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Getting rid of the sting of capsaicin

I passed along a recipe for harissa to a friend -- and she just made a big batch of it without wearing gloves. I thought she knew so I didn't mention it -- she's an experienced cook, but she thought it was only the fresh ones that cause pain. So now, as I recall, that pain will go on for a day or two. Does anyone have any effective remedies for the stinging, burning pain you get when you cut up chiles without wearing gloves?

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  1. What works best for me is Gojo. It's a mechanic's handcleaner that strips oils away pretty effectively, and has a pumice abrasive to facilitate getting everything off. It takes off the capsicum, but it also takes off the naturally-ocurring oils, so it's not something you want to use any more than you have to. Other suggestions I've heard are yogurt (probably easier on the skin) and bleach (probably worse). Meanwhile, do not under any circumstances remove or insert contact lenses. Don't ask me how I know this...

    9 Replies
    1. re: alanbarnes

      I use milk, yogurt too, cottage cheese, anything creamy works best. I got some in my eye last week by a habanero ... OUCH! Well used some milk and worked pretty good.

      Scrub hands with lemon, vinegar or rub with oil before cutting. The oil is hard but just the sent helps to avoid the burn.

      Cutting doesn't bother me but if I touch my mouth or eyes ... yes.

      1. re: kchurchill5

        I had occasion to try milk this weekend (those banana peppers I cut up were hotter than I thought!)--just poured some over my hands and rubbed them for a minute. It worked pretty well.

      2. re: alanbarnes

        Try to avoid using the bathroom for the next couple hours too.

        Don't ask me how I know that one.....


          1. re: Davwud

            Gives "hot and bothered" a whole new meaning, don't it?

            1. re: Davwud

              The tubes of capsaicin-based arthritis cream really should have black-box warnings about not using on knees until after you put on your skivvies, and not to sit on a toilet until you've
              washed your knees thoroughly. Not only did I learn these things the hard way, but the knees of my mail-carrier uniform
              had a permanent rust-colored stain.

              I once had a bad back-ache and asked a co-worker to position one of those capsaicin pain patches on it (this was before the knee thing). After 2 hours of sorting mail, I could no longer stand the pain of the pain patch, which entirely eclipsed the muscle ache. I peeled it off and was surprised to see how red the skin was. It looked, and felt, like a bad sunburn, and took as long to go away. No wonder I have little interest in, or tolerance for, peppery-hot foods.

              1. re: greygarious

                Capsaicin is the active molecule in any spicy food that gives that food its heat. Also capsaicin is extremely potent for if ingested directly(i mean through any CLEAR and i stress this word, hot sauce and i'll say it again for dramatic effect. If the hot sauce is CLEAR with absolutely no discoloration) it can rupture the stomach lining and potentially cause death[in some rare cases ]. Which is why some hot sauces such as Mad Dog 357 comes with a disclaimer and warning before you buy it

            2. re: alanbarnes

              I washed my hands in mayo, and it worked for me.

            3. A few squirts of WD40 to loosen the capsaicin, and followed by gojo, as alan suggested...and use a nail brush. That chile oil can hang around for days, otherwise.

              1. I treat it like other burns, with aloe vera.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chowser

                  First, it's not really a burn. Second, it's not something a soothing ointment or aloe will help cure. Think of it more like an irritation. Aloe might make it feel cool and refreshing for a few minutes but it does not treat the underlying problems.

                  The other suggestions people have posted work to treat the problem at its source.

                2. Capsaicin is soluble in oil, and not soluble in water. Anything that can remove oil from your skin may help. It's important to get this quickly, though, since things which are effective tend to be harsh. If your skin has actually "burned", as opposed to just being uncomfortable, I'd say use aloe vera and otherwise leave it alone.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: embee

                    I came here last night after burning my hands severely.
                    I was in SO MUCH pain, it was horrendous!
                    I tried EVERYTHING on this thread except the urine (yuck!) & nothing worked, even the HOT HOT water.
                    On another site I read if you pour 2 tablespoons of oil in your hand & rub it in, then rub in a tablespoon of salt (exfoliating every part of your hands for a minute or 2 - it hurts!!) that it helps to draw out the chilli oil... IT WORKED!!
                    After the exfoliating my pain dropped by 50% & within the hour by 90%. This morning I can BARELY feel last nights terror.
                    Please try it if you've come here desperate!
                    I tried:
                    Lime water
                    Lime juice straight
                    Sour cream
                    HOT HOT water
                    & finally the oil/salt method WORKED!
                    Good luck & I feel your pain, it's AWFUL!

                  2. I had a bad time this Sunday with Thai chili pepper capsaicin that had apparently sprated onto my wrist/forearm when cutting the peppers - brushed my eye with it, and WOW! Washed it out with cool water, but it took a while before I was comfortable. Anyone know of any other way to soothe this?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: buttertart

                      I just did it to my eye. Cotton ball in milk for me and within 5 minutes it felt much better. Took a bit to feel completely better, but at least I could open it. I'm lucky that it doesn't bother my skin but the mouth area it does. I grabbed a glass and aparantely close to the rim and then took a sip. Bad mistake, but again milk worked for me.

                    2. capsaicin is a chemical, and as such, delivers a chemical burn. A completely different animal from a radiation burn(as a sunburn or heat/temp. burn would be classified technically). Neutralize the chemical, and you stop the effects. Since capcaicin is an oil based chemical, you have to break down the oil and remove it from your skin. The most effective topical oil surfactant that I can think of that is ok to use on skin would be oxycilic acid, which is the main ingredient in most acne medicine. I have had really good results stopping the burning and removing chile oils from my hands with this stuff. That being said, if the oil is left too long and the burning persists, you may cause temporary damage to your nerve endings so that even after you remove the offending chemical, you are left with "phantom" nerve signals........just gotta tough that out, if its the case.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: nkeane

                        I am not sure you are right on chemical burn theory. Capsaicin binds to and triggers the heat receptors giving the sensation of burning. Birds do not have these receptors and do not 'feel the heat'. That is why you can mix ground chili powder with seeds to stop the squirrels eating them. The birds don't even notice it.

                      2. OR you could try fountains of mustard and ketchup as shown here...


                        Sorry to be joking but this scene has me laughing to tears...I'd been looking and looking for it and it finally reappeared on youtube. First time I ever saw this movie, forget it...I had tears streaming down my face from that hot pepper scene.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Val

                          Great scene from a great movie.


                        2. My grandmother and mother both swear by yellow mustard.

                          1. APPLE CIDER VINEGAR! i tried a lot of these other suggestions and this was the one that worked. i had too many glasses of wine, and totally forgot about the dreaded capsaicin sting. suffered for a few hours and a soak in some apple cider vinegar got rid of most of the sting. :-)

                            1. a thai chef advises the use of ketchup...on hands, or in your mouth!

                              1. I was cutting a pablano chili yesterday and (dumb I know) didn't wear gloves. I tried EVERYTHING to get rid of the burn on my left hand. Here's what I tried: milk, ice water, Pepto Bismal, lemon juice, canola oil, alcohol, diluted bleach, cottage cheese, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, tomato juice, AND vaseline; each separately. I even soaked my hand in the canola oil for 30 minutes. What worked? The milk works INSTANTLY but only for 3 minutes at a time (then the sting comes back). The vaseline took 30 minutes to work but had a lasting effect. Hope this is helpful for someone :)

                                1. It's still early but I'm finding that Carbolic soap takes away a lot of odors. Especially those from oils that get into your skin. I cut some jalapenos a while back and washed my hands before putting in my contacts. No sting. I was careful to try and not contaminate so I wouldn't count this as a true test.

                                  Just some FYI


                                  1. I used milk! It worked, after calling the pharmacist I found out it is made with jalapeno peppers. I had burnt myself with peppers before, it takes a bit of saoaking but it will take the burn out! Hope this helps!

                                    1. Not into seriously HOT peppers, but do use jalapenos from time to time. Was making big batch of fresh salsa and finely minced a few jalapenos. Was VERY careful (I thought) to wash hands well after mincing. Later put fingers to mouth and I was on fire... apparently heat migrated under finger nails. Didn't bother hands but sure tingled lips for a while. Sure glad I didn't touch eyes or other "sensitive" areas!! After that I always use disposable gloves.

                                      1. I THOUGHT poblanos were not "hot" peppers. I normally wear gloves to cut jalapenos, etc. Boy, was I wrong. My hands are on fire now. Tried WD-40, milk, olive oil, son's acne medicine, aloe vera, and milk. Still on fire. I guess I will just soak in ice water until it feels better.
                                        One question: How long will it burn?

                                        1. I made stuffed jalapenos OMG... I will never make this mistake again. My hands were burning so bad that I didn't know if I was coming or going. I was actually rubbing my index finger in the pepper to get all the seeds out. I made 45 of them. My hands didn't start burning till I washed them, it was THE WORST BURNING PAIN EVER. I tried so many home remedies. I used the olive oil and sugar. (worked for maybe 20 minutes), I used milk, aloe, silvadene, (not sure if that's how you spell it) There was One thing that worked and worked fast. MAYO/MIRACLE WHIP. I used both because I wasn't sure which one to use, but I left it on all night washed my hands this morning and there fine, and soft at that. I hope this helps

                                          1. wow!I used capzasin to help the arthritis in my legs .man that stuff burns , a fire se nsation.know what I mean..I rubbed my nose and it got in my nostrils. Oh my god, I got scared didnt no what to do my nose was on fire!!your not gonna believe what I used but it worked..bread..crazy huh!It took about 5 to 10 min. before the burnning stopped.

                                            1. Before I became lactose intolerant, I would drink milk, and that would get rid of any stinging from spicy foods.

                                              Now that I am lactose intolerant... well, I just avoid spicy food as much as I can.
                                              There's probably lactose-free alternatives, but nothing my parents buy regularly.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Pikangie

                                                If you're not allergic, peanut butter kills the heat almost immediately.

                                              2. Acetone! If you have acetone nail polish remover the solvent takes the oil right off. That or rubbing alcohol.

                                                I've never found that any of the other remedies like ketchup or mayo actually work.

                                                1. Capsaicin is fat-soluble. That's why things like dairy and mayo work. Anything with oil will combine/dilute it and enable it to be washed away. Water just spreads it.

                                                  1. Took a few years off from wearing contacts. Started up a few weeks ago, forgot about it and went to "Bdubs" tonite. O'course, favorite sauce is mango habeƱero. 2nd wing in.... realized "I have to take out my contacts!" Still had 1 more wing (not the first time I did the Indian Rain Dance... and I am of Anishnabe decent... I can say that ;-) ) got home and doused my hands in distilled white vinegar thrice, then soaped off the remaining acid and removed my contacts with nary a tear. I realize this is just one data point, bit I think that capsaicin can be neutralized with a strong enough acid.

                                                    1. Tonight, I accidently spilled half of a bottle of "Satans Blood" (800,000 s.u.) chili pepper extract off of the table and onto the floor where someone left the top off of it and it went everywhere. This is where I need all of your help, since I have recognized that I could have stomped a raw Bhut Joloka (ghost pepper) in the floor and landed in a better situation than what I am in now. Dogs, people, and little youngins' track through this area on a constant basis and I want to know how in the hell to neutralize the capsaicin before every adult, animal, or baby that walk or crawl across this floor gets a dose of this potent stuff and tracks it further across the carpet. I currently got the bulk of it out of the carpet, but I know for sure that the chemical is still active. How do I know this? Because everytime I blot the spot, it gives me flash backs of being pepper sprayed (no Bueno). I also have the spot covered with paper towels and a few bricks to prevent further contamination while I figure out a remedy. When the extract hit the floor, the company I had over scattered to every open air source they could find to cough and sneeze. As for the rest of the bottle that didn't get spilled, it is a waste of time to keep it now. Every time in the future that I would have to grab the bottle, it will still contaminate my hands and whatever else I get ahold of. Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance! (T.G.)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: HOTSAUCEDUMPER

                                                        Isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol, grain alcohol, whatever. It'll get it up and out. If you're so sensitive what are you doing with Satan's Blood? LoL

                                                      2. the reason milk..yogurt etc works...is due to an enzyme in milk products which neutralizes the pepper...that is why a lot of mexican meals come with sour cream.....to put out the fire in your mouth. i just put capsaicin on my arm.....I now know how it works....it causes such pain from the BURN that you forget about the pain that you started with. my skin has turned red like a sunburn