Oh. My. Goodness. Tonight, I totally thought the flesh was going to melt off of my hand. It all started when I was making peach salsa, which called for diced jalapenos.
Blissfully unaware of the danger lurking on the cutting board in front of me, I chopped away at the three deceiving peppers. Nobody had ever warned me to wear gloves when dealing with jalapenos. I had no idea what I was in for.
Not long after I’d chopped the peppers I began feeling a little tingle in my finger. No big deal. But as I continued cooking, the tingling turned to a slight burning. I washed my hands, and kept working away. It wasn’t long, however, before my hand was completely on fire.
I was not at a good stopping point though, my peaches were peeled and ready to be chopped before they began turning brown, so I had to keep going.
I dealt with the pain for a while, but pretty soon I was constantly having to plunge my hand into the icy bowl of water I’d used for blanching, seeking temporary relief.
Once my salsa was all in the pot and boiling, I was able to take a moment to seek a remedy. I immediately got online and searched for help. (Thanks to all of my Facebook fans who offered their advice!)
I’m going to tell you about all of the ideas people have given me to treat a jalapeno pepper burn. While only one ultimately worked for me – don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it! – everybody is different with how their skin reacts to the chemicals in jalapenos, so feel free to give them all a try.
But first… why so harsh a burn?
Why Do Jalapenos Burn Your Skin?
Jalapenos are spicy because they contain capsaicin. Capsaicin is an active alkaline oil in all chili peppers, and is part of the reason why they taste so darn good! However, it’s also what makes them burn.
And when you have just a small amount of jalapeno residue on your hands, it can really hurt. In fact, capsaicin is the active ingredient in many animal repellents and pepper sprays. Who knew.
Jalapeno burns are really common among people who cook a lot. It can cause something known as Hunan Hand, which is a form of contact dermatitis seen among people who regularly touch jalapenos.
Capsaicin has a ton of medical benefits when applied to the skin and is often used to treat pain as it prevents the nerves from transmitting pain. However, I’ll be honest – I was in a lot of pain of my own when I had my jalapeno burn!
How to Treat a Jalapeno Burn
Here are some of the best ways to treat a jalapeno burn on your skin.
Take Appropriate Preventive Steps
All chili peppers are spicy, but not all of them are dangerously hot. Peppers are measured on the Scoville scale, with jalapenos generally falling between 2,500 to 8,000 – for a reference point, bell peppers are usually 0. Remember that jalapenos that are grown in hot weather or lack water while they are growing are typically spicier, as are those whose skins are covered in veins.
And remember – wear your gloves at all times! Oh…and definitely avoid touching your eyes. Jalapeno burns in the eyes are even more painful and difficult to treat, especially if you wear contact lenses.
First, Wash Your Hands!
You probably already know this if you’ve ever eaten spicy food, but water doesn’t help quell the heat. You need to neutralize it before you can get rid of the burning sensation. Unfortunately, water just isn’t going to cut it when you’re trying to get your hands to stop burning.
I found that scrubbing with dish soap did not help. I’ve read that using hand grease cleaner designed for heavy-duty applications can be more effective, but I did not have this on hand so was not able to try it. The ability of hand degreasers to cut through heavy build-up may be effective against jalapeno burns as they can dissolve oils.
I’ve also heard that you can rinse your hands in vinegar, which is acidic and should break down the alkaline nature of the capsaicin. I poured vinegar over the burn. Not much help. (Maybe I should have soaked it?)
Finally, corn starch allegedly draws the spicy oils out of the skin, helping to neutralize the burn. Again, I did not try this, but it may have been worth it.
My theory in using dairy products was that they have a natural cooling, calming effect – so I popped open my refrigerator to see what I might have to treat my burning skin. First, I soaked my hand in milk for 15 min. Temporary relief for the first 5 minutes, but then the burning came back.
I plunged my hand into the sour cream container. Good for a while, but the burning returned. And then I had to throw out the sour cream.
I rubbed real butter over the pain. A little help, but not for long. Again, the theory behind this treatment is that jalapenos are more soluble in fats and oils than in water. So it’s definitely worth a try.
Aloe Vera or Aloe Leaves?
Aloe is often used to treat burns on the skin, and I’ve used it tons of time for minor scrapes, burns, and of course, sunburns. This time, I broke an aloe leaf and rubbed the gel onto my hand. Very little relief.
I soaked cotton balls with rubbing alcohol and rubbed my hand with them. Not much help. Later, I read that there’s actually a better way of using rubbing alcohol to stop the burn.
Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is a solvent, meaning it can dissolve oil and dirt. Try covering your hands with rubbing alcohol before washing them with dish soap – and then repeating this process twice.
Since my hands felt a lot like my skin does when I’ve suffered from contact with poison ivy – you know, it really burns – I thought some of the most common poison ivy treatments might be effective. I sprayed my hand with Calamine Lotion. No good.
I also tried pouring Tecnu over it. I poured Tecnu all over it, and rubbed it for 2 minutes. (My theory: It removes the oils from poison ivy, so maybe it would remove the jalapeno oils?) No good. I poured burn spray stuff on it. No relief.
Lavender Essential Oil?
Lavender has soothing properties, so I tried this solution by I tried rubbing lavender oil on it. Didn’t help.
Run to your refrigerator and see what you might have for acidic foods. Think tomatoes, lemons, pineapple, avocado, or lime. These can neutralize some of the spiciness on your skin. I rubbed it with a freshly cut onion. Didn’t work either.for me either, but you might want to give it a try.
I poured burn spray stuff on it. No relief.
I rubbed it with toothpaste. Toothpaste often works on skin problems because it has mint in it, which relieves inflammation and has a pleasant, cooling effect. Not in this case. Only made it worse.
I tried pouring honey over the burns. No luck. I just got really sticky.
I doused my hand with vegetable oil. Not any help. I’ve read that olive oil may be more helpful, as it has anti-inflammatory effects and may have done a better job at soothing my skin.
Trying to Rub it Out?
I read that if I ran my hands through my hair it would help. Nope. Jerry just said I looked like a crack head, freaking out rubbing my fingers through my hair. Thanks hunny.
My Personal Winner…Mustard!
Can you picture me running through the house trying to find something else to put on my flaming hand? Actually, Jerry was searching the computer calling out remedies as I found all of the ingredients and tried them.
Now, I’m a tough cookie. I can handle pain. But this, this got to almost unbearable. It was the feeling of holding my fingers over an open flame, and leaving them there. Every now and then I had to look down at my hand to make sure my skin wasn’t blistering up. I’m pretty sure these jalapenos were from Satan himself.
The only thing that helped at all was holding my hand in a bag of ice. For three hours I tried to ease the pain. What was even worse is that it can spread to others, so I was afraid to pick up baby Xia.
Jerry had to stay home from church to help me with her. He brought me some rubber gloves to put on while I nursed her, but having my hands in those hot gloves only intensified the burning.
I finished up my canning one handed. This salsa better be darn worth it! I muttered under my breath. When I was done in the kitchen I headed back to the computer.
As I scoured every article on jalapenos I could find, looking for some advice other than, “Make sure you wear gloves when chopping jalapenos.” Thanks! A lot of good that does me now! And all at once, I finally came across something I hadn’t tried yet.
I shot to the fridge, grabbed the two year old bottle of runny yellow glop, and slathered it on my hand.
Ahhhhh. Instant relief! I couldn’t believe it. I left it on until it dried. After a little while the burning sensation came back, though definitely muted.
I touched up my mustard manicure. Three times I rubbed it into my hand, and after about 30 more minutes I washed it all off, and the pain was completely gone!
Mustard!! Oh, how I love you.
So there you have it.
Lesson One: Wear gloves when you chop jalapenos! Every. Single. Time.
Lesson Two: If you were absent during Lesson One, and you are crouching in the corner of your kitchen in agonizing jalapeno misery, try Mustard first.
This is one of those things you will only do once in your life.
updated by Rebekah White 07/20/2019