How Long Does it Take for Hair to Decompose?

How Long Does it Take for Hair to Decompose?

Years ago, I lived in a studio apartment where a neighbor female friend with crazy long thick hair visited me regularly. After she left my state, I never had any frequent visitor with that kind of hair come over.

The reason I am discussing this strange anecdote is because even over a year after Rapunzel stopped visiting me, I would find her lengthy hair in isolated locations such as closet corners. It seemed like the hair did not decompose and was still 100 percent intact.

How Long Does it Take for Hair to Decompose?

Decomposed Hair
Hair left in a book from the 1800s. Source: TikTok.

I was reminded of this phenomenon by a TikTok video that went viral last week. An antique collector purchased a book from the 1800s that contained a surprise: envelopes of intact human hair stashed within its pages. This hair was over 150 years old.

Apparently, it was common in that Victorian era for people to donate their hair as a sign of affection and to preserve a person’s memory.

I also thought of this phenomenon when recently watching Sabia and the inspirational Loren in one of their videos. The most interesting part for me involved Loren’s preserved childhood locks. They are still in good shape after ten plus years in a plastic bag (with no special chemicals or fats involved). See 7:25 onwards in that video.

I find it ironic that hair is composed of dead keratin protein. Yet once it sheds from the scalp, it refuses to decompose for years. Reports suggest that hair will decompose within two years if buried in soil. If exposed to adverse weather conditions such as rain, wind, snow, humidity, and direct sunlight, the process will be faster. The hair that you send down the drain will also decompose much more rapidly. However, if left indoors in a semi-protected environment, human hair can even last for centuries.

Hair Decomposition vs Preservation

In fact, if you store human scalp hair carefully, it can last for thousands of years. This has been seen fairly often in Egyptian mummies after excavations. The hair of these mummies was perfectly preserved in a unique balm consisting of fat, oil, gum and wax. A separate potion was also used to embalm and preserve the entire body of these past Egyptian pharaoh kings and queens. In preparation for the afterlife.

What Happens to Hair after you Die?

A question that many people ask is what happens to your scalp hair after you die? Does it decompose rapidly due a lack of continuous blood supply and nutrition? Some anecdotal reports suggest that it keeps growing after death. However, this is false.

Neither hair nor nails continue growing after you die. Dehydration of the body leads to retraction of the skin around the hair and around fingernails. This can give a deceptive appearance of longer hair and nails after death.

Human Hair Mats to Clean Oil Spills

The fact that human hair is so strong and hard to destroy has to led  some interesting applications. The most well known use is wigs that can last for years. Many people also use hair for composting, since it is biodegradable. Others are experimenting with adding human hair as an additive to asphalt in pavement construction.

An increasingly popular application is in the area of cleaning up oil spills and other pollution in oceans. Many barbers and salons get paid for sending their leftover cut hair to companies that use it for such purposes.

YouTube Video

Does it not make you frustrated that your shedded locks of hair have  superman-like strength and preservation capabilities? They just do not like to remain on your scalp for too long if you have the cursed genes.

On the other hand, beard hair in many remains strong and fast growing even in old age. In fact, beard hair is the best type of hair for body hair to scalp hair transplants.

I will almost certainly get laser hair removal or electrolysis on my beard when I am older so that I no longer need to shave. It is a major daily pain for my father with his shakier hands at that older age.