Caricature and RBF

August 18th, 2015 | Posted in General

Clint Eastwood ©2011 Tom Richmond

It happens to live caricaturists all the time the world over… you flip the drawing over to show it to your customer/model and their response is “I look like I’m pissed off!” It’s hard to explain to someone that, when they aren’t actively smiling, certain faces just look that way, and when you exaggerate features they tend to look even more “that way”.

Now thanks to internet memes, this type of face has a label: Resting Bitch Face (RBF). Yes. it finally has a name and is on the radar of the world at large.

Caricaturists everywhere rejoice.

RBF is a face that, when at ease, is perceived as angry, irritated, or just very serious. It’s the topic of Facebook groups, internet pages and videos and even news articles. Apparently, plastic surgeons say they are fielding a growing number of inquiries from people who want to fix their “permafrowns”. This from Detroit cosmetic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn via an article in USA Today on RBF:

“Bitchy resting face is a definite phenomenon that plastic surgeons like myself have described, just never with that term,” he says. “Basically many of us have features that we inherit and/or develop with age that can make us look unpleasant, grumpy, or even, yes, bitchy.”

Youn says many plastic surgeons perform what he calls “expression surgeries,” procedures meant to improve resting facial expressions.

“One procedure I perform in the grin lift, used to turn a permanent frown upside down,” he says. “As we age, some of us – myself included – find that the corners of our mouths droop, giving us a grumpy look. This is usually present with a resting face.”

Aside from a downturned mouth, what makes a face look angry or bitchy?

Youn quickly points to the deep vertical lines between eyebrows (often referred to as 11s) as another culprit that can produce an angry or unhappy vibe. Droopy or overly arched eyebrows can also work to create a wrong impression.

He estimates that he performs about 20 “grin lifts” in a year as well as 100 filler procedures to turn up the corners of the mouth. Botox injections to relax those vertical “11s” are much more prevalent. “I probably do 1,500 of those Botox procedures a year,” he says. “We do a lot. We’re very busy with that.”

I know this sounds like a gag, but this is all real. Or as “real” as something that isn’t really real can be when it’s taken seriously by people with an unhealthy preoccupation with the way they look… which I suppose is a large majority of the human race.

Anyway I find this all hilarious since I have known about this phenomenon ever since I started doing live caricature work in the mid eighties and noticed that certain eyebrows, mouth shapes, eye shapes and other features just naturally make people look like serial killers when in repose.

At least now I can tell these people they suffer from RBF… and to contact a plastic surgeon if they want to seek relief!


  1. neal portnoy says:

    Tom, I always use my disclaimer…”Management not responsible for the way you already look”!

  2. bill mcquistin says:

    I have a “Sit down, shut up, and smile” sign that faces the sitter. Works well, although alot of times I’ll tell them to ignore it because I want to go another way.

  3. Dan says:

    I was teaching a facial expressions class to some little kids and I showed them the V eyebrows and called them angry eyebrows…..a little girl burst into tears and said, “That’s the way my eyebrows look!” I did the best I could to comfort her…that’s a tough one.

  4. I suffer from RBF – I cannot count the number of times people have asked me, “Are you all right? Is something wrong?” I have both the eyebrow angle problem and the vertical 11’s… Nice to have a name for it but I have no interest in Botox or any other operation… RBF for the WIN!

    Or maybe whine. I’m undecided… 😉


Sketch o’the Week- Burgess Meredith! #batman #batman66 #penguin #caricature #madmagazine

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