Do fingernails and hair really keep growing after death?

Don't worry, there no zombie barbers required - yet!

19th September 2015
Grave at night

Asked by: Peter Buehler, Germany

Not for long. The gruesome idea of nails and hair continuing to grow on a rotting corpse is fascinating. But it’s a myth – at least if you’re thinking of luscious locks and long, curly fingernails growing inside a coffin. Nails and hair may appear to keep growing, but this is because flesh shrinks as it dries out, retracting the skin to make the nails and hair appear longer. There is a little truth in the story though, because death isn’t an instantaneous process. When someone’s heart stops beating their brain cells die very quickly, but cells that use less oxygen can live a little longer. So potentially hair and nails could grow a tiny bit after the brain is dead. 

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