If you’ve ever cut hot peppers with an ungloved hand, you may have learned a very painful lesson. Colloquially dubbed “jalapeno hands,” hot pepper exposure can cause a painful burning sensation. Here’s how to soothe the burn—and prevent it in the first place.
A Quick Science Lesson
Wondering what causes jalapeno hands? That would be a tricky little component called capsaicin. When you cut into a hot pepper, capsaicin can transfer to your skin causing it—and any other areas you touch, such as your eyes—to feel as if they’re burning.
The silver lining? Capsaicin doesn’t actually damage your skin like a heat or chemical burn. It just triggers your body’s pain receptors.
How to Prevent Jalapeno Hands
The best cure for jalapeno hands is preventing it in the first place. Every time you handle hot peppers (such as when you’re making one of our top-rated jalapeno recipes) make sure you don a pair of gloves like this. Then, thoroughly wash your hands in hot, soapy water when you’re done with the prep.
Home Remedies to Try
While everyone’s body reacts differently, there are many old wives’ cures that can provide relief. Try one (or a combination) of these remedies:
- Dairy products: Place your hands in a bowl of cool milk or cover them with yogurt. The casein found in dairy can help wash the capsaicin away.
- Hot, soapy water: Place your hands in hot, soapy water and gently scrub with a clean kitchen brush. Repeat until the pain subsides. This process will open your pores and let the capsaicin leach out. Warning: This one will hurt.
- Oil: Slather your hands in olive or vegetable oil. It’s thought to help dissolve the capsaicin.
- Pain relievers: Common pain relievers, like ibuprofen, can numb the pain.
- Time: The best cure? Time. Distract yourself from the pain with a good movie and let the capsaicin slowly release from your body.
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