If you have ever spent a lot of time in the shower, in the pool or simply doing any activity in which you have prolonged contact with water, you will have noticed that the skin on your hands and feet wrinkles.
The skin is the largest organ of the human body and has several functions beyond containing the organs and fluids within the body. Its function is to protect the body against pathogens and to regulate body temperature in the face of extreme heat or cold.
It also has an extensive network of nerves that allow the body to react to friction or injury, which is part of the defense and protection mechanism.
But for many it is surprising to see skin wrinkling after long exposure to water. Let us explain why this happens.
A protective reaction
The skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet is the only skin that wrinkles on contact with water. The reason is very simple.
Beneath the skin of the body is a layer of fat that acts as a waterproof element. In addition, the entire surface is covered with small sebaceous glands, which produce oils and greases that lubricate the skin and protect it against the action of water.
However, these glands do not exist in the palms and soles of hands and feet. For this reason, when we expose them for a long time to water, the skin begins to absorb water and thickens unevenly, giving rise to “wrinkles”.
A curious fact is that wrinkles appear after about 5 minutes of continuous exposure to water, in the case of fresh water, and about 8 to 10 minutes in salt water.
In any case, there are several studies that have analyzed the possible reasons why the skin of the hands and feet only wrinkles with prolonged contact with water. We will detail the two main ones.
Improved grip in hazardous conditions
According to several studies, the fact that plantar skin or hand skin is the only skin that wrinkles is part of a mechanism controlled by the central nervous system.
When the body has been exposed to water for a long time, the risk of slipping or loss of grip on the hands and feet increases. The wrinkles help increase traction on wet surfaces, preventing dangerous falls.
Different studies show that the central nervous system is responsible for causing these roughnesses. The purpose of this reaction is to be able to better grip wet surfaces when stepping on and to better grasp any object we need to hold.
Wrinkles on feet are a sign of good health
The link between the central nervous system and skin wrinkling of the hands and feet is evident in patients with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and lesions in the temporal lobes.
In these people the skin reaction to prolonged contact with water is non-existent or minimal. For this reason, it is considered that if the skin reacts well, it is a sign that the nervous system is functioning properly.
Do not abuse wet hands and feet.
Although exposing your hands and feet to water for a long time does not represent a risk for the health of your skin, it is preferable to do it moderately.
First of all, remember that the skin has oils that lubricate and protect it, and excessive contact with water causes these substances to “wash away”, leaving the epidermis exposed to fungi and bacteria.
In addition, overexposure to water can eventually cause problems with the nails, which will also be affected by the alteration of the deep layers of the skin of the hands and feet. The best way to protect yourself when you are going to get wet for long periods of time is to wear gloves and rubber or slip-resistant soles.
Article prepared by Clínica San Román