How To Get Jalapeño Off Hands With Pantry Staples And Home Remedies

Written by Reevan Vishwas Rego , Certified Skin Care Coach

When you have the question of how to get jalapeño off hands, that means you have felt the burn! Alas, that’s how it rolls with jalapeño, the green pepper that you love on your pizzas, salads, and wraps for its tangy, spicy, and crunchy goodness. If you forgot to put on gloves while chopping your jalapeños, you might feel like you have got your hands on fire. However, don’t worry because there are some super simple ways to get rid of jalapeño skin burn using readily available stuff at home!

Jalapeño Peppers: A Closer Look

The jalapeño peppers that you adore for the complex sweet and pungent kick it adds to your food get their name from Xalapa (or Jalapa), a city in Mexico. That’s because Xalapa is where jalapeño peppers were traditionally grown and cultivated. Now, it is available across the world and has even become the state chilly of Texas. Jalapeños can be eaten raw, added as a topping, turned into appetizers, and used in guacamoles and salsas.

Jalapeño is considered a moderately pungent chili pepper, with its Scoville unit (the measure of pungency) falling between 2,500-8,000 (1). How hot a chile pepper is will depend mainly on the amount of capsaicin (a naturally occurring chemical in all chilies) it contains. The capsaicin content can vary depending on factors like growing conditions, climate, maturity at harvest, and after harvest processes.

With their complex flavor, jalapeños have become a regular feature on grocery lists. The only catch? If you are even a little careless while preparing jalapeños, you can end up with a bad jalapeño hand burn, or worse, get jalapeño juice in the eye. Let’s find out what happens when you mishandle jalapeños and what exactly causes the condition that you might have heard being called “jalapeño hands”.

The What And The Why Of Jalapeño Hands

Jalapeños can be mild to moderately spicy. Even then, these peppers can give you “jalapeño hands”— a condition that causes a painful and burning sensation in your hands. Unfortunately, the capsaicin that makes jalapeños so addictive and irresistible is also responsible for the feeling of heat and pain in your mouth, throat, and skin (1).

You can come in contact with the capsaicin oils that are present in the piths (the white part which runs through the peppers and holds the seeds) while slicing, deseeding, or chopping jalapeños, and get the oil on your skin (2). It then sends pretty confusing signals to your brain through your nerve endings. Your brain gets confused because capsaicin not only stimulates the pain receptors but also the temperature receptors at the same time and makes you react as you would to a real and painful burn (3).

The sensation is really unpleasant and those jalapeño hands can quickly spread the capsaicin to even more sensitive parts of your body like the eyes or the privates. So, ideally, you would want to know how to get jalapeño off hands as soon as you come into contact with it. But, as the popular proverb goes, prevention is better than cure. So, let’s see how to prevent jalapeño hands from happening to you in the first place.

How To Prevent Jalapeño Hand Burn

Jalapeño is extremely pleasant when added well to a dish, but jalapeño burning skin is entirely the opposite. To prevent that from happening, wear gloves when you get ready to work with chili peppers like jalapeño. Remove the gloves once you are done and wash your hands thoroughly with soapy water. Capsaicin oil will definitely be on your knife, the cutting surface, and your gloves, so make sure to clean them properly as well.

In case you are not fond of wearing disposable gloves or don’t have them handy, you can alternatively rub a little olive oil/cooking oil onto your hands as soon as you are done handling the peppers. This method is not foolproof but can reduce the risk of you getting jalapeño hands and the flushing, sweating, and pain that accompanies it. That’s because, unlike water, most oils can dissolve capsaicin and remove it from a surface (3), (4).

Now that you know how to handle jalapeños properly, you can probably avoid a jalapeño burn. However, just in case you forget your gloves and want to find out how to get jalapeño off hands, head on to the next section.

How To Get Rid Of Jalapeño Hands: 5 Easy And Effective Ways

Only using water may make it near impossible for you to get all of the capsaicin off your hands. That’s because capsaicin is nearly insoluble in water and the only thing you achieve by using it is that you spread it around all the more (3). But fret not and read on for all the answers on how to get jalapeño off skin.

1. Use Olive Oil

When you have jalapeño hands, reach out for olive oil or sunflower oil. These two oils are most effective at dissolving the capsaicin oil that’s on your skin (4). In case you have neither around you, you can use any other vegetable oil. What you need to do is take quite a few drops of oil on your palm and rub it over your hands for a couple of minutes. Make sure you get the oil into all the nooks and crannies of your fingers and under your fingernails.

After rubbing your hands with the oil for a few minutes, you can wash your hands with soapy water for relief. You may need to repeat the process a couple of times in case you continue to feel some burning sensation as before. Also, capsaicin oil likes to hide under your fingernails, so you need to get the oil under there really well. Use the edge of a paper towel dipped in oil to get out as much of the capsaicin if you have a burning sensation there.

2. Alcohol

Capsaicin may not dissolve in water, but alcohol works just fine to treat jalapeño hands as the stubborn compound can be dissolved in alcohol (5). You can use rubbing alcohol or even something like high-proof vodka if that’s what you have handy. Simply fill up a bowl with the alcohol of your choice and keep your hands submerged (up to your wrist). While in there, rub your hands vigorously to get the alcohol thoroughly onto your skin. You should feel the burning sensation subside.

Once you are happy with the effect, wipe your hands on a dry towel. You may need to repeat the process a couple of times if you have got a lot of jalapeño juice on your hands. Whatever be the case, don’t forget to apply a soothing moisturizer once you have got the burning sensation off, as alcohol can really dry out your skin.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide With Baking Soda And Water

Using hydrogen peroxide can be an effective way for you to get quick relief from jalapeño hand burns. Hydrogen peroxide works on the capsaicin receptors and can change the way your brain receives signals from capsaicin oil (6).

  • Make a paste with 1/8th teaspoon of baking soda, add 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Apply this paste on your hands thoroughly.
  • Wait for the paste to dry on your hands.
  • Use soap and water to thoroughly clean your hands.

Be careful when you work with hydrogen peroxide in its concentrated form as it is highly corrosive and may cause tissue damage if it spills onto your skin (7).

4. Diluted Bleach

Putting bleach on your hands may seem like a very scary prospect, but when it comes to getting capsaicin off your hands, you’ll find that bleach is your friend. Well, diluted bleach to be more precise actually. It is a common treatment in the case of capsaicin-related dermatitis (skin irritation) (8). So, what you need to do is mix 1 part bleach with 5 parts water in a container and dip your hands into it for quick relief. But do not keep your hands soaked by any means as bleach itself can irritate your skin if it stays in contact for long.

After you are done dipping your hands, you can take them out and wash them under running water with a mild soap or hand wash. This method may be effective but you definitely need to use caution with this one. Remember:

  • No keeping your hands submerged in the water; just dip and remove.
  • Wear an apron or old clothes that you don’t care about because bleach can cause discoloration if it comes onto what you are wearing.
  • Like alcohol, bleach can dry out your hands, so after thoroughly washing with soap and water, apply a gentle moisturizer to your hands.

5. Dairy

Ever used cream or butter to bring down the heat in a gravy that you are making? Well, that’s a tip if you haven’t tried it yet. Anyhow, the same principle that allows cream or butter to lower the heat in your food, allows you to get rid of jalapeño’s oil from your hands. Capsaicin is fat-soluble and the natural fat in dairy will help to soothe your hands suffering from the heat and pain (5).

So, what do you do? You take out a tub of yogurt (the cooler the better) or a jar of milk and soak your hands in it till you feel relief. You can use any dairy that is not fat-free and so fresh cream, ice cream, and even sour cream works. Once you find relief, you can wash your hands in water and wipe them dry.

Extra Tip: If you have got jalapeño in your eye, you can soak a cotton ball with cold milk and apply it over your eyes for relief. If your mouth is burning from too much spice, drink a cold glass of milk for the quickest way to cleanse the palette.

6. Dish Soap And Water

You may be reluctant to waste oil or alcohol for treating jalapeño hands. In that case, you can resort to dish soap. Dish soap is generally formulated to cut through grease and oil and since capsaicin is an oil, it may be effective.

The idea is to get your hands clean with dish soap and water as soon as you have handled some jalapeño or at the very least, at the first sign of irritation and burning.

All the methods listed here are mostly going to be effective as long as you act quickly. Capsaicin is a toxin after all and the way it can get your pain and heat sensors acting up can make a very difficult journey to ride through. To cut a long and painful story short, it is always much better to use gloves when you are going to be handling jalapeño rather than looking for how to get jalapeño off hands, because, let’s face it, it is quite difficult to do so once the chemical has been absorbed into your skin. Having said that, these simple remedies are often effective and you can try them if you find yourself in a spot.

FAQs

1. What neutralizes jalapeño on the skin?

Oil, fat, and alcohol can dissolve capsaicin, the natural chemical oil that is present in jalapeño and is responsible for jalapeño skin burns (5).

2. How long does jalapeño oil stay on the skin?

Capsaicin, the bioactive oil in jalapeño, takes 24 hours to reduce by half, so depending on the amount of jalapeño oil that has been absorbed, it should be broken down completely within 3 days (9).

3. Does vinegar take the sting out of a burn?

Yes, vinegar may work to relieve some pain from “jalapeño hands” as capsaicin is soluble in acetic acid (vinegar) (10).

4. How do you get jalapeño residue off your hands?

You can use oil, lemon juice, vinegar, hot water with dish soap, petroleum jelly, or high-proof alcohol to remove jalapeño residue from your hands (10).

References:

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  1. Unravelling the Mystery of Capsaicin: A Tool to Understand and Treat Pain
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3462993/
  2. Novel Formation of Ectopic (Nonplacental) Capsaicinoid Secreting Vesicles on Fruit Walls Explains the Morphological Mechanism for Super-hot Chile Peppers
    https://journals.ashs.org/jashs/view/journals/jashs/140/3/article-p253.xml
  3. Capsaicin: Current Understanding of Its Mechanisms and Therapy of Pain and Other Pre-Clinical and Clinical Uses
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6273101/
  4. Effect of vegetable oil in the solubility of capsaicinoids extracted from capsicum Chinense Bhut Jolokia
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263619725_Effect_of_vegetable_oil_in_the_solubility_of_capsaicinoids_extracted_from_capsicum_Chinense_Bhut_Jolokia
  5. Chemical and Pharmacological Aspects of Capsaicin
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6259610/
  6. Hydrogen peroxide preferentially activates capsaicin-sensitive high threshold afferents via TRPA1 channels in the guinea pig bladder
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309547873_Hydrogen_peroxide_preferentially_activates_capsaicin-sensitive_high_threshold_afferents_via_TRPA1_channels_in_the_guinea_pig_bladder
  7. Hydrogen Peroxide Poisoning
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15298493/
  8. Compound Summary: Capsaicin
    https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Capsaicin#section=Antidote-and-Emergency-Treatment
  9. Effects of vehicle on the uptake and elimination kinetics of capsaicinoids in human skin in vivo
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15451310/
  10. Capsaicin
    https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/1876/AN/an876010149a
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