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.

↑ Table of Contents ↑

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.

↑ Table of Contents ↑

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.

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

  1. 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 :(.

  2. 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

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 ;___;

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related

Read More in Body Language