What is the Frontalis?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The frontalis is one of the muscles in the skull. It plays an important role in facial animation, allowing people to alter facial expressions to express emotion, and it is also involved in muscle movements designed to protect the eyes and assist with various visual tasks such as focusing on distant objects. People have two frontalis muscles in a pair, as is seen with most muscles in the body because humans exhibit bilateral symmetry.

The frontalis is one of the facial muscles in the skull.
The frontalis is one of the facial muscles in the skull.

This muscle extends from the hairline to the eyebrow. It contains two different parts, the inner and outer frontalis muscle, also known as the medial and lateral parts. The inner portion is responsible for animating the middle of the brow, while the outer segment moves the ends of the eyebrows. These muscles are used to raise the eyebrows and they are also responsible for creating corrugated furrows in the brow, leading to the alternate name “the corrugator” to describe this muscle.

One function of the frontalis is to help a person focus on distant objects.
One function of the frontalis is to help a person focus on distant objects.

Some texts consider the frontalis muscle to be part of a larger muscle, the epicranius or occipitofrontalis. Others consider it to be an independent muscle. The occipitofrontalis covers the whole top of the head, including the whole scalp and brow. It is used to animate the scalp and upper brow. The tendency to consider the frontalis a part of the occipitofrontalis is more common in modern anatomy references.

The frontalis extends from the eyebrow to the hairline.
The frontalis extends from the eyebrow to the hairline.

This facial muscle is innervated by the seventh cranial nerve. The ability to move the eyebrows is important not just for controlling facial expressions, but for certain activities with the eyes. Moving the brows can help people focus on distant objects and it can shield the eyes from sweat, dirt, and other materials. In people with drooping or saggy eyelids, this muscle can also play a role in pulling the lids back up to allow people to see clearly.

As people age, their frontalis muscles along with other facial muscles can weaken and pull out of alignment. The face as a whole tends to sag, droop, and wrinkle over time. Some people find the signs of aging unsightly and may take steps to change their facial appearance and maintain a more youthful look. One procedure that can be performed is a brow lift to tighten the frontalis muscle, pull the eyebrows back into alignment, and eliminate some of the wrinkling of the forehead that occurs with time. Incisions for this procedure are made in the hairline so they will not be visible once the patient heals.

An individual may undergo a brow lift in order to tighten the frontalis muscle.
An individual may undergo a brow lift in order to tighten the frontalis muscle.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@StarJo – My mother suffered from a permanently furrowed brow. Hers was caused by aging and sagging rather than stress, and people were always telling her that she looked tired, so she decided to do something about it.

She had a brow lift to correct her stressed look. The doctor cut into her hairline, pulled up her forehead, and cut off the extra skin.

Everyone suddenly started telling her how fresh she looked. They thought she must have started seeing someone, because she instantly looked so much happier. Little did they know that she had been happy all along, but her face just didn't reflect that.


Some people seem to always have a worried look on their faces, because their brows are almost constantly furrowed. I wonder if they are voluntarily moving their frontalis to do this or if it is involuntary and related to their stress or anxiety.

When I am worried, it shows on my forehead. My eyebrows don't lie. I can't hide the fact that something is bothering me from my family, because they know how my face behaves.

I just wonder if there are some people out there with a naturally furrowed brow who are tired of being asked if something is wrong. This would be bad for making friendly first impressions!


I guess the occipitofrontalis is what enables some people to move their whole scalp back and forth. It's a pretty freaky thing to see, and most of my friends can do this.

My best friend discovered this when she became upset and noticed that she involuntarily moved her ears back, much like a cat lays its ears down when it is angry. She looked in the mirror, and as she wiggled her ears with her muscles, her hairline shifted to and fro, as well.

I don't know if my occipitofrontalis just isn't as well developed as hers or what, but I can't move my ears or my scalp. That is fine with me, because I can't imagine why anyone would want to do this.


Brow lifts can look good if they are performed only once or twice in a person's lifetime. People who get multiple brow lifts look as though they have had too much plastic surgery.

When a surgeon tightens up the frontalis, he can create a sort of cat-eyed look if he pulls it back too much. This can cause women who have never had slanty eyes before to appear strange once they suddenly look that way.

I think I might have one brow lift when I'm older. I will save it for when I look significantly droopy, rather than panicking too early and needing several more later in life.

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