How to Frown

Two Parts:Making a FrownMaking Convincing Frowns

Frowns are a type of facial expression that human beings use to express displeasure. However, not all frowns are created equal - some frowns show anger, others sadness, and still others confusion or frustration. Whether you have difficulty frowning or you're worried that your natural frown looks silly, just a few simple steps can help you build your scowl up to fighting strength in no time at all. See Step 1 below to get started.

Part 1
Making a Frown

Angry Frowns

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    Make a downward curving shape with your mouth. The single facial expression that most people associate with frowning is a downward curve of the mouth. To make this downward curve, keep your lips together and pull the corners of your mouth back and down using the muscles at the front of your cheeks. You'll want to avoid pulling harshly, as this can create a bizarre, frog-like appearance. This is a difficult muscle movement to isolate, but, luckily, it is much easier in conjunction with the other facial movements that make a frown.
    • This "upside-down smile" expression is so emblematic of the act of frowning that it's often used on its own to symbolize the entire expression (for example, in the case of frowning emoticons like :(, which use just representations of the eyes and mouth to express displeasure).
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    Furrow your brow. Next, contract the muscles in the front of your forehead to give your brow a furrowed or "bunched-up" look. Combined with curving your mouth downward, his should have the natural effect of giving you a slight sneer, squinted eyes, and hooked, angry-looking eyebrows. If you're having trouble doing this, try "flexing" the muscles between your eyebrows in the mirror, making them as thick and tight as possible.
    • This action is important to make your expression distinguishable from a "sad" frown. Without a furrowed brow, the other parts of a frown can sometimes look ambiguous, but with a harsh, furrowed brow, there is no mistaking your emotions.
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    Raise your upper lip slightly. As you frown, try to ever-so-slightly raise your upper lip. Pull somewhat gently so that your lips stay together. This has the subtle but noticeable effect of increasing the intensity of your expression. Don't lift your lip so high that you expose your teeth - this can make you look disgusted or confused.
    • To make a sneer, a related expression, exaggerate the motion of raising your upper lip. You may even want to lift your upper lip to the point that your lips are no longer together and your teeth can be seen. Sneers are useful for expressing a combination of anger and disgust and are best attempted with an arrogant attitude.
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    Subtly jut your lower lip forward. As you adjust your upper lip, push your lower lip forward just a little. Discretion is key here - the change in position should be very, very subtle. Be careful not to extend your bottom lip too far, or you'll give yourself a bizarre pouting expression and will have a hard time making people take your anger seriously.
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    Glare intensely at the subject of your anger. Like all facial expressions, the emotion conveyed in a good frown is concentrated in the eyes. If you're really mad, show that you mean it by shooting a red-hot glare at whatever you're frowning at. Narrow your gaze by bringing your cheeks up slightly. Tilt your head very slightly forward. Together, these actions will have the effect of making your eyes give an intense, fiery look from under your brow.
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    For extreme anger, widen your eyes and flare your nostrils. Sometimes, normal, everyday frowns just aren't sufficient to display the powerful, wrathful anger that's welling up inside you. To make a truly fearsome scowl, open your eyes wide, exposing their whites, and flare your nostrils while you perform the rest of the steps above - furrowing your brow, curving your mouth downward, and so on.
    • You may also want to tighten your neck and facial muscles to add to your expression of anger. Tense your neck muscles to make the tendons in your neck visible while simultaneously furrowing your brow and turning your mouth downward with greater intensity than you normally would. This tight, "tense" expression gives the impression of visceral, nearly uncontrollable anger.

Sad Frowns

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    Make a downward curving shape with your mouth. The shape of the mouth in an angry frown and in a sad frown is very similar. Turn the corners of your mouth downward, pulling with the muscles in the corners of your mouth and at the fronts of your cheeks.
    • Normally, when making sad frowns, you'll want to keep your lips together, but when expressing extreme sadness, you may part your lips in a sort of sad "gasping" gesture. If you open your mouth for crying, it should be roughly square.
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    Raise your eyebrows. Similar to angry frowns, sad frowns involve the use of the muscles in the forehead and brow. However, their exact use differs somewhat. Rather than bunching up your brow and forehead around the space between your eyebrows, you'll want to instead use your forehead muscles to lift the inner corners of your eyebrows. This should have the effect of making you look dismayed, put-down, or crushed - in other words, sad.
    • This is a somewhat tricky facial expression to intentionally recreate. If you're having difficulty, try lifting the area of skin between your eyebrows upward by tightening your forehead muscles.
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    Make an open, vulnerable look with your eyes. Expressions of sadness represent an outpouring of inner emotion that's causing pain. To make your sad frown authentic, try to channel this inner pain into your eyes with a look of vulnerability. Allow your eyelids to hang loosely over your eyes, but don't let them fall so far that they appear droopy. Try to adopt a plaintive look in your eye as you do so.
    • A good rule of thumb is that, when making an angry frown, your eyes should have a tight, narrow, focused appearance, whereas when making a sad frown, they should be looser and more open.
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    Cast your gaze downward. Accompany your sad frown with changes in your body language that complement the dejected impression you're trying to make. For instance, let your eyelids hang loosely over your eyes and look off to the side or at the ground, rather than at what's right in front of you. This should make you look glum and defeated, as if whatever is making you sad is so overwhelming that you can't bear to confront it directly.
    • You may also want to try slouching your shoulders forward. Shifting from a normal, erect posture to one that's less well-supported furthers the impression that your sadness is preventing you from being your normal self.
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    For extreme sadness, tear up or cry. While it's possible for a good actor to recreate an expression of extreme anger simply by moving his facial muscles in the right ways, it's more difficult to recreate extreme sadness without the addition of tears. Any sad frown will be made more convincing if it's accompanied with crying. This can be quite difficult to fake, so you may be more successful if you're experiencing genuine sadness while attempting to do so.
    • Crying on command is a skill that's the subject of countless online guides. For instance, for more information on crying on command, you might want to try wikiHow's How to Cry on the Spot

Part 2
Making Convincing Frowns

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    Observe (or imagine) something displeasing. It's easier to recreate expressions of displeasure if you have something to be displeased about. Putting genuine emotion behind your frown almost always makes it much more convincing, so fuel your negative emotions by exposing yourself to something that you hate. You can also try simply thinking about this thing if you'd like to avoid actually having to deal with it. Try thinking about your S.O. leaving you for someone else, your term paper getting accidentally deleted, or another similar disaster - whatever makes you angry or sad.
    • For instance, if you hate it when your housemates leave their dirty dishes for you to wash, you might want build up some fiery anger in your heart by going to the kitchen and looking at the overflowing sink or even just thinking hard about them leaving their plates there without washing them.
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    Practice. Being able to make a great frown spontaneously is a skill that needs honing just like any other. For the best frowns, consistently devote time to practice. Preferably, you should practice in front of a mirror, though, if you've got your expressions down pat and are just trying to imprint them in your muscle memory, practice without a mirror can suffice.
    • Professional actors actually devote lots of time and energy to practicing certain facial expressions in an effort to make their performances more realistic. Some acting classes may offer specific exercises intended to enhance an actor's ability to perform various facial expressions on command, including frowns.
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    Learn from the best. Certain famous people are renowned for the ability (and frequency) with which they frown. Study these peoples' frowns to get a sense for the minor quirks and subtleties that can distinguish one memorable frown from another. Below are just a few people known for their frowns, scowls, and sneers:
    • Robert De Niro
    • Barack Obama
    • Grace Van Cutsem
    • Clint Eastwood
    • Winston Churchill
    • Samuel L. Jackson


  • Typically, in social situations, it's more acceptable for high-status, important people to frown than it is for those who occupy social positions under them. For instance, if a rich, powerful politician is unhappy with her food at a restaurant, it's more acceptable for her to frown than it is for her waiter to frown back at her.


  • Be sure to take a look in the mirror before you test out your new frown in public to ensure that you look the way you think you look.
  • Don't make awful frowns too often - your face may end up stuck that way!

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Categories: Acting