top of page

Face to Face

Face it.

When you hear the word ‘muscle,’ you get an image in your head of something obvious, something major, something capable of power and force.

Like a bicep.

Go ahead, type in the word ‘muscle’ into an image search (like Google) and you’ll be provided with dozens of photos of body-builders flexing and posing.

(By the way, all men at first. The first woman holding some barbells doesn’t pop up until the eighth row down. We are calling foul!)

About the last body part you might think about when you hear the word ‘muscle’ is … the face.


But there it is, in all its muscle-bound glory, staring right back at us in the mirror. Where would your face be without muscles?


Chewing. (Buccinator.)

Kissing. (Orbicularis Oris.)

Smiling. (Zygomaticus Major and Risorius.)

Blowing a trumpet. (Buccinator … again.)

Scrunching up your nose when your car ends up behind the garbage truck. (Levator Labii Superior.)

Raising your eyebrows in dismay at the mere suggestion that women don’t receive equal exposure to men when you run a Google Image search for the word “muscle.” (Frontalis.)

Well, Gloria Nusse is here to help you get a better grasp on these very important muscles.

Gloria is a lecturer and faculty member at San Francisco State University. She is a well-regarded expert in forensics who has been interviewed in such television shows as 48 Hours, and America’s Most Wanted. She has taught in a cadaver lab for 12 years and is a highly respected scientific artist and also worked with top-notch museums in the United States and around the world.

On Nov. 16, she’s travelling to Denver to teach a class at the non-profit Anatomy in Clay Centers in Denver—about the muscles of the face.

Gloria is going to explore superficial and some of the deeper muscles of the face, along with a few branches of the cranial nerves and the main branches of the facial nerves. Workshop attendees will build the muscle and nerve systems using Anatomy in Clay® Learning System founder Jon Zahourek’s skull model.

The jaw is the only moveable part of the skull, but face and skull are nonetheless home to a complex system of musculature. Some individual muscles, in fact, have no traditional attachment points on a bone.

The face and skull are valuable windows to the story of human evolution. For instance, the way the skull has changed shape over the millennia to accommodate the fact that upright humans own larger frontal lobes, balance on two feet, and manipulate tools. The skull and general shape of the face have changed right along with the rest of the human body.

“A lot of people don’t understand our facial muscles—where they are and how they work,” said Nusse in a recent telephone interview. “It’s one of those things you never think about.”

We think it’s time for that to change! (Along with that Google search issue, too.)







Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page