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Face body language


Techniques > Use of body language > Parts-of-the-body language > Face body language

Color | Moisture | Emotions | ExpressionsSee also


The face has around 50 muscles in it, with many of these used to send many non-verbal signals. As well as muscles, the color of the skin and dampness can also be important in communication.



A generally red face may indicate that the person is hot as the blood come to the to surface to be cooled. They may heat up either from exercise or emotional arousal, for example when they are excited and energized.

A red face is typical of a person who is angry. This is a clear danger signal, warning the other person that they may be harmed if they do not back down.

People blush with embarrassment in various ways. Some people's neck goes red. With others it is mostly the cheeks. Sometimes the whole face goes red.


White skin may be a sign of coldness as the blood goes deep to avoid cooling further.

White skin is also an indication of fear, often extreme. This happens as the blood abandons a surface that might be cut, going to muscles where its power is needed more.


The skin can also take on a bluish tinge. This can also indicate coldness or extreme fear.


Sweating is the body's natural cooling mechanism when it gets hot, possibly from excitement and emotional arousal.

Sweat is also associated with fear, perhaps to make the skin slippery and hence prevent an opponent from taking a firm grasp.


Here are some of the facial signals that you might see for different emotions. Do note that these are only possible indicators: not all signals are needed and not all signals indicated here necessarily indicate the associated emotion.


Emotion Facial signals
Anxiety Eyes damp; eyebrows slightly pushed together; trembling lower lip; chin possibly wrinkled; head slightly tilted down.
Fear Eyes wide, closed or pointing down; raised eyebrows; mouth open or corners turned down; chin pulled in; head down, white face.
Anger Eyes wide and staring; eyebrows pulled down (especially in middle); wrinkled forehead; flared nostrils; mouth flattened or clenched teeth bared; jutting chin, red face.
Happiness Mouth smiling (open or closed); possible laughter; crows-feet wrinkles at sides of sparkling eyes; slightly raised eyebrows; head level.
Sadness Eyes cast down and possibly damp or tearful; head down; lips pinched; head down or to the side.
Envy Eyes staring; mouth corners turned down; nose turned in sneer; chin jutting.
Desire Eyes wide open with dilated pupils; slightly raised eyebrows; lips slightly parted or puckered or smiling; head tilted forward.
Interest Steady gaze of eyes at item of interest (may be squinting); slightly raised eyebrows; lips slightly pressed together; head erect or pushed forward.
Boredom Eyes looking away; face generally immobile; corners of mouth turned down or lips pulled to the side; head propped up with hand.
Surprise Eyes wide open; eyebrows raised high; mouth dropped wide open with consequent lowered chin; head held back or tilted to side.
Relief Eyebrows tilted outwards (lowered outer edges); mouth either tilted down or smiling; head tilted.
Disgust Eyes and head turned away; nostrils flared; nose twisted in sneer; mouth closed, possibly with tongue protruding; chin jutting.
Shame Eyes and head turned down; eyebrows held low; skin blushing red.
Pity Eyes in extended gaze and possibly damp; eyebrows slightly pulled together in middle or downwards at edges; mouth turned down at corners; head tilted to side.
Calm Relaxed facial muscles and steady gaze with eyes. Perhaps mouth turned up slightly at sides in gentle smile.




Hehman et al. (2015) found that the most trustworthy face is one where we have a slight smile, with the corners of the mouth turn up, and with eyebrows slightly raised. This shows us as being confident and friendly but without being anxious as to whether others like us in return (hence making us more desirable as a friend).


Kleisner et al (2014) found that people with a narrower face, with a thinner chin and a larger prolonged nose str typical of a common stereotype of how a very intelligent person looks. In contrast, an oval and broader face with a large chin and smaller nose is often seen as typifying lower intelligence. They also noted, however, that the way women tend to be judged on attractiveness can swamp assessments of other characteristics. They also noted that higher intelligence is perceived when the person is smiling or showing joy, while lower intelligence faces are more easily associated with anger and untrustworthiness.

You can also appear more intelligent by adopting power body language, speaking expressively, using more eye contact, being confident and not exposing much skin.

See also

Emotional body language


Hehman, E., Flake, J.K. and Freeman, J.B. (2015). Static and Dynamic Facial Cues Differentially Affect the Consistency of Social Evaluations, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 0146167215591495

Kleisner, K., Chvatalova, V. and Flegr, J. (2014). Perceived Intelligence Is Associated with Measured Intelligence in Men but Not Women, PLOS One, 20;9(3)


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