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Recently I got the idea that my humanoid race should have hydrophobic skin, because it sounds cool, and perhaps would help to maintain hygiene.

However, on the second thought, I am not so sure. Wouldn't such skin be awkward/unpleasant in touch? Would it maintain its properties after rubbing against clothes? How would it look and feel like?

Is there a reason why it couldn't work?

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  • $\begingroup$ Maybe the skin would dry out because secreted oils would run straight off of it? $\endgroup$ – RandySavage Feb 22 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ That is if they have pores, which may make their skin less hydrophobic, other wise they would have to get rid of heat another way than sweating, like panting. $\endgroup$ – RandySavage Feb 22 at 21:12
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There are a number of natural plants and animals that have weakly or strongly hydrophobic properties. Your creatures would presumably look or feel like one of them, depending on the mechanism that gives them that property.

Lotus petals possess a "ultrahydrophobic" effect that gives them a self-cleaning property, since the same mechanism that makes them hydrophobic also makes them dust-phobic. The dust gets rinsed off every time it rains:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_effect

Water strider insects can walk on water because their feet are ultrahydrophobic and that can support their weight.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultrahydrophobicity#Examples_in_nature

Many birds have hydrophobic feathers, such as pidgeons:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0021979707002317

Otter fur is also hydrophobic, and the dense, spiky fur also traps a layer of air against the otter even while underwater, which gives them remarkable insulation while diving in frigid waters. Penguins do a very similar thing with their feathers:

https://www.kqed.org/science/25908/the-fantastic-fur-of-sea-otters

I don't think the hydrophobicity gives these things a particular feeling- the effect in fact comes from the arrangement of very fine hairs at a nearly microscopic level. Lotus petals feel a little like velvet if you've never touched one. I've never touched a pidgeon though.

You can of course damage these things if you tried hard enough, but obviously the lotus leaves get walked on by small animals and insects and the pidgeons bump into things in their lives, so their hydrophobic coating must not be all that fragile.

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