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Human face

Recommended video: Muscles of facial expression [12:24]
Overview of the muscles responsible for facial expression.

The human face is the most anterior portion of the human head. It refers to the area that extends from the superior margin of the forehead to the chin, and from one ear to another. 

The basic shape of the human face is determined by the underlying facial skeleton (i.e. viscerocranium), the facial muscles and the amount of subcutaneous tissue present. 

The face plays an important role in communication and the expression of emotions and mood. In addition, the basic shape and other features of the face provide our external identity. 

This article will discuss the anatomy and structure of the human face.

Key facts about the human face
Definition Most anterior part of the human head
Parts and regions Superior: Frontal region, orbital region, temporal region
: Nasal region, infraorbital region, zygomatic region, auricular region
: Oral region, mental region, buccal region, parotideomasseteric region
Bones of face Paired bones: Nasal conchae, nasal bones, maxillae, palatine bones, lacrimal bones, zygomatic bones
Unpaired bones
: Mandible, vomer
Muscles of face Buccolabial group: Levator labii superioris, levator labii superioris alaeque nasi, risorius, levator anguli oris, zygomaticus major, zygomaticus minor, depressor labii inferioris, depressor anguli oris, mentalis, orbicularis oris and buccinator
Nasal group:
Nasalis, procerus
Orbital group:
Orbicularis oculi, corrugator supercilii, depressor supercilii
Epicranial group:
Occipitofrontalis, platysma
Auricular group:
Auricularis anterior, auricularis posterior, auricularis superior
Function Communication, emotion expression, identity
  1. Bones of the face
  2. Muscles of face
  3. Regions of face
    1. Superior part of face 
    2. Middle part of face
    3. Inferior part of face
  4. Innervation
  5. Blood supply 
  6. Clinical relations
    1. Facial clefts
  7. Sources
  8. Related articles
+ Show all

Bones of the face

The facial skeleton is also known as the viscerocranium. It is composed of fourteen bones, six paired and two unpaired bones. 

The bones of the viscerocranium include:

The main function of these bones is to give shape to the human face and to protect the internal structures. In addition, these bones provide openings for the passage of neurovascular structures and bony features for the attachment of facial muscles. 

Muscles of face

The facial muscles are also known as the muscles of the facial expression or the mimetic muscles. These muscles are a group of approximately 20 superficial skeletal muscles of the face and scalp divided into five different groups according to their location and function. These groups include: 

All facial muscles originate from the bony and fibrous structures of the skull and insert into the skin. The prime function of the facial muscles is to provide a wide range of facial expressions which is important for expressing emotions and mood (e.g. smiling, grinning, frowning). In addition, these muscles help in opening and closing the mouth and eyes, and thus protect the delicate structures of the face.

Regions of face

The human face can be divided into three main parts the superior part of the face, middle part of the face, and the inferior part of the face. 

Superior part of face 

The superior part of the human face extends from the hairline to the inferior margin of the orbit. The lateral margins of this portion extend to the temporal region. The superior part of the face 

can be divided into three separate regions including the frontal, orbital and temporal regions. 

These regions are characterized by the following: 

  • The frontal region, also known as the forehead, is the most superior region of the face that spreads from the hairline to the eyebrows. It is composed mainly of the frontal bone and the overlying muscles including the procerus, occipitofrontalis, depressor supercilii and corrugator supercillii muscles. The muscles are covered by several fat pads (central, middle and lateral) and skin. 
  • The orbital region contains the eyes and orbits. Eyes are paired spherically-shaped organs situated in the orbits. The orbits are composed of several cranial bones including the frontal bone superiorly, nasal bone medially, maxilla inferomedially and the zygomatic bone inferolaterally. Each eyeball is cushioned by superior, inferior, and lateral fat pads. The orbit is surrounded by a single muscle known as the orbicularis oculi muscle, while the eyes are enveloped and covered by the eyelids which function to protect the eyes from external factors. The orbicularis oculi muscle closes the eyelids on contraction while the levator palpebrae muscle opens the eyelids. The edges of the eyelids are lined with eyelashes. 
  • The temporal region is composed of the frontal, sphenoid and temporal bones. It is covered mainly by the temporalis muscle and overlying skin. 

Middle part of face

The middle part of the face region extends from the lower eyelid superiorly to the superior margin of the upper lip inferiorly. This portion of the face is marked by four regions including the nasal, infraorbital, zygomatic and auricular regions. 

  • The nasal region is located in the central portion of the human face and, as its name suggests, it features the nose. The nose is the central pyramid-shaped structure, situated in the midline. The base of the nose is formed mainly by the nasal bone and covered by the nasalis muscle. The apex of the nose ends inferiorly in a rounded ‘tip’. The area between the base and apex is the dorsum of the nose which is formed by nasal cartilage. Superficially, the dorsum of the nose is covered by fat pads and skin. 
  • The infraorbital region overlies the maxilla, while the zygomatic regions overlie the zygomatic bone. These regions are located lateral to the nose and mark the superior portion of the cheek. The cheek is a prominence that overlies the zygomatic arch and is comprised of muscles and fat. The zygomatic arch is composed of two bones (zygomatic and maxilla). The muscular layer of the cheeks contains several muscles that include the masseter, levator labii superioris alaeque nasi, levator labii superioris, zygomaticus minor, zygomaticus major, risorius, levator anguli oris and buccinator muscles. The muscles of the cheeks are covered by fat pads and overlying skin. 

The auricular region is the most lateral region of the face. It contains the external ear (auricle). The internal structure of the auricle is made from cartilage and covered by skin. The ears are surrounded by three auricular muscles (anterior, posterior, and superior).

Take a closer look at the regions of the face in the study unit below!

Inferior part of face

The inferior part of the face is bordered superiorly by the superior margin of the upper lip and inferiorly by the inferior border of the chin. The lateral borders of the inferior part of the face are formed by the angles of the mandible on each side. This part can be divided into oral, mental, buccal and parotideomasseteric regions. 

  • The oral region surrounds the lips, the most prominent structures in the inferior part of the face. They are divided into two parts: the upper lip and lower lip. The upper lip is associated with the maxilla, while the lower lip, with the mandible. The lips are surrounded mainly by the orbicularis oris muscle which functions in altering the shape of the lips when we speak or eat. The other muscles that facilitate the movements of lips are the risorius, mentalis, depressor labii inferioris, and depressor anguli oris muscles. The movements of the lips allow for  actions such as speech, eating, and kissing. 
  • The mental region is located inferior to the mouth. It features the chin, a central structure that overlies mental protuberance of the mandible. 
  • The buccal region is located just inferior to the infraorbital and zygomatic region, and comprises the inferior portion of the cheek. It mainly refers to the area marked by the buccinator muscle. The inferior border of the buccal region is the jawline, formed by the inferior border of the mandible. 
  • The parotideomasseteric region is located lateral to the buccal region. This region is named after the underlying parotid gland and masseter muscle. 

Test your knowledge on the regions of the head and face with this quiz.


The three divisions of the trigeminal nerve (CN V) are responsible for the somatic sensation of the entire face according to the three embryological origins.

The ophthalmic nerve (CN V1) which comes from the frontonasal prominence supplies the anterior scalp, forehead, and nasal dorsum.

Deriving from the maxillary prominence the maxillary nerve (CN V2) provides mainly the anterior cheek, the lateral face, the upper lip, the side of the nose, and the lower eyelid.

The mandibular nerve (CN V3) originates from the mandibular prominence and supplies the lower lip,chin, and posterior cheek.

Blood supply 

The face is richly perfused by a subdermal plexus formed mainly by musculocutaneous arteries coming from the superficial temporal and facial arteries. The facial artery branches off the external carotid artery, winds around the inferior border of the mandible and ascends along the side of the nose. The superficial temporal artery similarly arises from the external carotid artery and gives off numerous branches which supply different parts of the face including the transverse facial artery and the middle temporal artery. 

The venous blood of the face drains from the subdermal plexus to the deep venous plexus via communicating veins.

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