Why do our hands and toes wrinkle in water?


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Remember when you were a kid? It was bathtime, and all you did was play in the water and rinse out your fruity-scented L'Oreal shampoo. One measure of time as a child was the level of "pruniness" on your hands and feet. That's how you knew it was time to get out! 
     This is a really simple fact of life, but how many of us actually know the reasoning behind that wrinkly skin? This occurs because of our most outer layer of skin, the stratum corneum. This epidermis contains the fibrous protein keratin. Keratin helps seal in moisture and keep your skin in tact and at its strongest. According to Discovery Health dead keratin cells build up on the surface of the human skin. When these dead keratin cells are built up they absorb water they come in contact with, thus giving your hands and feet that wrinkle effect within the hour you are in water. You may be questioning why it's mostly your palms and the bottoms of your feet that are affected. These parts of your body are actively used, which causes the body to grow deeper layers of skin on them, and consequently more keratin cells are formed. So, depending on the individual the body can have these wrinkles anywhere!
     As we all have experienced, these wrinkles are temporary and fade away quickly once the skin is dried, but it still makes those hour long bubble baths a little more entertaining.
water wrinkles.gif
Photo courtesy of indianapublicmedia

3 Comments

Now I know why this happens! I've always wondered why and also did judge how long I had spent in the pool based on the wrinkliness of my hands. I always had a thought that it had something to do with the cells absorbing too much water and then just bulging once they were filled.

This post was interesting! Its cool to know the reasoning behind some of the wonders of our childhood. I thought you might find it interesting that there's a study that was written about in the Huffington Post about the benefits of wrinkles fingers! There's been evidence to suggest that our pruned hands actually help us pick up slippery items easier! Check it out, I think you'll find it interesting.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/skin-wrinkles-water-pruney-hands-grip-slippery_n_2440696.html

How interesting! I've always wondered why this happens. I always figured that the skin cells were limp from coming in contact with such a large amount of water...or something along those lines. I've never heard of keratin cells, but the process definitely makes sense. According to this article, some scientists believe that this skin effect helped our ancestors to grasp slippery food: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/jan/09/skin-wrinkle-water-grip

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