Makeup, nails, hairstyling, fragrance, and sometimes even full facial reconstruction with plasters and waxes are required to make the deceased recognizable to their loved ones. While the various methods of accomplishing this can sound pretty gross, there’s certainly no lack of ingenuity going on behind mortuary doors. Here are mortician tips and creepy stories from the funeral directors of Reddit about what goes into making the dead look alive.
From Redditor /u/TheModernMortician:
With skin slip or tiny puncture holes on an arm or neck, simply use 1-ply, non-decorated (cheap cheap cheap stuff) toilet paper and super glue. Place a torn piece of 1-ply on the wound, large enough to cover and connect with good tissue. Then, apply the super glue one drop at a time allowing the liquid glue to spread on its own. If needed, smooth out the 1-ply over the wound and flatten it out with tweezers before the glue sets. Do not use too much glue.
Allow to dry. Cosmetize over it!
From Redditor /u/woody1594:
We buy this brown couch stuffing cotton. We use it because it doesn't absorb water nearly as much as rolled cotton. So works great for building up a mouth before embalming. Also a neat thing about it, if you put Aron Alpha (a quick-drying adhesive) on it, it turns rock hard, so works amazing as a plug for trachea tube holes and bullet holes.
From Redditor /u/Bamacpl:
I've been using Poligrip denture adhesive gel to set the [skullcap] after an autopsy. It works great and fills the gap, unlike super glue. I also use an odd mix that has great results on jaundice. Mix pre-injection chemicals with 4 Alka-Seltzer tabs in 1 gallon and inject against closed drainage. Let that sit for 15-30 minutes depending on severity. Mix your jaundice fluid and inject after opening the vein. It will take most of the yellow out.
From a former Redditor:
With a fresh corpse, we embalm the body and pack the nose and mouth with gauze and wire the mouth shut to keep any purge from leaking out, and a hard plastic plug is placed in the anus and/or vagina to keep any gas or fluids from escaping down there. The embalming fluid holds off decay for a while and keeps the body fresh enough for the viewing and funeral. A fresh corpse doesn't really smell that bad. Only when they empty their bowels or a bit of gas escapes is there a truly awful smell.
However, if you're asking about a funeral for a corpse that has already started to rot, there isn't anything we can do. I can't reverse decay, I can only slow it down. Heavily decomposed bodies are not presented with an open casket. At the funeral home where I work, we pour cavity fluid (basically concentrated embalming fluid), lime powder, and kitty litter into the body bag with the body. The cavity fluid kills a lot of the fungus and bacteria, the lime helps control the smell, and the kitty litter soaks up excess moisture. The bag is then sealed up, put into another bag, and then we glue the zipper closed. Then that's all taken and put into a hermetically sealed casket for the funeral. The last thing you want is for a grieving family to smell their loved one's decaying remains. In mortician school we had to read cases of other funeral homes f*cking up and putting a leaky dripping body into a casket and scarring the family for life. That's a lawsuit that you don't want to deal with, not to mention that your reputation would be permanently ruined.
Also, I've never been into a funeral home that didn't have tons of flowers, potpourri, and scented candles sitting about. The smell of roses and lilies will forever be associated with caskets and funeral homes for me.