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).

What is a Resting Bitch Face?

Vannessa with a smiling face and Vanessa with a resting bitch face

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.

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What Creates Resting Bitch Face?

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.

“Eastern European people are seen as very stoic and not showing a lot of emotion and … a lot of the people touted as having RBF are women.”

— Abbe Macbeth, behavioral researcher

If you want to learn more about contempt and why it plays such a big role in our perception 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.

Vanessa's 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 Cure) Your Resting Bitch Face in 7 Steps

Having a resting bitch face and being constantly perceived as moody is super annoying. Here are 7 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. Use the eyebrow flash. An eyebrow flash is when you lift your eyebrows in recognition whenever you see someone. The flash is a great way to say, “I recognize you and I’m friendly!” We do this to our friends and loved ones. Flash to appear more approachable.
  5. Put your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Take your tongue and touch it to the back of your front teeth, similar to mewing. This will help relax your facial muscles and help with that slight smile.
  6. Accessorize. A pair of eyeglasses (even fake ones) can drastically shift your appearance and even help mask your RBF. Try wearing eyeglasses and earrings that are fun, and wear brighter clothing—this will help counteract an unapproachable face.
  7. 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.

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8 Famous Celebrities with Resting Bitch Face

If you have resting bitch face, you are not alone. Here are some famous celebrities who have made their resting face famous.

  1. Kristen Stewart has a resting bitch face. She has been repeatedly called-out on various websites for her RBF condition and even told to smile more.
Kristen Steward quote about smiling
  1. Emily Blunt has been told she has resting bitch face:
Emily Blunt resting bitch face
  1. Kourney Kardashian. Does she have RBF? You be the judge: 
  1. Madonna has resting bitch face… even on her birthday:
  1. Cara Delevigne can’t stop having a resting bitch face:
Cara Delevigne's resting bitch face
  1. Victoria Beckham. Neither can this fashion designer:
Victoria Beckham resting bitch face
  1. Anna Kendrick has publicly states she hates it:
  1. Queen Elizabeth II. Even Queen Elizabeth herself has a bad case of RBF:

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7 Male Resting Bitch Faces (aka Resting Asshole Face)

Yes, men can get resting bitch face, too… although in this case, let’s call it resting asshole face (RAF)!

And it might be more common than you think:

  1. Neil Patrick Harris. “My resolution this year is to not scowl so much,” Neil Patrick Harris said during the 2018 Golden Globes. . “I realize that even just pondering that, I’m scowling. I’m not mad. Apparently, I do this while I’m thinking,” he joked. 
Neil Patrick Harris quote
  1. Kanye West also has a rather iconic RAF where he can go from happy to cold-stare in the blink of an eye:
  1. Gordon Ramsay. Love cooking? You might have seen Gordon Ramsay’s rather mean face on Hell’s Kitchen:
Gorddon Ramsay's resting bitch face
  1. Eminem, the famous rapper, has resting asshole face in most of his photos, including his Twitter account:
Eminem resting bitch face
  1. Simon Cowell. It just goes without saying that the British television star also has RAF all throughout America’s Got Talent and The X-Factor:
Simon Cowell's resting bitch face
Source
  1. Leonardo DiCaprio. And THE Leo? Yes, Leonardo DiCaprio is also known to have a resting asshole face:
Leonardo DiCaprio Resting Asshole Face
  1. Donald Trump. Oh, and this list wouldn’t be complete without listing former US President Donald Trump:
Donald Trump  Resting Asshole Face

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How to Create a Resting Bitch Face

Want a great way to nonverbally tell someone to move on? Actress Emma Roberts perfected her resting bitch face for the television show, Scream Queen. Why? Because her character, Chanel, gives a lot of bitch face! Here’s how to create the nastiest resting bitch face:

  1. Narrow your eyes. Look like you’re really mad and get those between-the-brow furrows activated.
  2. Purse your lips. Tighten them and make your lips disappear.
  3. Twitch your mouth as if you’ve got pent-up anger.
  4. Make the exit. If you’re in a conversation, flip your hair and end the convo to avoid after-RBF awkwardness.

You can use the RBF to your advantage to fend off unwanted cat-callers, focus on your remote work without being distracted by others, or even make a bold statement with your biggest enemy.

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Other Resting Face Types

Not all resting faces are bitchy. You can pretty much find all types of emotions in resting faces:

  • Resting Murder Face. The type of face you can only imagine a serial killer has. A stone-cold stare is a must.
  • Resting Happy Face. People with this face look like they’re constantly happy, or at least in a decent mood.
Jin from Korean pop group’s BTS with his upturned-lips. Source
Jin from Korean pop group’s BTS with his upturned-lips. Source
  • Resting Shade Face. The type of face that makes you look like you’re constantly up to no good. People with this face would do best to avoid going to convenience stores at 2AM.
  • Resting Sad Face. Do you look like you’re about to constantly cry, even if you’re engaged in a difficult math problem (or setting your goals)? You might have a resting sad face.
Actor Kit Harington with his resting sad face
Actor Kit Harington with his resting sad face.
  • Resting Creep Face is another face popularized by Netflix’s Astronomy Club. Resting creep face is certainly real, and if you have it, you might want to master your facial expressions the next time you ask someone on a date.
  • Resting Surprised Face. People with this face may have raised eyebrows and normally larger eyes. This face screams, “Woah!” but in reality, they may be calm as a rock.
  • Resting Smug Face. This face can be seen from a person who appears to naturally have or show excessive pride in his/her self, without meaning to.
Bruce Willis Resting Smug Face
Bruce Wilis sporting the resting smug face.
  • Resting Grinch Face. This is the type of face that not only says, “I hate presents,” but “I’ll steal the cookies, too.”
  • Resting Beach Face. What do you get when you combine resting bitch face but put it on the beach?

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How Common is Resting Bitch Face?

People have had resting bitch faces since humans were on this Earth. Just take a look at this caveman if you don’t believe it:

Only recently in 2013 did the resting bitch face take storm over the internet, partly due to this viral ad on RBF:

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Bonus: Grumpy Cat (Resting Bitch Face Cat)

Have you ever seen the grumpy cat meme? Apparently, cats can have resting bitch face too.

Grumpy Cat (Resting Bitch Face Cat)

So if you have a case of resting bitch face, it’s OK!

Learning to practice self-love, knowing how to not be a people pleaser, and increasing your self-worth will ultimately lead you to a better place than trying to get rid of your RBF.

Trust me, I know from experience.

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.

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

  1. Jenna O’Brien

    I relate to this so much, my eyes are slightly downcast but it’s mainly my mouth, I look angry and miserable all the time when in reality I’m usually feeling pretty happy. I’d say that I’m usually a content person, but that really just does not come across lol.

  2. Chase

    I’ve been told all my life that i seem grumpy or angry. When in reality im just a quiet person… I used to be this hyperactive talkative kid but once i hit 17 or so i just didn’t see the point. Ever since then i just started talking less and less. In todays society being borderline mute and public with RBF is literally frowned upon and misunderstood. Like im not mad at all. I just don’t wanna talk to you. Why cant i walk through a grocery store or clothes store without getting odd looks and whispers “what’s his problem”. Im 25 in the prime of my life and i have never had a gf mostly due to this fact. Im one of the sweetest guys you will ever meet but due they care? No… Its all about appearance. Its just……… Uuuuugghhhh!!!! Uk what i mean? 😂😂

  3. D

    Had RBF explained to me during a conference with my dean about it and she went so far as to tell me to look away. That made me really frown. RBF can ruin a lot of things.

  4. Alan

    I have major resting bitch face. When I am waiting calmly and patiently in bank queues I have had staff run up to me to assure me they will serve me as soon as possible. My girlfriend tells me I have been miserable all weekend when I have been perfectly happy. My daughter thinks I am angry with her when I see her.
    I can’t seem to quick it. If I smile at strangers, they look at me like I am a weirdo.

  5. Kayley

    It’s crazy how much a simple facial expression can make things go from 0-100 real quick.. I’ve always had resting bitch face and now its starting to effect my relationship as well. Just last night, I noticed something was wrong with a few of my goldfish and I was talking to him about it. His nose was delved deep into youtube so for all I know, even though he said he was listening, he probably wasnt. So I continue onto google and try to find whats wrong with my goldfishies and once I found the problem and read it out loud to him, he just looks up at me from his phone and just says “LOOK AT YOU!” Referring to my worried facial expression and then all was down hill from there.. Its always about the way I look or how I say something but never about an actual issue.. Now Im on here realizing Im definitely not the only person in this sinking ship..

  6. C

    I juste discovered RBF and realised that is what I have! I used to explain to people I am like grumpy cat. I may look grumpy, but I am not

  7. Ella

    I came on here because my boyfriend kept telling me I looked bugged everyday and he got mad at me. I honestly never knew that I looked bugged, that was never my intent. Now I am on here tear-eyed looking at websites try to make me look happier. I mean trust I was always happy, it just makes me sad that he blew up and got mad for that. IDK someone tell me I’m wrong I guess.

    1. Anna

      Yeah that’s nothing to get angry about. It’s just the way you are and you don’t need to change it. If he gets mad for that it’s definitely not your fault!
      And it makes total sense that that makes you sad, it’d make me sad as well.

    2. Pearl

      Sounds like he has his own issues he needs to deal with. Definitely not a reason to blow up at someone. A nice person would ask what’s wrong or simply ask you if you’re okay. There are better people in this huge world…

    3. calvin

      honey i am so sorry that he said that to you and that he snapped in the way that he did. Your face doesn’t define you, and he shouldn’t care about that. You are amazing just the way you are, and if he can’t understand and respect that then maybe he is not the man for you :(.

    4. d

      Honestly same, but with my sister. She’s always scared to approach me or ask me for things and it makes me made, because I’m the oldest and she should be able to rely on me.

    5. Megan

      Honey, if your boyfriend gets mad at you for your natural facial expression, drop him. Even if something was wrong he had no right to talk to you like that.

    6. Linda Suz

      You are a beautiful person and what matters MOST is who you are on the inside, It isn’t polite AT ALL for anyone to comment in a negative way at you. (concerned is ok) It irritates me to hear people pointing out our features in a disproving way. You do not deserve for ANYONE to take this out on you. Just say, “Well this is me,” smile and drop the subject. Sorry he acted like a nine year old .

  8. Rosemary Davies

    My RBF looks tired and sulky or miserable and I’m really neither. It’s always been a problem, having to smile to look pretty. Thanks for helping me to own it x

  9. Ugly

    Today I am looking up RBF because I am so sick and tired of being told by someone that I must be mad. Even if I am saying nice things, I am not believed and told what I must actually be thinking based only on my face. I used to be pretty, but as I age I am even more aware of the effect I have on my partner in particular. I am frequently accused of having a bad attitude even when I have a good attitude. My face. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the accusations and negative “feedback”. I am a nice person, so why is this happening to me?

  10. Vanessa Karma

    I keep getting punished for doing literally nothing. I AM SITTING STARING INTO SPACE AND HERE COMES THE “WHAT’S WITH THE ATTITUDE?” I am daydreaming about the future love of my life, I can’t help the way I look.🥺 I try to make suggestions sincerely and it’s taken as me being sarcastic just based off my facial expressions. My heart can’t take the pain of being misunderstood just for the way my face looks.

    1. Z.A

      Not to worry, I also have this issue. Why dont people just mind thier business. If I want to include you in my inner thoughts, believe me, you will know! It’s called an expressive personality. Everything shows on my face including harmless daydreams. Some just cant handle not being included. Just try to look out a window, less threatening. LOL.
      All the best.
      Z.A

    2. JP

      You said excatly how i feel right now. I am depressed about this very thing today. This keeps happening at my work. I’m so tired of defending myself. I’m happy in my thoughts most if the time, but these constant critiques are wearing me down. I wish I could fix my face.

    3. D

      LMFAOO SAME. My mom always think I’m giving her attitude. I be like, “I’m just looking at you and taking in the info.” She doesn’t understand that it’s not me , it’s my stupid face.

  11. bob smith

    My RBF is so bad I can’t even go outside without getting odd looks from people or verbally assaulted. I have to literally make the biggest smile to avoid looking angry / judgemental, but I’m told that smiling all the time makes me look arrogant. That in itself has caused strangers to threaten to beat me up on several occasions & shout at me on other occasions. It requires a lot of energy and sometimes when I forget to smile, it can get me into more trouble as many people see my face & think I’m challenging them. People often tell me “I’m surprised because you’re actually really nice!” after they get to know me. It’s getting worse as I age. I think this is something the health service should offer surgery for, because it causes insurmountable problems for some people. For me, it causes safety issues when I’m walking to the shops alone, and I know for a fact most people don’t suffer the same problem.

    1. Jung

      I can totally relate to you buddy. Some people are terrified of me, some are intimidated and some low-key hate me the instant they meet me. I know that I’m not the best guy out there but I also know that I’m not a bad guy either and I don’t have any ill intention. I have really bad anxiety due to this and sometimes I go through depression with suicidal thoughts. You are not alone man.

    2. C L B

      I agree 100% that this is a medical issue—especially bad for mental health, and, eventually, in old age, can result in saliva leaking from the depressed corners of your mouth.

      In my early 40s I had a facial plastic surgeon inject fillers to support the corners of my mouth in a lifted position. It was quite expensive. I am now 65 and I’m not sure the filler would be enough even if I could afford it.

  12. Alice

    My RBF is mainly caused by my brows which go down to the nose. I can smile and round my eyes, but if I don’t rise my brows with it, it looks like an evil smile ;___;

  13. James

    I have RBF right now but I didn’t always.
    I believe it comes from hidden underlying emotions that we aren’t aware of (such as resentment).
    It’s not strong enough to take notice of, but it’s there and that’s enough for it to slightly show, e.g. slight tension in the mouth or jaw is RBF
    The more we try and compensate for it, the worst it will get because we aren’t acknowledging it
    So you may not be “mad” all the time, but you are holding onto something that doesn’t serve you

    1. bob willis

      That’s absolute codswallop. There are plenty of people with RBF who don’t feel negative emotions toward anyone or anything. Speak for yourself, not for others.

    2. Amy

      I call BS! I am frequently accused of a variety of negative emotions when I am just trying to do math in my head. I have no animosity regarding math or the people in my vicinity when mental math occurs.

  14. Chelsea

    I have mad RBF as my mouth naturally curves down. Over the years Ive become very self conscious of it and it makes me feel anxious about going out by myself as I do not want to give off a negative impression but then if I try and make my mouth look normal which looks like a small smile, it makes me constantly aware of that and its not natural. It feels like I’m putting on a big smile when it probably doesn’t and I think that people probably think it doesn’t look natural, but if I am natural I look like a negative moody bitch!
    I have gone through phases of acceptance and being like yeh ok why should I care but at the same time it makes me think is this effecting me potentially making friends or giving people a negative vibe of myself which then in turn makes me feel negative. Its bloody shit. Ive started as of today holding a pen in my mouth sideways to try and train the muscles. We shall see if it works.

  15. Bea

    RBF has unfortunately had a negative impact on my career, with a couple of men in particular who think that I am always in a bad mood and want me to smile and “be more positive”. Aging has not helped as gravity is only enhancing the RBF. At this point, “owning it” is going to continue costing me promotions. I’m looking into what I can do with cosmetic surgery or injectables, and trying to remember to always have a “mild smile” on my face. ugh! I swear the men I work with don’t get judged like this.

    1. JN

      Botox has given me back my confidence for this very reason: I’M TIRED OF LOOKING ANGRY BECAUSE REALLY, I’m not angry 🙂 The corners of my mouth turn down. A good practitioner Will tell you that Botox is typically an upper half of the face tactic, and that fillers are typically from the cheeks down. But, used carefully and in the hands of a skilled practitioner, the Botox can be injected around the mouth to get the corners of your mouth to stop turning downward. It is very subtle, so you may need fillers (more $$ than Botox), but it sounds like you are ready. Go for it!!

    2. bob

      similar issue here- been judged by others my whole life starting off with “don’t be so sad!” all the time when I was a kid.. and now I’m adult, it’s more “why are you so angry?!”.. all the time. It causes big life problems as it has caused so many strangers to behave in a hostile manner toward me, because they think I’m judging (even though I’m not!). It’s pretty exhausting. “Owning it” isn’t a very practical possibility when it means getting shouted at or threatened on a regular basis. Only way to avoid it is to literally SMILE all the time, but it’s tiring & not natural. I really wish as a guy there was something I could do about it. If only the majority of people realised what we go through.. pretty sure they don’t get judged on this level.

  16. Lacey

    Thank you Vanessa! Brilliant insight! I see how important our expression are (I love the tip about lifting cheeks!) Im highly intrigued by body language topics as its a large % of how we communicate. I’m always looking for better ways that we humans can communicate and understand each other. I feel just as we can learn better ways to speak verbally we can learn better was to speak with our body language, facial expressions etc. Great article!

  17. Jon

    Many of my peers like friends and family has asked me: “Are you upset? Did you fight with someone? You are arrogant.” and these assumptions do sometimes hurt my feelings especially when it comes from my own mother saying it because RBF is not my intention.

    I know I do have RBF and I acknowledge that it sometimes creates misunderstandings and maybe takes some toll in my social life. But I should not have to “look polite” to ease someone’s perception about me (in regular everyday life, with the exception at private events such as parties, banquets, and weddings).

    Social masks we put on drains too much of my energy, and fake smiles are a waste of emotional capacity.

    I smile when I want to – and you will know it’s damn genuine.

  18. 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.

    1. Emmie

      OMG thank you that’s what I’ve been saying! I’ve seen plenty of men with RBF who don’t get NEARLY as much hostility as women. It’s already bad enough being a women, because everything we do is criminalized. But having RBF? Oh lord I’ve been told since the third grade to “fix my face” or “smile more” by teachers. Now that I’m older I’m starting to realize they only say that to femlae students, and never male students. It’s strange because I’m always seeing a “grumpy” guy walking in the halls or sitting next to me or whatever. It’s so so strange.

      Really though, both genders get pressured when it comes to putting on a pleasing expression, but I think everyone can agree women get the shorter end of the stick.. doing anything as a woman is 10x worse in society for some reason…

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