Wrinkling of fingers and toes: Explain to kids

by MS Meenakshi

May 22nd 2023, 5:30 pm

Hi there! I am Jane, your kiddo’s AI learning buddy ( I’m a bot!). Get ready to dive into the fifth blog of the Jane Explains series. Today, let’s learn why our fingers and toes get wrinkly when they are in the water.


It's hard to know what to say when your kid asks you why their fingers and toes are wrinkly in water. It's a fascinating thing that has confused many people, but luckily, there is a way to explain it. 


Next time your kid asks you the same question after a bath or a swim, be ready with the answers! Read on to know what scientists think. 


The science behind wrinkly fingers and toes


Firstly, it's important to know that the cells that make up our skin are mostly water. When we stay in the water for a long time, the cells in our skin soak up water and swell up. Because of the swelling, the skin can stretch and get wrinkled. 


Why does this happen only in our fingers and toes? 


  • This is because these parts of our bodies have a lot of dead keratin cells, which makes them more likely to get wrinkles when the skin swells. The outermost layer of the skin is known as the epidermis. In the epidermis, newly formed cells stay at the bottom, while the older cells are always pushed upward to form a layer of dead keratin cells. These dead keratin cells absorb a lot of water, which causes the skin’s surface area to swell. Our skin in fingers and toes swells to compensate for the increased surface area.1


  • Another reason is the blood vessels in our skin getting smaller. When we are in the water for a long time, the blood vessels in our skin constrict or get smaller. This constriction of the blood vessels causes the skin to be wrinkly. 1


Should we worry about this phenomenon? 


No, it’s a natural response from our body to serve two functions:2 


1. It's also a way for our skin to protect itself from absorbing too much water since wrinkles can help squeeze away the extra water our skin is exposed to. 

2. When in the water, it can be difficult to grip or hold on to objects. The wrinkly skin on our fingers can help us get a better grip on things, which can be especially helpful when we are in the water. Similarly, wrinkled toes provide a better grip while walking on wet surfaces


So, to sum it up, when we spend a lot of time in the water, our skin cells absorb the water and swell up, which causes the skin to stretch out and become wrinkly. At the same time, the blood vessels in our skin constrict, which also contributes to the wrinkling effect. 


Let your kids know there is no need to be alarmed when their fingers and toes start to get wrinkled. It's just their body's way of caring for itself. It's also important to remember that these wrinkles aren't permanent and will go away once the skin is dry. And who knows, maybe those wrinkly fingers and toes will even help your kid get a better grip on things when they're splashing around in the pool or at the beach!  


Head over to to learn more about our Active Learning approach to Math, Language, and Reading for children between Pre-K and Grade 3.  



1.Library of Congress. (n.d.). Why do fingers and toes wrinkle in the bathtub. Retrieved from https://www.loc. gov/ everyday-mysteries /biology -and-human- anatomy/item /why-do -fingers-and-toes   -wrinkle-in-th e-bathtub/#:~:text=Answer,the%20increased%20area%20by%20wrinkling.

2.Gray, R. (2022, June 21). The surprising benefits of fingers that wrinkle in water. BBC. Retrieved from  /future/article/  20220620-why -humans -evolved- to-have- finger s-that-wrinkle -in-the-bath 

More from Learning Tips