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No sweat

Did you know we don't have a receptor in our skin for wetness?

31 January 2022

Wetness is a sensation we take for granted – an experience our brain picks up from other cues, such as temperature and touch. Pioneering research is exploiting these facts to influence everyday product design, from nappies to deodorants.

We all know what it feels like to be wet. It’s often closely associated with a feeling of cold. But what is the science behind that feeling? It’s not as simple as you might think.

Dr Davide Filingeri, Associate Professor in Skin Health in the School of Health Sciences, is dedicating his career to understanding how our brain tells us something is wet, considering we don’t have a receptor for wetness in our skin as we do, for example, for temperature and pain.

Wetness is one of the most common sensations we experience, so people don’t question it. You can trick your brain to feel wet when something is not wet, or trick it to feel dry when in fact something is wet.

Dr Davide Filingeri - Associate Professor in Skin Health

“If you are sitting on a metal chair with bare skin, you might jump up feeling wet when really it’s just the cold of the metal that cools the skin very quickly. Or, if you wear a latex glove and put your hand into water and take it out again, you will probably feel wet on your hand even though there is no moisture in contact with your skin,” says Davide.

Davide founded Thermosenselab, based in the Skin Health Research Group, which specialises in research into skin sensing.

His research has sparked a series of enterprise collaborations with consumer goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble (P&G), as well as with major sports clothes manufacturers.

Read the full story in Re:action, the University’s research and enterprise magazine.

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