Zygomatic Minor Third Branch Of Sneering Muscle

Sad Human Sketch

The action of the zygomatic minor is involuntary; it appears only when we're sad, not otherwise (the other two branches of the sneering muscle are under our conscious control). When it contracts, pulling from (B), it creates its own signature wrinkle, the little "floating crease" in the middle of the cheek (A). This crease marks the insertion of the muscle into the skin. The zygomatic minor also squares off the lip (which is also stretched by the risorius and pushed up by the mentalis here) and bunches up the cheek. But its overall effect is more subtle, and major elements of the sneer—the signature deep fold along the nose, the lifting up of the wings—are missing.

Smiling Muscle


Upward Puller II:

The Smiling Muscle_

The smile comes after the sneer because both are accomplished by muscle pulls from above: but what a difference a few inches make! If the pull of the main branches of the sneering muscle is seen as coming from the north, the pull of the smile arrives from the northwest. Its muscular attachment is about two inches further to the side of the face. The tiny zygomatic minor is an even closer companion; along the cheekbone, perhaps half an inch separates the face of pain and pleasure.

The smile is accomplished by the contraction of just one muscle, the zygomatic major. In the final part of this book, the appearances of happiness and pleasure are discussed as they affect the entire face (and involve other muscles): in this section we just focus on what happens to the mouth and its immediate surroundings when the zygomatic major contracts. Obviously, the better you understand the nature of the muscle and its effects, the more convincingly you can draw a smile.

For such a common expression, the smile is surprisingly difficult to draw. There are two main difficulties: getting a feeling for the turning and stretching of the lips and pinning down the reshaping and creasing of the cheeks. A good starting place is the muscle, where it attaches, and how it pulls. Think sculpturally with the smile; the more volume, the better. Think tension—those lips are stretched.

Where The Zygomatic Major

The Muscle Described

The zygomatic major is thicker than many of the other muscles of expression. It would be logical to assume that it is thickest on those of us who smile the most (as any muscle grows with repeated use), but I have never heard that particular argument proven. A broad smile moves a lot of face around, and the stout quality of the muscle is what is required even for just the occasional grin, smirk, or giggle.

It is important to fix in your mind the exact point of attachment of the zygomatic major on the cheekbone. It is actually attached on the side of the face, not on the front. From its cheekbone root, the zygomatic major travels diagonally downward to the outer corner of the mouth—its movable end. This diagonal path is the direction the smile follows as it widens.

The outer corner of the mouth is a popular location for muscle attachments. In the same spot, the downward puller (triangularis), the outward puller (risorius), and the upward puller (zygomatic major), all are inserted,

The zygomatic major attaches on the side of the head, not the front. It's fixed to the zygomatic arch, almost halfway back to the ear (A). You can feel the spot with your finger when you smile. The thick muscle body (one of the strongest on the face) attaches to the mouth at the corner, right where the little end-of-the-mouth crease is located. It ties directly into the great circular muscle of the lips, the orbicularis oris (B).

just underneath the shallow dent that marks the end of the mouth.

For the zygomatic major, its corner attachment marks the last point at which it is near the surface. As it rises upward diagonally toward the cheekbone, it tunnels steadily deeper beneath the surface of the cheek. Halfway up the cheek—the area of the face with the most subsurface fat—the zygomatic major may be an inch or more from the outer skin. This is an extremely important point to grasp. The smile burrows into the face as much, if not more, than it goes up. The deep push on cheek forces a lot of the overlying skin and fat outward, more than in any other expression.

The upshot is that it's work to smile. More than one person has told me that after a particularly happy event—one woman mentioned her wedding—the zygomatic major ached for days! Not surprising when you look at what it has to do to give us that wonderful grin.

The Smile Described

A lot of things happen when we smile. In a broad smile, there isn't a single part of the lower face that isn't shifted around in some manner. The lips, and the surfaces immediately around them are stretched tight around the curves of the skull. The cheeks and the sides of the chin are mounded high, pushed up out of the way. Deep creases appear where surfaces collide, and dents cut through parts of the middle cheek.

Basically, there's a central portion of the smile, including the lips and chin, and there's an outer portion, including the cheeks. The center portion in a broad smile becomes as curved as any feature ever gets, by virtue of being pulled so firmly back toward the ears. The pull presses the lips, the skin right above, and the chin below hard up against sharp curves of teeth, upper jaw, and skeletal chin. The mouth goes from describing a lazy curve to describing a virtual hairpin turn.

The outer portion of the smile becomes a frame for the inner portion. As the inner portion widens and flattens against the skull, the outer portion piles up on itself and lifts further off the skull. It surrounds the inner portion on all sides, in the shape of a diamond, with the top at the nose and the bottom at the chin. Everywhere the inner and outer portions meet, there are either deep creases, or dramatic changes in plane, or both.

You can learn about these things best by feeling them, on your own face. We're so used to looking at smiles that we really don't notice them anymore. But using your fingers, you can get a much better sense of the surface changes as you go from the tight center part to the overhanging mound of the cheeks. Your finger can also sense the tension at the corner of the mouth, where all the force of the pull is concentrated, and the surface is pulled in very deep.



Major ZygomaticZygomatic Major

Seen from above, it's clear the smile is doing more than just turning up at the corners. The zygomatic major muscle is buried deep under the cheek (left). When it contracts, it pulls the lips into the face, directly back toward the ears.

(A) is where mouth corner was. The smiling mouth corner is pulled as far back as the base of the nose, which widens

(B); the upper lip is pulled tight against the face and follows more closely the curve of the skull beneath. The curve of the relaxed mouth is much softer by comparison (C). The cheeks bulge; face widens most at (D).

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  • casey
    Where is the zygomatic major?
    8 years ago
  • Amanda Boffin
    Where is the zygomatic muscle?
    8 years ago
  • asmara
    What happens when the zygomaticus contracts?
    8 years ago
  • Prima
    What is the Zygomatic Arch responsible for doing in the body?
    8 years ago
  • Murdo
    How pencil draw human facial crease?
    4 years ago
  • Prudenzia
    Where is the zygomaticus located?
    3 years ago
  • efrem
    How to get zygomatic major shorten?
    2 years ago

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