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No, your hair and fingernails don't keep growing after you die

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Ever heard the morbid little Fun Fact™ that your hair and nails keep growing after you die? Well, it's not true. It may appear that a dead person's fingernails are still growing, but that's only because the body is drying up. The skin's retraction around the nail just makes it look like they're growing.

From BBC Future:

So why do myths persist about stubble growing on dead men's chins and fingernails lengthening? While such observations are false, they do have a biological basis. It is not that the fingernails are growing, but that the skin around them retracts as it becomes dehydrated, making them appear longer. When preparing a body, funeral directors will sometimes [moisturize] the fingertips to counteract this.

The skin on a dead man's chin also dries out. As it does so it pulls back towards the skull, making stubble appear more prominent. Goosebumps caused by the contraction of the hair muscles can add to the effect.


Many people trace his little bit of misinformation back to the 1929 book All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. But I wouldn't be surprised at all if you could find an even earlier source. Maybe someone who was hanging around with Dracula.


Image: Fingernails on display at a Hairdressing Exhibition held at Olympia, London in 1930 via Getty Images

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