Facial expressions: Disgust and contempt



In extreme disgust, the eyebrows are lowered forming a ‘V’ above the nose and producing wrinkles on the forehead. In mild disgust, the eyebrows may only be slightly lowered or not lowered at all.


Eyes are made as narrow as possible by bringing the eyelids together. In extreme disgust, it appears as if the eyes are almost completely shut. This is the mind’s attempt to block out the disgusting thing from our sight. Out of sight, out of mind.


The nostrils are pulled straight up producing wrinkles on the bridge and sides of the nose. This action also raises the cheeks forming an inverted ‘U’ type wrinkle on the sides of the nose.


In extreme disgust, both the lips- upper and lower- are raised as high as possible with the lip corners turned down as in sadness. This is the expression that we make when we are about to vomit. That which disgusts us makes us want to puke. 

In mild disgust, both the lips are only slightly raised and the lip corners may not be turned down.


Chin may be pulled back because we are often threatened by the things that disgust us. A circular wrinkle appears on the chin, easily observed in women and clean-shaven men but concealed in bearded men.

Anger and disgust

The facial expressions of anger and disgust are very similar and often lead to confusion. In both anger and disgust, the eyebrows may be lowered. In anger, however, the eyebrows are not only lowered but also drawn together. This drawing together of the brows is not seen in disgust.

Also, in anger, the upper eyelids are raised to produce a ‘stare’ but in disgust, the ‘stare’ is missing i.e. upper eyelids are not raised. 

Observing the lips may sometimes ward off the confusion between anger and disgust. In anger, lips may be thinned by pressing them together. This is not seen in disgust where lips more or less retain their normal size.

Examples of the disgust expression

disgust facial expression

A clear-cut extreme disgust expression. Eyebrows are lowered forming a ‘V’ above the nose and producing wrinkles on the forehead; eyes are narrowed to block out the source of disgust; nostrils are pulled up raising the cheeks and producing wrinkles on the nose and raising the cheeks (notice the inverted ‘U’ wrinkle around the nose); upper and lower lips are raised as high as possible with lip corners turned down; chin is slightly pulled back and a circular wrinkle appears on it.

mild disgust

This is an expression of mild disgust. Eyebrows are lowered slightly forming a ‘V’ above the nose and producing slight wrinkles on the forehead; eyes are narrowed; nostrils are raised very slightly, raising the cheeks and producing the inverted ‘U’ wrinkle on the sides of the nose; lips are raised but very subtly turning down the lip corners very, very slightly; chin is not pulled back and no circular wrinkle appears on it.


We feel disgusted towards anything that we find objectionable- bad tastes, smells, sights, sounds, touches, and even bad behaviour and bad character of people. 

Contempt, on the other hand, is only felt for humans and their behaviours. When we feel contempt towards someone, we look down upon them and feel superior to them.

The facial expressions of contempt and disgust are clearly distinguishable. In contempt, the only conspicuous sign is that one lip corner is tightened and slightly raised, producing a partial smile as shown in the images below:

contempt facial expression