The role of decreasing contact temperatures and skin cooling in the perception of skin wetness

Cold sensations are suggested as the primary inducer of the perception of skin wetness. However, limited data are available on the effects of skin cooling. Hence, we investigated the role of peripheral cold afferents in the perception of wetness. Six cold-dry stimuli (producing skin cooling rates in a range of 0.02 to 0.41°C/s) were applied on the forearm of 9 female participants. Skin temperature and conductance, thermal and wetness perception were recorded. Five out of 9 participants perceived wetness as a result of cold-dry stimuli with cooling rates in a range of 0.14 to 0.41°C/s, while 4 did not perceive skin wetness at all. Although skin cooling and cold sensations play a role in evoking the perception of wetness, these are not always of a primary importance and other sensory modalities (i.e. touch and vision), as well as the inter-individual variability in thermal sensitivity, might be equally determinant in characterising this perception.