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Pruny Fingers and Toes – A Temporary and Harmless Condition

If you spend much time at all in a swimming pool, you have noticed that extended time in the pool will produce pruny fingers. If you are really observant, you’ve also noticed that this affects your toes.

Why does this happen? You cannot see it but a special oil called sebum covers the outermost layer of the skin. This oil moistens – or lubricates – the skin, protects it and even makes it a bit waterproof. (This is why water runs off the hands when they are washed instead of soaking it up like a sponge.)

Staying in the water too long washes away the sebum. Water can then penetrate the outer layer of skin, causing the skin to become waterlogged.

What causes the wrinkles? Some think the wrinkles come from the expansion of the skin to allow extra water inside. The expanded skin ends up looking really wrinkly. Others think that wrinkles are caused by the skin being tied down to the tissue underneath in certain places. When the skin is full of water, it swells up and gets puffy – but only in places where it is not tied down. Hence the wrinkly appearance.

Should anything be done about pruny fingers (or toes)? No. The wrinkles go away quickly enough on their own and there is no harm done. The body quicky replenishes the supply of sebum on the skin.

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