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Why fingers shrivel in the water?

When we get out of the water after a relaxing bath or a swim in the sea or in the pool, the skin of both the toes and the hands has a wrinkled appearance , less smooth than usual. In general, this state appears when we spend more than 10 minutes submerged, and disappears about 20 minutes after leaving the water.

It is well known that these folds occur due to the constriction of the blood vessels under the skin , and their function is controlled by the nervous system . Of course, until now no study had shown the real reason why this process occurs.

The reason your fingers wrinkle underwater

Now a study carried out by researchers at the University of New Castle (in the United Kingdom) and published in the specialized journal ‘Biology Letters’ has shed light on this issue.

The reason why fingers and toes are wrinkled under water is to improve the grip of objects that are wet or below the surface .

To carry out the study, the team of scientists has analyzed the ability of people to catch wet items that are out of the water, both with wrinkled fingers and in their normal state. Dr Tom Smulders, head of the research, compares the grip of the phalanges with that of a tire in wet conditions; explains that wrinkling of the fingers could have helped our ancestors obtain food from moist vegetation . In addition, in relation to the wrinkling of the soles of the feet, he points out that in this way our ancestors could run more easily in the rain.

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Until now it was thought that this effect on the toes and hands was simply due to the passage of water to the outer layer of the skin , causing swelling of the area. But it seems that the reason goes much further, and has a very important functional component.

Why aren’t my fingers always wrinkled?

The person in charge of the study explains that if the fingers and toes remain permanently wrinkled, the sensitivity of the fingertips would decrease and the risk of damage when picking up certain objects would increase.

To expand the results provided by the study, the researchers consider it necessary whether or not certain animal species develop this ability. They point out that if it also occurs in primates, the original function could be of locomotion between humid vegetation . On the other hand, if it is something that only occurs in humans, its functions could be more specific, such as looking for food around rivers and beaches.


Many people wonder why the fingers and toes are wrinkled after getting out of the water, be it from the pool shower or the sea. Now it has been shown that it has a functional purpose, allowing to improve the grip of wet or underwater objects.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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