The Science Behind Wrinkled Hands: Benefits of Water-Induced Skin Wrinkling

Why Does Our Skin Wrinkle When Wet?

Water wrinkles are something we all have seen and wondered how and why it happens. When the skin is wet for a long time, the skin on the hands and feet develops swollen skin with asymmetric folds, like a prune. This effect on the skin is normal, says science.

Wrinkling starts after 3.5 minutes in lukewarm water, at 40°C more or less, and up to 10 minutes when the water is cold, at 20°C. After 30 minutes of soaking it is enough for the skin to reach maximum wrinkles, says research shared in the scientific journal Springer Link.

Scientists previously believed that skin wrinkled with water was caused by osmosis, swelling of cells in the skin’s upper layers. Later, researchers found that plump fingers and hands are due to contraction of blood vessels and not osmosis. When the hands and feet enter the water, the nervous system sends a message to the blood vessels to shrink, which causes the blood to move away from those areas, causing the blood vessels to lose more volume. The skin on top of these blood vessels then folds and the wrinkles form.

Experts from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital explain that wrinkles are part of an evolutionary process that helps humans grasp and stand on surfaces when the skin on their hands and feet is wet. Wrinkled fingers provide better grip in wet conditions, working like the treads on car tires, allowing more of the tire to be in contact with the road and giving you better grip, says an evolutionary biologist at Newcastle University.

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