of the chin, pulls lower lip up wrinkling the chin. This is responsible for expressing doubt.
Muscles Over Time
If you are anything like me, I am sure you made all of the facial expressions as you read about them just now. The fact is, every facial movement or expression we make, especially repetitively will contribute to wrinkles, fine lines and muscles deterioration over time. Some of our expressions happen naturally like laughing or smiling. While other muscles movements we do may be from bad behaviors, such as smoking or not wearing glasses and squinting!
The natural aging process is the biggest factor when it comes to fine lines and wrinkles, that is a “no brainer.” As we age, the facial muscles begin to shrink. This shrinking is what is called “atrophy.” When atrophy starts to occur, our skin simultaneously begins to lose its collagen and elastin, our support system for the skins cushioning and flexibility. In addition, simple gravity over time pulls down on both the skin and the underlying fat, and in turn creates a sagging appearance and loss of firmness.
An enormous factor in premature facial wrinkling is smoking. It has been shown that smoking can contribute to the breakdown of muscle mass. It dramatically decreases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. It rapidly speeds up the normal aging process. Although one may not notice immediate effects and long term effects may take up to 10 years to start to notice. Smokers will develop fines lines around the mouth and deeper forehead wrinkles at an accelerated rate over non smokers. Aside from the natural aging process, smoking is next in line for facial wrinkling.
It prevents our skin from holding onto important nutrients such as Vitamin A and C. With over 4000 chemicals in tobacco, the collagen and elastin in our skin barely stands a chance.
If you needed more of a reason to quit smoking, just think of the long term damage it will have on your beautiful face!
Excessive alcohol intake can leave the skin looking sallow and discolored, due to an increase in dehydration over time. If our body is dehydrated for prolonged periods of time, eventually our tissues, including those that make up our muscles, will suffer. Don’t worry you can still enjoy your favorite cocktail on occasion, but moderation is key!
Genetics and Muscle Tone
Genetics plays a very crucial role in just about every aspect of our selves, including aging and muscle deterioration. Take a look at the similarities you may see through generations of family members. Do you have your grandmothers under eye circles or your moms body type? We can thank genetics for that, some things are simply out of our control!
Individual genetics can plays a role in muscle building and muscle loss as well. The speed of muscle growth, the rate as to which we are able to build and maintain lean muscle are all influenced simply by genetic factors.
Feed Your Facial Muscles
Finally, weight management and nutrition have a role in muscle health. Muscles tissue is made of protein, specifically different types of amino acids. If we are not taking in enough protein our muscles will not work effectively. Being underweight reduces the natural fat in our facial structure, this can add to lower muscle mass due to the bodies inability to hold on, or add to, the protein needed to build and maintain muscles. While on the converse side, excess weight can add to poor muscles tone by cover the muscle tissue and hindering the muscles appearance.
As estheticians, our job is to use our knowledge and expertise to educate our customers to best care for their skin and it’s health, muscle health contributes to this. Having a clear understanding of the role that muscles play and the opportunities to best care for them, helps our customers stay beautiful and youthful for years to come.