Why Does Your Glabrous Skin Wrinkle When Immersed in Water?



A lot of people are under the wrong impression that the wrinkles you get when you spend a little too long soaked in water happens due to the swelling of the outermost layer of your skin. The notion is that these wrinkles are the result of osmotic swelling that happened to stratum corneum. However, recent studies have surfaced to contradict this belief. This phenomenon is now known to be a result of reduction in the pulp volume of the fingers. Unlike what they believed before, this phenomenon happens due to the difference between the outside of our fingers and their insides. While the keratin absorbs water and swells when our hands are immersed in water, the insides of our fingers don’t change. This leads to the appearance of wrinkles all over our fingers and toes. 

Why it’s important

Many of us will look at this phenomenon differently, some finding it worrying and others remain uninterested. However, no one can deny its importance to our well being. Scientists have proven that wrinkly fingers can enhance our grips; not only when we are holding objects, but our grip when it comes to movement. This comes in handy when you are in a tub or are standing on slippery surfaces for extended periods of time. The formation of wrinkles after spending some time underwater, whether it be the beach, pool, or in your bathtub, helps in avoiding slipping or falling which can save you from hurting yourself. The autonomic nervous system gets triggered after the continued submersion in water to form wrinkles on your feet and hands. This can also lead to a better manipulation of other submerged objects in the water. In other words, the body is adapting to the environment

How does it happen? 

Water tends to move from low concentration areas to higher concentration areas. This process is called osmosis. When people spend a long time with their hands or feet in the water, osmosis occurs and water molecules naturally flow into upper skin cells. Wrinkles are then caused by the natural processes of shrinkage and expansion that happen simultaneously. Even though people know their hands and feet are the only parts that get wrinkly after a shower, they might not realize that surprisingly enough, the wrinkling effect is stronger on thicker skin. Since our hands and feet have the thickest skin, from constant contact against different surfaces, they are more likely to show this wrinkling. 



When does it happen?

Scientists have noticed that the wrinkling of your fingers and toes will not occur before five minutes of complete immersion in water. Whether you are washing the dishes, taking a shower or a bath, or have decided to go swimming your fingers, toes, palms, and the bottom of your feet will not start wrinkling before five minutes have passed. This folks at https://www.showeringcenter.com/why-do-fingers-and-toes-prune/, suggested an experiment that can be easily done at home do demonstrate the effect of this wrinkling. Simply press your dry finger to a drop of water on any surface. You will notice your finger will touch the surface. You can then attempt to do the same with a finger that has been immersed in water for more than five minutes. The difference will show you all about the importance of this wrinkling. 

Why does it happen? 

This natural phenomenon has been explained in many different ways for various reasons. Some think this is how our body naturally reacts to be able to handle objects better underwater, and several studies have proven that this wrinkling effect can, in fact, increase the efficiency of handling small objects underwater. Yet scientists still think this is not the reason behind wrinkling. The more likely reason is locomotion. While this area needs more studies and experiments to prove the hypothesis, the scientific community sees it as the most logical one. Our body will adapt itself and change our palms and feet to be more wrinkly in order to have a better grip and balance. With wrinkles all over the soles of your feet, it’s less likely to slip or fall underwater which is why the body naturally changed itself. 


While the explanation may have varied over the years between different scientists and studies, the truth remains that this natural phenomenon is a literal lifesaver. The wrinkles that appear on our hands and feet make holding different objects underwater easier. But most importantly, it aids in avoiding slipping and falling while you are taking a shower or swimming in a pool. The mysteries of the body are endless, but ever fascinating.