If you find yourself with what feels like burning hands after handling jalapenos, don’t panic! The self-inflicted pain can be soothed safely and effectively using some household staples that you probably already have in your cupboards.
But before you learn how to deal with this condition known as “jalapeno hands”, you should know how to prevent it in the first place.
We have some effective tips on how to get jalapenos off your hands if you’ve made the quite common mistake of handling the peppers with your bare hands. We’ll share with you how to neutralize capsaicin and stop the fiery sensation on your hands–and in your eyes, as well.
There are two important rules to remember if you find yourself with jalapeno hands.
Firstly, don’t touch anything else on your body, especially your eyes, to keep from spreading the capsaicin to other vulnerable parts of your body.
Secondly, don’t go to the bathroom before using the home remedies to get rid of the pepper oil. You can transfer the burning sensation from your hands when wiping to even more delicate, painful areas.
Why Does Jalapeno Burn Skin?
The reason jalapenos burn the skin is because they contain a chemical called capsaicin. It is an active alkaline oil in all chili peppers. Although it can burn the skin, eyes, and tongue, it’s ironically also responsible for the jalapeno’s addictive, fiery flavor that we love.
The nerves in the skin respond to capsaicin oil as they do to different kinds of stimulation such as pain, cold, and heat. However, unlike other stimuli, the chemical reaction to capsaicin can send confusing signals to the brain.
For some reason, capsaicin stimulates both the temperature and pain receptors of the brain. This means that it simultaneously tells the brain that the body is experiencing not just an increase in temperature, but pain as well.
So, just to be safe, the brain tells the body to react in the same way when it’s subjected to a burn. That’s why people experience the same pain, sweating, and flushing when the skin comes into prolonged contact with jalapenos and when their skin is burning.
How Do I Prevent Jalapenos From Burning My Skin?
To avoid the risk of having “jalapeno hands” or the stinging and burning of the skin due to contact with peppers, you should prevent it from happening in the first place.
Wear gloves every time you handle jalapenos or other capsaicin-rich peppers. After you’re done with your prep work, remove the gloves and thoroughly wash your hands in hot, soapy water.
If you don’t have gloves, you can prevent the hot sting of peppers by rubbing olive oil on your hands. Quickly dipping your hands into a weak bleach solution will also prevent you from suffering from jalapeno hands.
Make sure not to let capsaicin come into contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth, either with or without gloves. People often make the mistake of touching their faces when they get irritated with the smell while chopping jalapenos. They forget that the painful burn of capsaicin coming in contact with the face is much, much worse.
What are Some Home Remedies to Remove Jalapenos from My Hands?
Capsaicin is an alkaline oil that is an active component of chili peppers. Due to its chemical properties, hot pepper oil does not dissolve in water. Running water will not help in washing away capsaicin, but instead will only spread it, causing further pain.
The key to stopping the heat and providing relief from the burning sensation is to neutralize the jalapeno’s oil. We know of a few good home remedies that can do just that.
Before you begin, know that it is difficult to stop a hot pepper burn. You may have to try your selected method several times, or even use a combination of the remedies, to find relief.
Capsaicin dissolves faster in oil than in water. If you have jalapeno hands, pour a dime-sized amount of olive oil into the palm of one hand and gently rub your hands together. Make sure to evenly coat the olive oil all over your hands, including in between the fingers, the palms, and the backs of the hands.
Capsaicin can also get stuck under the fingernails, causing continuing irritation if not removed, even after vigorous hand washing. Be sure that you rub the olive oil underneath the fingernail tips during this process.
For even better results, twist the corner of a paper towel into a point. Dip it in olive oil and slide it gently along the underside of the fingernail. This will dissolve any hidden capsaicin under your nails.
Allow the oil to stay on your hands for one or two minutes. Rinse with water and then towel dry.
If you do not have olive oil, you can use vegetable oil instead.
Alcohol works pretty much in the same manner as olive oil. It dissolves the capsaicin from jalapenos faster than water.
It may be surprising to learn that it’s not just rubbing alcohol that you can use for quick relief of jalapeno burn. Even high-proof alcohol like vodka will work as a substitute, as well.
To use to relieve the burning pain of capsaicin, pour a cup of rubbing alcohol into a bowl and submerge your hands into it. Rub your hands together vigorously to coat the whole of your hands (up to the wrists) with alcohol. Remove them from the bowl. Rinse and dry with a towel.
Dish Soap and Water
Dish soap is a detergent formulated to cut through oil and grease on your dishes. There’s actually no reason it can’t do the same for your hands. Also, dish soap is completely safe for your skin, making it the perfect way to remove capsaicin from your skin.
Start by using a healthy amount of dish soap to scrub your hands, and then rinse them under hot water (as hot as you can handle) to help remove the remaining oil. Repeat the process numerous times if the burn does not ease after one wash.
A warning: do not use this method near the mouth area. Your dish soap may be toxic when ingested, so, to be safe, use the dish soap externally only.
Diluted Bleach Solution
As an alternative to alcohol, you can use a five-to-one solution of water and bleach. This homemade remedy can neutralize the irritation-causing properties of capsaicin.
Through a chemical reaction, the bleach will turn the capsaicin clinging to the skin into a water-soluble salt. You will then be able to easily wash it away.
For quick relief from the burn of hot peppers on your hands, mix 5 parts water and 1 part bleach in a container. Don’t soak your hands in the solution, but instead immediately remove them right after you have fully submerged both hands.
You need to take certain precautions when using this home remedy. Bleach can cause burns and skin irritation if it comes in contact with the skin longer than necessary. Do not soak your hands in the bleach solution–only dip them in.
Also, to prevent discoloration of the clothes you’re wearing through splashing, wear an apron or an old shirt.
Important: after using alcohol or bleach to remove capsaicin from your hands, wash your hands and wrists using soap and water. Alcohol and bleach can dry out your skin, so consider using a mild hand cleanser. Apply a gentle lotion after drying your hands to prevent further dryness of your hands.
Baking Powder and Hydrogen Peroxide Solution
Here is a remedy for pepper burn that will not only work on your hands–it can also be used as a mouthwash to tone down the stinging burn of pepper if you’ve taken too big a bite of your favorite nachos.
Hydrogen peroxide has the ability to change the structure of capsaicin molecules. It keeps the capsaicin from irritating the skin and mouth.
The peroxide works even better when it has an alkaline base such as baking soda. An alkaline helps absorb the capsaicin oil while simultaneously activating the hydrogen peroxide.
Create a paste by combining 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of water, and 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide in a bowl. Gently whisk the solution using a fork to remove clumps of baking soda in the solution.
Submerge your hands into the bowl. Make sure that your entire hands are covered with the paste. Rub your hands together to evenly coat the spaces between the fingers. Soak your hands for about one minute, then remove them from the bowl.
Let the paste dry. Then put a bit of soap in one hand. Rub your hands to create a lather, then place them under running water to rinse away the paste. Make sure to remove any remaining jalapeno oil with soap and water.
To use as a mouthwash, swish vigorously in the mouth for about 30 seconds to lessen the pepper burn to just a mild warmth that’s much more tolerable.
The above remedies are great, but some people swear by using milk or yogurt to stop the burning sensation caused by hot peppers. This is because capsaicin is fat-soluble, and the natural fat in dairy helps to ease the burn.
Another reason they’re so effective is because dairy products contain casein protein, a chemical that combats the effects of capsaicin. Casein can also bind to capsaicin to easily wash it away.
Just soak your hands in the dairy product and remove them when the burning sensation stops. Other dairy products you can use aside from milk and yogurt are sour cream, crema, and even ice cream (although we hate to see that wasted)!
Sometimes, the burning sensation in the skin persists even after trying every home remedy you can. That’s when you should try taking pain relievers to numb the pain.
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers may give you nearly instant relief. But if you don’t get rid of the capsaicin still on your hands, you’ll be back where you started after the pain reliever has lost its effect. You still need to get rid of the pepper oil on your hands.
For minor pains such as headaches, muscle pain, and the like, the first line of defense is usually acetaminophen. It has fewer side effects than some other pain relievers and is completely safe to use to ease hot pepper burn.
For all the pain it can cause, hot pepper does not cause an actual chemical burn or direct tissue damage at all. The burning pain is believed to be the result of the reaction of the pain receptors to protect the body.
Sometimes, though, the pain just won’t go away even after you’ve tried everything. It could be that the pepper oil has already been absorbed into the skin cells and no amount of washing or soaking will wash it off.
You have no other choice but to give the chili oil time to wear off. This should last less than three days, but can extend for even more if you were handling peppers hotter than jalapenos. Just try your best to distract yourself from the pain and let your body do its work of slowly releasing the capsaicin.
What If I Get Jalapeno in My Eye?
Having jalapeno burning the hands mouth is bad enough. Just imagine suffering that burning sensation in the eyes!
We have two home remedies that will get rid of the capsaicin oil in the eyes easily and quickly.
Wash your hands with soap and water. Then soak them in a large bowl of milk. It’s important to remove the capsaicin on your hands–where it was most likely to have started–before attempting to remove it from your eyes.
Rinse your hands, and then soak a cotton ball in cold milk. Place it over the affected eye. Pat lightly and let the cotton ball soak there until the pain subsides.
Once most of the pain is gone, get a few drops of cow’s milk in the affected eye to calm down the rest of the burn. Finish off by patting another milk-soaked cotton ball around the eye gently.
This method works because cow’s milk can help break down capsaicin.
Plus, putting a cotton ball soaked in cold milk on your face is actually really quite pleasant and refreshing!
Dish Soap and Baby Shampoo
No, you don’t mix the two, or you will irritate your eyes even more.
First, wash your hands very well with dish soap. If possible, use a nail brush to clean the fingertips and under the nails.
Then wash the affected eye with baby shampoo, preferably the gentlest one you can find.
Do not wash using the pads of your fingers. Instead, use the back of your hand while making a fist. Using the back of your index finger would be perfect.
Rinse the affected eye. You will feel relief even more quickly if you use a saline rinse to flush out the extra pepper oil in the eye after the burning sensation has stopped.
It will also help if you continuously blink after applying the saline solution to really get the remaining capsaicin out of your eyes.
Capsaicin oil in jalapenos is the cause of the painful burning sensation that goes with having hot pepper hands. When you cut a jalapeno during your meal prep, it can transfer to your hands to make you feel as if they are burning.
Capsaicin doesn’t do actual damage to the body, as a chemical burn can. It just triggers the body’s pain receptors to mimic the actual burning of the skin.
To prevent this from happening, always wear latex gloves when you handle jalapenos (and other peppers, for that matter).
But if you mess up and forget the gloves, there are homemade remedies using pantry staples that will help you soothe the pain.
The next time you get jalapeno oil on your hands, reach for milk or any other kind of dairy product. If you don’t have any, you can use olive or vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol (or high-proof alcohol), soap dish, baby shampoo, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda.
Lastly, do not touch your eyes or any other part of the body when you hace jalapeno hands. Capsaicin may spread and make your pain a lot worse. Don’t even think of going to the restroom either!
Frequently Asked Questions
What neutralizes jalapeno on the skin?
Hydrogen peroxide can change the molecular structure of capsaicin of jalapenos. It can make it incapable of irritating the skin. To make it more potent, mix hydrogen peroxide with baking soda. While the peroxide neutralizes capsaicin, the baking soda can dissolve it even further.
The protein, casein, that is found in dairy products like milk and yogurt can also neutralize capsaicin effects. Also, casein can bind to capsaicin so it can be washed away.
Aside from hydrogen peroxide with baking soda and dairy products the following have been proven to neutralize jalapeno oil on the skin: olive oil, alcohol, diluted bleach solution, and dish soap with baby shampoo.
All of these cannot remove the pain but they can soothe the skin until it all goes away eventually.
How long does it take for jalapeno hands to go away?
You can get instant relief with one or a combination of the home remedies we have mentioned. However, once the capsaicin is absorbed by the skin, no amount of washing or soaking will be able to get your jalapeno hands to go away. Except maybe if you take pain relievers.
People react to jalapeno hands differently and there are lucky ones who do not get them at all. It also depends on how many jalapenos you subjected your hands to.
It seems that jalapeno hands may stay around typically for about 24 hours. Unfortunately, others still feel the effects after three days. The pain, however, is not as intense as it was initially. Just give it time and soon the pain will go away.
How long does jalapeno oil stay on the skin?
Untreated, jalapeno oil will likely stay on the skin for around 24 hours. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay undetected because you will feel pain after a few hours of your skin getting in contact with jalapeno oil.
It is also not known how soon it is absorbed by the skin. When it does, it will be too late to remedy your painful situation.
So, it’s better to prevent jalapeno oil from coming into contact with the skin in the first place. Always wear gloves when handling jalapenos in preparing your meals. If you don’t have them on hand, wash or soak your hands in the home remedies we mentioned as soon as you‘re done cutting jalapenos.
What causes jalapeno hands?
Capsaicin, a colorless and odorless chemical compound is what gives jalapenos, peppers, and habaneros their fiery flavor. It is also the cause of the burning pain that we experience when our hands come in contact with jalapeno for a prolonged period.
It binds to the pain receptors in our brains, triggering the sensation of intense heat or burning known as Jalapeno Hands Syndrome.
If you are feeling an intense burning sensation in your hands, capsaicin has deeply penetrated your skin and has already reached the nerve endings. This also means that it will be impossible for you to remove it by merely washing your hands.
How do you neutralize capsaicin?
Capsaicin is a natural oil and it needs to be neutralized to get rid of the pain it can cause. Regular hand soap and water will not do that. The best way to neutralize it is with something acidic. Choose one or a combination of the following proven ways to prevent hot pepper burn.
- Wash or soak the affected area in milk or other dairy products like yogurt or butter.
- Rub your hands with olive oil until the pain goes away and then wash your hands with soap and water.
- Dip your hands quickly into a solution of 1 part bleach and 4 parts water. Do not soak your hands in the solution. Wash your hands as soon as you take them out of the solution.
Does vinegar take the sting out of a burn?
Vinegar contains acetic acid that can help relieve the pain and inflammation of a burn. It is at the same time an antiseptic and astringent, so it can prevent infection of the affected site.
Vinegar also helps in dulling the pain naturally by drawing heat from the burn. To use this common household remedy, soak paper towels in diluted vinegar to make a soothing compress. You can also use a cotton swab to dip into the vinegar and then gently dab the burn with it.
Image Credits via Flickr: hellopeppergeek