Do you ever get asked questions like these on days you feel perfectly okay:

  • Are you angry?
  • Is something wrong?
  • Did I say something to offend you?
  • Why don’t you smile more?

If so, and you’ve probably already realized it, you may have resting bitch face (sometimes called RBF). Resting bitch face is a problem dealt with by women and the occasional man (Kanye West, I’m looking at you) that makes them look irritated, upset, or otherwise unhappy when they are feeling perfectly calm and just resting their face. It also happens to people who are too tired to smile all the time.

When doing research for my book Captivate, I found a fascinating study on the science of the resting bitch face. It revealed why some people look calm and relaxed when they’re feeling neutral while others look like moody bitches.

What Creates Resting Bitch Faces?

Jason Rogers, a behavioral neuroscientist ran neutral pictures of celebrity faces through a face-scanning software to discover the differences between those who have resting bitch face and those who don’t. He found that a typical neutral face will only register approximately 3% of hidden emotions. So, their faces do in fact look neutral. People with resting bitch face however show an average of 6% underlying emotions and most of that is contempt.

Full contempt is shown when one side of the mouth is slightly raised. 

Some people’s mouths naturally raise on one side when they are resting, causing them to look contemptuous even though they’re feeling neutral. This can cause lots of problems since people subconsciously have negative reactions to expressions of contempt because it is the universal facial expression for hatred and disdain.

If you want to learn more about contempt and why it plays such a big role on our perceptions of people, check out our article on The Science of Contempt.

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Resting Bitch Face is in the Angles

People with resting bitch face also tend to have features that are naturally angled down. For example, some people have eyes that are downcast, making them look more tired and depressed while others have downward angled mouths that make them look perpetually upset. The latter is what creates my resting bitch face.

Notice how my lips are pointed slightly downward like a small frown. This is why people often think I’m upset when nothing is wrong.

resting bitch face

Just like the features that create resting face, there are all sorts of slight variations in your face that send strong messages to the people you interact with.

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How to Get Rid of (And Fix) Your Resting Bitch Face

Having a resting bitch face and being constantly perceived as moody is super annoying. Here are four simple tricks to stop suffering from it.

  1. When you are looking at someone, look up at them. This makes your eyes more open and less downcast.
  2. Use makeup to reshape your downcast eyes. For downcast eyes, women can use eyeliner and shadow to draw more attention to their upper eyes to make them appear more open.
  3. Replace your neutral frown with a small smile. If you have a naturally downcast mouth, slightly holding your cheeks up – it doesn’t have to be all the way into a smile – you can eliminate the appearance that you are frowning.
  4. Own it.  You are under no obligation to change your resting bitch face. It’s a part of who you are and if you choose to embrace it, you can ensure the people who hang around you judge you based on your words and actions and not something as superficial as your resting face.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

1 reply on “Resting Bitch Face: How to Fix Your RBF Forever (With Science)”

  1. Daniela

    This is a typical American problem, where the fake smile is considered polite and “natural”, whereas a normal, non-smiley face is called resting-bitch face, also playing with the sexist notion that women always have to look friendly and be polite.

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