Has it ever happened to you – what’s the reason? Why does water wrinkle your skin? It takes about 3.5 seconds in warm water for your fingers to start wrinkling. In cooler temperatures it can take up to 10 minutes. It takes 30 minutes in the water to reach maximum wrinkling.
Finger wrinkling was believed to be a passive response. Upper layers of skin swelling as water flooded the cells. But it was later discovered that this had more to do with the nervous system and blood flow. As the skin on the fingers wrinkled, blood flow had a significant drop.
Nick Davis, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, explains. “The fingertips go pale. Constriction of the vessels is withdrawing blood supply from the surface.”
Our bodies are actively reacting to being in water. But why does the skin wrinkle with water?
An experiment was conducted for this, with 500 volunteers. They measured the force needed to hold an object, both with dry and wet hands (without wrinkling). With wet hands, more force was needed. But, by wetting the hands for several minutes until they wrinkled, the ease of grasping improved.
“The results were incredibly clear,” Davis said. “The wrinkling increased the friction between the fingers and the object. This suggests that finger wrinkles may have evolved at some point in our past. And it happened to help us grip wet objects and surfaces.”
Signs of health
It might have given our ancestors an advantage when walking on rocks or grasping branches, for example. Or perhaps helped in catching food such as shellfish.
But the wrinkles in our fingers also reveal important information about our health. They are slow to form in people who have conditions such as psoriasis and vitiligo. Patients with cystic fibrosis experience excessive wrinkling. And they are reduced in people with heart failure.
Even, an asymmetrical wrinkling of the fingers, where one hand wrinkles less than the other, is a sign. It would be a warning of early Parkinson’s. There is still much to be studied in this regard.