It’s not me, it’s my resting b**** face

It’s not me, it’s my resting b**** face

Some people want to be taller, some want to be naturally thin and others wish they had a perpetually happy face, not the resting b**** face they were born with.

Resting b**** face, also known as RBF, or b****y resting face, is a term given to those who, when their facial expression is relaxed or they are deep in thought, unintentionally appear to others to be angry or annoyed.

Both men and women have RBF

Those who have RBF will often be told to smile more, be happier, or be asked “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?” — even when in a good mood or during a social situation while having fun.

Smiling more and being happy is “something that’s expected from women far more than it’s expected from men, and there’s a lot of anecdotal articles and scientific literature on that. So RBF isn’t necessarily something that occurs more in women, but we’re more attuned to notice it in women because women have more pressure on them to be happy and smiley and to get along with others,” said Abbe Macbeth, a behavioral researcher, in an article for The Washington Post.

However, these well-intentioned remarks – often made by strangers or colleagues in passing – to someone with RBF, can turn a good mood sour.

What makes a RBF?

“Everyone’s facial structure is different, and no one goes about their day smiling at all times,” says Dr. Niki A. Christopoulos, a board-certified plastic surgeon with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “The difference is that some people have a mouth structure that turns down at the corners so they appear to be frowning. Others have a mouth that is straight when in a relaxed state or one that even naturally turns up at the corners, so they tend to look like they are smiling, even when their face is in a neutral position.”

She says the same goes for a person’s eyes and brows. “Some people have smooth brows while others have naturally furrowed or slanting brows, which tend to make people look unhappy or even upset when at rest,” says Dr. Christopoulos. “Those who have deep set or squinting eyes also likely have a face that often does not match their actual mood.”

Those with downturned mouths and furrowed brows will not be helped by the natural aging process. “While many who have RBF can remember comments about needing to smile more and be happier as far back as early childhood, age will often exacerbate these facial misperceptions,” says Dr. Christopoulos.

“Extra wrinkles on an already furrowed brow and gravity further pulling down the corners of the mouth will add to the look of RBF,” she says.

Can anything be done?

Besides training yourself to know what your face feels like when you want to project a happier mood, Dr. Christopoulos explains that there are medical options that can help a person look friendlier. These include:

  • Neuromodulators such as Botox and Dysport injections, which can help relax the muscles responsible for the extra frown or furrow
  • Filler injections such as Voluma, Restylane
  • Injections using a person’s own fat to help lift the corners of the mouth and soften facial contours
  • Surgical procedures such as a facelift, brow lift or mid-face lift depending on the individual’s anatomy

Or, if you have RBF, when asked if you are upset, just tell people – it’s not me, it’s my resting b**** face.

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  1. OMG!!! I was constantly being criticized by my supervisor for not “looking” happy. My evaluations always mentioned that I need to be more happy and friendly…I was never criticized for my job performance, just the way I looked…She was always asking what’s wrong..NOTHING is wrong! I’m fine! Now I have an excuse why my face was not perky like everyone else!!!

  2. I am disappointed that Advocate advocates plastic surgery (yes these are all forms of plastic surgery) rather then accepting your self. I have RBF, it is a curse, I hate it, I also don’t like other parts of my body, however I have learned to accept that I am not a 5’7 110 bombshell. Lets not fix everything with artificial interventions. The last sentence should have been the only one

    • Sadly, not everyone is a Susan and not everyone can become accepting of their own image without proper help.

      It’s like when a friend of mine who suffers from depression, told me “You don’t need depression pills, it’s all in the mind!”. When I was going through a very bad depression and sought out depression pills.

    • Concerned Consumer January 19, 2017 at 11:55 am · Reply

      Susan, you hit it on the head here! Thanks for sharing! The only thing I would add is that the Providers themselves within Advocate Health Care may not all agree with this “click-bait” title & publication. And may not be getting editorial approval of what gets posted in final drafts. Health e-news goes a long way to make “studies” and comments by Providers mean we need procedures. Notice, none of the medical options listed above are quoted to Dr. Christopolous. This is basically a commercial advertisement for plastic surgery.

    • I totally agree, Susan. I usually find these Advocate Health Care articles really helpful and interesting, but this one is terrible.

    • I agree with this one. After all, if I didn’t accept my face by now and had surgery to make me look like who knows what, where would I stop? Break all my bones to restructure my bod to someone else’s ideal? Liposuction to get rid of fatty pads? Of course, my nose isn’t cute, and oh, my lips are too thin, so get work on those? I mean really, I am what I am. Everything works, even though my photos aren’t great or rarely even good. It’s me, though, not a surgical alien! I’m all right with that. :0)

    • Exactly what I thought as well Susan. Accepting our flaws and finding the beauty within what God has given us is much more empowering than a quick fix. It takes a lot of confidence to love the body you were given but the strength is within all of us if we truly seek it <3

  3. Yes, people used to say that about me… maybe there was some truth to it?!?. Once I got to know the Lord, that changed! Happy face all the time. Jesus not only saved my spirit, but He shines through my face.

  4. Not only do I RBF (which I didn’t realize it was actually called something) but I also have an underbite like a bulldog so my resting facial muscles along with the underbite exaggerate the ‘unhappy or grumpy’ look I have. When I was young and walking to school people on the street would tell me to smile, that I look unhappy when I wasn’t. Very frustrating. As I walk toward people now, I make a conscious choice to try to upturn the corners of my mouth, not into a full smile but so that I don’t look unhappy.

  5. Shame on Advocate for the plastic surgery/cosmetic solutions to this “problem” that are presented. Who cares if someone has this going on!? Seriously, the term “RBF” is a joke! If someone is discontent with their so-called “RBF,” maybe they can learn to laugh about it, put a smile on here and there when they consciously think of something good/funny, and just carry on with their life! I mean come on, encouraging people to change their appearance just so that other people don’t comment on their “resting B**** face”- how irresponsible and silly! What shameful advice. Be happy with yourself, own your face and your mind and your soul, and definitely don’t let anyone tell you that injecting yourself with a bunch of junk is the answer!

  6. I found this article refreshing and informative. Thus far from what I’ve read, health enews editors try to provide a variety of information. Plastic surgery is a field available at Advocate and people can use their services just like GI, Ortho or Neurology or anything else. Plastic surgeons don’t just perform cosmetic procedures. They also provide assistance with other situations ie breast reconstruction s/p mastectomy and facial reconstruction s/p MVC. I’ve seen the benefits of plastic surgery in people around me. At the end of the day, people can do as they wish with the information provided. I like the wit in this article. Keep ’em comin’!

  7. I find that ‘smiling’ tends to open doors to people to interact with me when I don’t really want to interact. My RBF does very well for keeping most people at a distance, which is my preference.

    Don’t get botox or injections just because someone thinks you don’t ‘smile’ enough or ‘look depressed’ when you are not. Perhaps try other avenues for people to actually to get to knkow you – like a supervisor maybe – and then go from there.

    Always be yourself. You are beautiful.

  8. Did you seriously send this? I thought it was spam! Is Resting B**** Face/RBF a medical term? Wow. Maybe I’m the only one offended.

    I happen to have the “angry” look when I’m intensely focused, but I didn’t even want to open the email with that title.

  9. This article greatly disappoints me. It’s a sales pitch with a heading I’d expect to see on a cheap tabloid publication. Come on Advocate …. you are better than this. I know hospitals are feeling the financial crunch but the entire medical field has been overcharging beyond belief for its services to patients & we all know that. Advocate is an outstanding hospital and shouldn’t allow this kind of cheap marketing included with what are generally very good, informative articles. It can stand on its own merits.

    I’m a volunteer at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove and know many wonderful people who help because it’s that quality they have within themselves. It’s only when executives become involved that the patient/service disappears and is replaced by the $$$$.
    Please don’t ruin this newsletter with tabloid pieces like this.

  10. I agree that this is an advertisement. But like any other time we can choose to ignore it. If someone wants to get botox or fat injections is a personal choice and no insurance will pay for it anyhow.

  11. I am rather amazed that the author seems to perpetuate the idea that women have a responsibility to smile. She acknowledge the expectation to smile is placed more on women, but not once does she refute that as a ridiculous expectation. The overall message of this article ends up being Ladies, if you can’t smile all the time, get surgery to look like you are smiling so those around don’t have to be insulted by your unsmiling face. I have never heard of men being criticized for looking serious or deep in thought. Only in women is a face showing concentration, focus, determination, etc., viewed as something offensive.

    This article should be removed ASAP. And normalizing the use of the B word is really not something that Advocate should associate with itself.

  12. We all sure do not want to look like “The Joker” in the Batman movie! Laugh it up a little!
    I saw my dermatologist recently, and said, “my face is falling off my head, can you do anything about it?” We just laughed. A suggestion: always look at peoples EYES. They seem to never change, no matter how old they are.

  13. Awhile back, I read something to try when you notice people commenting on your face a lot(which I did experience) — just open your eyes a little wider than feels natural. Try it and check in the mirror — it really does make you look more enthusiastic and engaged. However, if you already look “positive,” it’s possible your super-wide eyes might cause you to look unhinged… so, just to be safe, try it privately first, so you don’t “over-correct” your RBF problem. (I wonder if this heightened awareness could launch the term “RBF shaming” — or even lead to RBF support groups?! )

  14. Agree with R-A

  15. I appreciate Advocate putting this information out. It is simply information. You can do with it as you choose. One’s appearance is a very personal decision. It would be nice if it were left that way, instead of getting hot under the collar about what someone else does with their face.

  16. Cynthia T Henderson MD, AMG Gastroenterologist January 19, 2017 at 6:53 pm · Reply

    I respectfully request that Advocate HealthCare avoid contributing to the culture of disrespect that pervades our internet and other mass communications. There are other ways to describe a non-smiling face. There are many reasons for non-smiling faces, including diseases like Parkinson’s Disease. This is not just a gender-based, you need to smile so people will like you, go get some plastic surgery kind of issue. And although the writer of the article may have thought it was “cute” to use the “RBF” nonsense, I think it promotes disrespect and cheapens the Advocate brand. Cynthia T Henderson MD AMG physician

  17. OMG I cant believe the way people are dissecting this article. First I do not see anywhere in the article that plastic surgery is being advocated. The article gives options train it, surgery or live with it. If you had this problem you would have heard many people call it different things, we call it STINK face. Most people that don’t know you would call it b_t_h face and would think that of you. Truth be known you are the people who tell people with RBF they need to smile more. Get a hobby! Thank you Dr. Christopoulos for your article. Thank you Advocate for printing it and for the haters put your pen to paper and lets see your article.

  18. Hello. This is the author. Thanks for all the feedback on this story. Glad some if you enjoyed it. However, it appears that the subtlety of the message I wanted the reader to conclude was often lost in translation, so I’ll weigh in.

    But first, the name of the condition. It’s not a name I made up; it’s not a name Advocate made up. It’s the name that is associated the most in popular culture with those who have facial characteristics that make them appear mad, disinterested or sad when in a relaxed state or when deep in concentration or thought. It has been covered by multiple news outlets — don’t believe me, just Google it 🙂 –and so seemed pointless to try to rename it. In fact, when I called Dr. Christopoulos and asked if she had heard of RBF, she had.

    More importantly, this article was not an endorsement of, or advocating for people to have, plastic surgery. As Dr. Christopoulos stated, no one goes around smiling all day. Some people, however, when not actually smiling, look like they are happy or at least neutral. Others can look sad, angry, condescending or disinterested, when concentrating on work, listening to a speaker, attending a meeting, or just minding their own business walking down the street. As the article also stated, it has to do with the natural downturned shape of the mouth and or the features of the brow – both of which can become more pronounced with age.

    While some people do multiple “face checks” throughout the day – meaning they try to adjust their facial muscles into a neutral or slight smile while in public – it’s just not possible to keep it up all the time.

    Therefore the overall message is that it really is not possible for some people to perpetually look happy as society seems to expect (especially of women) without the aid of plastic surgery. Again, it’s not an endorsement of, or encouragement to, get plastic surgery, it’s just the reality. Knowing this, should you ever want to tell a woman in passing to smile or be happier, just don’t. There is a good chance she can’t help it and her day will be better for not having heard it. Trust me. 😉

    Three notes:
    1. With health enews, we like to highlight a variety of Advocate specialists, and this does include plastic surgeons. If a person chooses to have plastic surgery, for cosmetic or medical reasons, it’s a personal choice.
    2. I discussed this article with Dr. Christopoulos and she reviewed it in its entirety before it went live.
    3. RBF was not in the original title I submitted with the article as I did not want the message to get overshadowed by potential offense to the name.

  19. Disappointed that my own highly professional job publishes articles with non-medical, non-important themes using curse words. But then again, with is appropriate language in this modern world. Disappointed at the superficiality of our world. Wondering what crops we will reap from all this. If you want a world where curse words are casually thrown around at glance with no regard, you will have that and more. Would you call your mother this? Then don’t publish it either, on a public forum.
    Depression is half in your mind and environment and half in your genes. It is not either or. Do what you can. Surgery, this kind of surgery, will not make you permanently happy.

  20. But seriously, plastic surgery to fix Resting B**** Face? COME ON. COME ON!

    Kate, you just said: “Therefore the overall message is that it really is not possible for some people to perpetually look happy as society seems to expect (especially of women) without the aid of plastic surgery.”

    I’m sorry but that is complete B.S.! How about, “It may not be possible to perpetually look happy without the aid of plastic surgery, BUT WHO CARES!!!” I kind of think the term RBF is a joke and isn’t something that anyone should take too seriously- the fact that you wrote an article about it, consulted a doctor, and then let us all know that plastic surgery is the only fix for someone whose mouth naturally turns down… well it’s not the most pressing medical issue, it DID offend people who feel they may be affected by this, and it didn’t encourage people to just be themselves- who cares if the lady at the grocery store doesn’t think you are sublimely happy?!

    Advocate Health is constantly trying to promote mental well-being, yet this article DOES suggest plastic surgery to fix so-called Resting B**** Face… I don’t care if you want to feature your plastic surgeons, but please do it for a reason other than media-hyped vanity! That is why a lot of people didn’t care for this.

About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”