Does A Person's Hair And Fingernails Really Keep Growing After Death?

After death, your brain shuts down, rigor mortis sets in, and then you develop a taste for human flesh and you start staggering around trying to eat everyone. Not really that last part, but some strange things do happen to your body after you die and you should know what they are so you'll be prepared. Just kidding about that last part, too. Because, you know, you'll be dead so who cares how prepared you are. 

One of the most prevalent myths about what happens to your body after you die is what doesn't happen to your body when you die. According to popular legend, your hair and fingernails don't stop growing, so when you're all dressed up for your funeral you can expect your hair to be just that little bit more luscious and your fingernails to be just that little bit more lovely, so that's super helpful. Because everyone knows all your most petty friends will have something to say about how disheveled your hair and fingernails looked while you were a corpse.

Anyway, none of it is true. Well, it's probably true that your most petty friends will criticize your hair and nails even in death, but it is not true that your hair and nails continue to grow after you die. According to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, hair and nails only appear to grow after death because all the skin around them actually shrinks as dehydration sets in, just prior to decomposition. The idea that those parts of your body might literally grow after death is fantasy because it's biologically impossible. Fingernails and hair both need to burn glucose in order to grow, and you need oxygen to burn glucose. Without a heartbeat, there's no oxygen, and without oxygen, there's no energy to promote growth.

Yes, you can blame the shriveling of the rest of your body for the fact that your hair and nails gain that very small bit of extra length. So, ewww.