There’s nothing quite like the burn of hot chili peppers on the hands and skin. Most people will have experienced the pain at one point or another during their lives - and it’s certainly not the most pleasant experience!
Whilst it’s common knowledge that it’s best to slice and prepare hot chili peppers such as jalapenos with gloves and eye protection, it’s often easy to forget or think better of wearing protection. After all, it’s not the coolest look - especially if you’re trying to impress a dinner date or the in-laws.
However, all it takes is a little bit of the spicy pepper juice to make its way onto your hands and you’re in trouble. The subsequent burn is thoroughly uncomfortable, and the very last thing you’ll want to do is touch your eyes.
This guide will take a look at why hot chili peppers burn the skin so easily and then some of the most common and effective methods of relieving the pain.
Why do chili peppers burn so much?
The main reason chili peppers cause such a burn is due to a chemical compound known as capsaicin. This chemical is found in all spicy peppers, mainly in the seeds and membranes, and is the ingredient responsible for their fiery, delicious flavor.
Unfortunately, the effects of capsaicin aren’t just restricted to the taste buds - they can also be felt on any tissue, including the skin. This is only made worse by the fact that it spreads like wildfire (pardon the pun) along whatever it comes into contact with.
Burns from spicy chili peppers can last for a number of hours on the skin. While the mouth is able to flush spice out with saliva and digestive enzymes, the same can’t be done on the skin. Therefore, you’ll have to treat hot pepper burn on the skin a little differently.
Milk is by far the most effective method of relieving spicy pepper burn in the mouth, and it can have a similarly soothing effect on the skin. This is because the fats in milk help to break down the pepper oils, providing much-needed temporary relief.
For the best and quickest effect, use cold, high-fat milk. You can either pour a glass to dab your eye with, or fill a large bowl to submerge larger body parts such as hands. The milk won’t cause any damage to your skin, so keep the burning area submerged for as long as you can to ensure the discomfort subsides.
Dish soap is a detergent, specially formulated to remove grease and oils from dishes. It’s safe to use on skin, so therefore a great option for removing some of the remaining oils on your skin.
To use, simply scrub the burned area and rinse under cool water. If it doesn’t do the trick after one wash, you can attempt to soothe the burn multiple times using this method.
It’s worth noting that the majority of dish soaps are toxic when ingested, so they shouldn’t be used to treat chili burns on your lips or around your mouth. Just stick to using dish soap externally for maximum benefit.
Pretty much everyone has baking soda in their kitchen cupboard readily accessible, and this ingredient can be used as an effective way to treat chili pepper burns.
Simply, mix together a solution of baking soda and water, which should subsequently form a paste. Then, submerge the burned area into the paste, and wait for it to dry. Once dried, wash the paste off along with the hot pepper sting and look to repeat the process for as many times as it takes until the burning subsides.
Before handling and cutting hot chili peppers, a good way to limit potential burns is to coat your hands and other nearby areas of the skin with vegetable oil. This is a useful alternative to wearing protective gloves.
If you forget to do this beforehand, oil can also be used to wash your hands after handling the hot peppers. This helps to wash away a substantial amount of the spicy residue as hot pepper oil is far more soluble in other oils than it is in water.
Aloe Vera Gel
Just like with sunburn, aloe vera gel can be applied to a chili pepper burn. This helps to facilitate blood circulation and provide some temporary relief for the painful burns on your skin.
Aloe vera can be used as a follow-up treatment after some of the other methods have been tried first. It’s also an equally valuable main treatment if you don’t have any of the ingredients on hand.
Give It Time
Unfortunately, sometimes the only thing to do is wait until the skin naturally heals. There is no one method which is 100 percent effective at removing the chili oils from the skin, so it’s often a waiting game.
Eventually your skin will naturally shed, flushing the oils from your tissue, and the relief that follows will certainly be worth it. In the meantime, the best thing to do is learn where you went wrong and make sure you don’t make the same mistake again.
More often than not, people will first notice the pain of hot pepper burns straight after bathing or showering. This is because capsaicin is oil-based, so rinsing and massaging it around the body with warm water will only serve to spread the chemical rather than wash it off.
It’s important to try and deal with the capsaicin-coating on the skin before stepping into a shower because the last thing you’ll want is the hot pepper burn spreading to more sensitive areas of the body.
This similarly applies to touching your eyes because dealing with a spicy burn in the eyes is incredibly painful and much more difficult to treat than the hands. The only way to treat a burn in the eyes is to wait and cry it out. Water and saline have a very minimal effect on reducing the pain, with the oil eventually flushed out through tears. Not something you’ll want to experience!
Frequently Asked Questions
Does scrubbing a hot pepper burn with water help?
Capsaicin is an oily substance, so some form of detergent is required to effectively remove it from the skin. Therefore, water won’t have any significant effect, and scrubbing a burn with it, will only make matters worse.
Does alcohol help relieve the pain of chili pepper burns?
Not drinking it, no. But, pouring high proof alcohol such as vodka over a burn will provide instant relief. Needless to say, it will sting initially, but high amounts of alcohol will help to absorb the harmful oils of the hot chili pepper burns.
How long does capsaicin stay on the skin?
The redness of skin, burning, and stinging sensation should typically disappear after the first few days, but it can last for up to a couple of weeks. The burning sensation can be intensified by heat, showering in warm water, or excessive sweating. If the irritation is severe and persists for longer than a couple of weeks, it’s best to consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider.