Ever wondered why someone who died looks pale or their skin takes on a grayish hue? This process, called livor mortis, is due to the fact that gravity starts pulling all your blood downward. Your heart has stopped beating, so it’s not pumping blood to all parts of your body like it used to when you were alive. As explained by forensic scientist M. Lee Goff (via Medical News Today), blood starts settling to the body’s lowest portions due to gravity.
While the areas of your body that don’t receive blood will look ashen, certain skin patches will appear red because of the blood pooling there, per Cleveland Clinic. These patches can take on a purplish tint over time. Your skin also shrinks after death, which is why hair and nails may look longer after death. Dehydration and the resulting retraction of your skin create the illusion of longer nails and hair, per UAMS Health.
Your skin could also take on a greenish hue when something called “marbling” occurs. Also called “suggillation,” marbling happens when the deoxygenated blood pooled low in your body mixes with hydrogen sulfide, a gas that collects in your body’s cavities after death. This is responsible for the greenish tint on your skin when you die. Your skin also comes off your body after death, when the top layer (epidermis) separates from the bottom layer (dermis). This part of the process is also known as skin slippage.