nd3000/ShutterstockAfter your parents have ticked off the last mark on your childhood growth chart, after you’ve stopped outgrowing shoes, and when the horrors of puberty are a distant memory, you may think it’s safe to claim that you’ve “stopped growing.” But there are two significant parts of your body that apparently didn’t get the memo. Once the growth of the rest of your body has slowed to a stop, your nose and your ears continue increasing in size. (So does that make it… three body parts that never stop growing?)
Dr. Ryan Neinstein, a plastic surgery practitioner at NYC Surgical Associates and Neinstein Plastic Surgery, explains what makes these two facial features different from the rest of your body. Dr. Neinstein describes how the multiplication of our cells drives the growth of our bodies. “Most cells in our body stopped multiplying at puberty,” Dr. Neinstein told Reader’s Digest. When the cells throughout our bodies, such as bone, muscle, and fat cells, stop duplicating, we stop growing. This doesn’t mean that cells themselves can’t get larger (they can; it’s how we build muscle) or shrink (they can; it’s how we burn fat). But most of them stop dividing, and in most parts of our body, “the number of cells is ‘locked in'” after puberty, says Dr. Neinstein.
Our noses and ears are unique compared to the rest of our bodies because they’re composed of soft tissue enveloped in cartilage. And it’s this soft tissue that keeps growing throughout our entire lives. “When you look at someone when they’re 80 vs. when they’re 20, they’ll have more cells in their ears and nose,” Dr. Neinstein says. If you’ve noticed that some older people seem to have larger ears and noses, well, this is why.
And no, it’s not just “drooping” due to gravity. Dr. Neinstein says that noses and ears grow up as well as down.
If you’re wondering why hair and nails don’t make the list of parts that don’t stop growing, Dr. Neinstein has an explanation for that, too. Hair and nail growth, he says, is genetic and differs for everyone; for instance, baldness is hereditary. (Of course, there are other reasons you could be losing your hair.) While continued ear and nose growth is consistent, the situation of hair and nails is “not as clear-cut,” Dr. Neinstein says. (No pun intended.)
Next, learn the biological reasons behind some of our wackiest body parts.