Myth or Fact? #18 – Hair and nails keep growing after death

in science •  3 years ago 

Welcome dear Steemians to another episode of Myth or Fact!
Today we will cover a quite popular myth that most of you might have hear of. Some say that fingernails and hair continue to grow after death. It is such a known myth that even in books or movies we will encounter zombies or skeletons with long hair and fingernails. Perhaps this is not a myth at all and there is a grain of truth behind?

We will find out! Follow me into an explanatory adventure

What are hair and nails?

To understand what hair and nails are we will have a look at the largest organ of the human body, the skin. The skin is essential for surviving, making it one of the most important organ. The following figure shows a cross section with its different layers:

Fig.1 Section through the human skin. Source

The human skin has three layers. The epidermis, dermis and subcutis. Most sources only speak of the first two layer but do not consider the subcutis as a layer. We will have a closer look at the hair follicle which main function is to produce hair. Humans have five million of these follicles in total, spread all over their body.
If you want to know more about the human skin and its function I recommend you to read my Life Explorers post.

Let it grow!

The human hair structure can be divided into two parts, the follicle and the hair shaft. The hair bulb forms the base of the hair follicle and is the only living part of hair. From here new cells are produced which are pushed towards skin and appear as the shaft.

Hair consists of three layers. The inner layer is the Medulla, followed by the Cortex and the outer layer Cuticula. Medulla and Cortex contain Melanin, which is responsible of our hair color. Furthermore, the Cortex is contains approximately 80% Keratin, a tough protein.

Fig.2 Structure of a hair follicle. Source

This growth has three stages:

Anagen phase: The anagen phase is the growth phase. Hair grows one millimeter every three days. The growth depends on the body region; however it is on the head the fastest. This phase takes 2-4 years, women hair even up to 6 years. As mentioned above we have five million follicles. Approximately 100.000 hairs grow on our hair. With a speed of one millimeter every three days that make 1 cm a month. Having 100.000 hairs on our head that makes approximately 30 meters hair growth, a day! Crazy isn’t it?

Catagen phase: Basically, a transition phase between anagen and telogen. Prepares the follicles for the next growth by detaching the bulb from blood supply.

Telogen phase: This phase lasts up to 12 weeks. The hair is in rest and will fall out soon. After the telogen phase the cycle repeats. In every follicle a hair can be produced 10 to 12 times.
So, our hair grows in a certain cycle and after 6 to 7 years the hair is rejected. Why don’t we lose all hair at once? Simply because our follicles are in different phases each. While one hair might be in anagen phase another can be in catagen. Note that hair grows everywhere except mucus membranes, our palms, soles and lips.

Does hair grow after death?

This question is tricky. We need to see this from different perspectives. A person is technically dead when his brain functions stop; so called brain-dead. While all vital functions stop few cells might live another few hours, such as the hair cells. That means that even after death the hair can grow for few hours. This however won’t be visible at all and has no impact. Where does the myth then come from?
Before burying a man he usually gets shaved. After death the skin starts to shrink and makes hair under the skin visible. This leads to a three-day stubble.

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Myth or Fact? #12 - Acid and Base saves Life
Myth or Fact? #11 – Glass is a liquid
Myth or Fact? #10 – During summer the Eiffel Tower is taller
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Myth or Fact? #8 - Oxygen runs out in overfilled rooms
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Myth or Fact? #5 – Does drinking distilled water kill you?
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Myth or Fact? #3 - Is it colder during Winter because the Sun is further?
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Thanks for sharing the wealth of knowledge!

Since I'm a "bit bald", I tell my kindergarten kids that I simply grew faster than my hair! Maybe you could include this one in the oddities you have encountered?!?

Namaste :)

I Love my hair, and here are 11 things I know about it:
1-The quantity of hair we have in our head is between100,000 and 150,000.
2- A single hair is capable to handle 100 grams in weight without breaking. As long as is healthy of course.
3-African people´s hair is way more resistant to climate changes, asian´s in the other hand is more elastic. Indoeuropean´s we have half way the characteristic of both.
4-Human hair grows faster in warm or hot climates. This is because the heat helps the nutrients to stimulate better the hair follicle in the skin.
5-Human hair it is not only something related to looks or esthetics, but to protect us from the UV rays of the sun and other hazards in the air.
6-According to the ethnic of the human, the hair can grow between 0,9 cm and 1,3 cm every month. Asian people grow their hair more rapid than Africans, they grow hair very slowly.
7- Every day we lose normally between 50 and 100 hairs a day, being replaced by “new born” hair.
8-As an average according to the culture, the wash of the hair differs, in Europe for example they wash their hair twice or three times a week, while in Japan and in America they wash it even twice a day.
9- Every lost hair is being replace by a new one, meaning that in a healthy person the groth of hair can happen until the end of life and “after death”.
10-There is no difference between the hair of a woman or a man, there is only genetic difference according to the owner of the hair.
11-The quantity of hairs in human beings falling and being born in this planet is the same quantity of galaxies being destroyed and created in this multiverse. Nah, I just made that up. :D

I used to believe the myth but thanks for the clarification. :P

You are welcome! There are many myths I also did believe in

We all do..
Have a nice day :)

I really don't even know what to say here...
I'm just going to live forever, so far everything goes as planned xD

To me living 200 years might be fine, but for ever? Must be boring soon

Ok, I gonna find out and will let you know P

Interesting fact. keep going.

Steem on!

Congratulations @timsaid!
Your post was mentioned in my hit parade in the following categories:

  • Upvotes - Ranked 4 with 566 upvotes
  • Pending payout - Ranked 2 with $ 672,89

Nice job with this one. :)

Thank you justtryme90! Means a lot to mean to hear this from you since you are great in what you do

That's very kind of you @timsaid. Let's keep up the good work for the science community here and help it grow :)

Can you imagine what Graveyards would look like if the Penis kept growing after death. Guess we wouldnt need Tombstones.


i will write next myth or fact with you :D

Amazing work, love your articles
For Best Results: Resteem, Upvote, Follow and Comment!

Thank you thearcanebear!

Our pleasure, keep up the great job!

Should we go to the grave with scissors and clippers?

Fact or Fiction?

We will find out next episode maybe!

Cool stuff.. thanks for sharing.. have started following you.. would u mind doing the same?? :) thanks...

if my hair and nails want to keep growing after i am dead the more power to them

an amazing article

wonderful material.. nice content!!

Just because of your Myth or Fact? series I will follow you and I will also let it GROW

Muuuh! Thank you Lenin!

great info

Ew. Lol

Par Excellence!


Interesting, so some cells live on for a few hours after a person is clinical death?

Technically some can survive for few minutes to hours. The body however is dead. Just few cellular reactions can happen, nothing big

Thanks for clarifying, well it kinda makes sense when i think about it, since it's possible to transplant organs from a dead person to a living person. Actually I read about this Italian neurosurgeon named Sergio Canavero who has announced he will perform a head transplant by the end of 2017.
That's kinda spooky!

Any news when he will do it? What do you think about?

As far as I know, he has a volunteer, so he will perform the transplant in December 2017.

I think it’s fascinating, in regards to medical science, theology and philosophy. I’m certainly not an expert, but I do think it’s possible. However, I’m not sure if there will be any negative psychical consequences to the receiving patient.
Here are a couple old videos of old Russian experiments on head transplant performed on dogs. WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT!

In India, we just burn the dead bodies after following some religious rites! So i guess, no question of hair and nails growing further!!!!

You are right, no question then. However in Europe it's also common that you burn the corpse

Hmm, didn't knew that. I thought it was exclusive to the Hindus and it's related religions.

Your content is more informative than some of my classes in the university. Keep up the good work buddy!

I was in your math class last week. Sadly I can agree with you here. You should change the university. Come to mine

So does this mean when Harry Styles dies his hair will look like Repunzel?

Now that's a great name. Had to look up his name. Great hair though

Did it again ^^No.1 on Trending! Congrats :)

I'm really happy and appreciate. Trying to give as much love to the community back as I can :)

Wow! You're slammed full of information. Definitely following this guy! Waiting for the next episode for sure.

You're killing it! Thanks for the support

Of course

That makes sense once one considers it, that the skin would shrink..

And another myth was solved :)

hahaa Every lost hair is being replace by a new one, meaning that in a healthy person the groth of hair can happen until the end of life and “after death”.

Nice to follow you, great scince @timsaid

Thank you jamhuery

Welcome @timsaid and i like to resteem your post, nice to hear about science

i love my hairs and nails.... do you?

Interesting article, upvoted and followed.

What about pubic hair? That's a scary thought.

Maybe we can think of hair and nails as plants, plants suck up the nutrients from the soil. Where the body is the soil full of nutrient and able to sustain both hair and nail growth until all the nutrient is used up.

My hair and nails need all the help they can get with me alive. :))

so amaze-balls. Thanks for sharing the info with us!

Always wondered thanks

1 of my favorite shows was always mythbusters. I could watch reruns of that show till my hair is grey and or gone. Your articles have a clear resemblance of said show and you better believe I will be on the next articles to come. Keep it up TIM

Great read

Wow, I'm glad I stumbled upon this series. I always wondered about some of these things myself; glad to see someone do a deep dive to 'scratch the brain itch'. Nice series and I am onboard! Thanks for the insights and Steem on!

Thnaks for the info

great as always

Great read! Followed you :)

Never thought of hair growing after death but it´s quite interesting, Great Post!

Following you on this one. Keep it up, mate :)

great info...