Treating Chili Burn: Your Best Solutions

While chili peppers can bring amazing flavor to foods of all kinds, there’s one thing that you’ve got to watch out for: chili burn. Treating chili pepper burn due to touching or eating hot peppers is not something you can simply treat with water. In fact, you’ll find that water does nothing at all. It may even make you feel worse!

So what to do? Here are a few good remedies that you should follow if chili burn has got you down. If one doesn’t work as well for you, try the next on the list.

Water is not your friend here.

This is important to remember. The heat you feel in a chili pepper burn is caused by capsaicin. And while capsaicin is not an oil, per se – the compound has oil-like qualities. The first one being: it repels water. So that water you’re throwing at your burning mouth and hands is doing you no good.

Your best option: Milk

If you watch any extreme chili pepper eating videos, you’ll often see them running for milk the minute the pain gets intense. There’s a reason why. Acidic things break down oils, and milk, it may surprise you, is slightly acidic. So milk not only feels good because it’s thick and coats your throat, it also relieves the burn faster than anything else out there.

If you’ve got hands burning from peppers, you can also soak your hands in milk to provide relief. For both drinking and soaking, cold milk is best. If the milk gets warm over soak time, replace it with fresh milk straight from the refrigerator. If you don’t have milk around – other dairy products will work as substitutes as well, such as ice cream, cottage cheese, and yogurt.

The next best things:

Acidic liquids: Citrus juices can work here, especially lime juice and lemon juice. But of course, neither of these are pleasant to drink. For chili pepper burns on the skin, this is an excellent option.

Vegetable Oils: It’s sort of like fighting fire with fire here. Capsaicin is soluble in vegetable oils. You can scrub your hands with some to relieve the pain. You could even gargle with a little bit to relieve a burning mouth. But note that this tactic may end up surprising you and spreading the heat around more. It’s essentially diluting the heat, but making it more likely to spread (in its weakened form) in the process.

Other chili burn remedies that may work

Don’t have milk, acidic liquids, or vegetable oils handy? That’s ok. There are other things that you can do that may help stop the pain.

  • Gargling with sugar-water: This works, but it’s only effective during the gargling. It’s short relief – the minute you spit it out, the pain will return.
  • Drinking alcohol: Just like with vegetable oils, capsaicin is soluble in alcohol. A beer will help relieve some pain. But, obviously, this is not a solution for everyone.
  • Placing Vaseline on the affected areas: Think of it like masking the pain. Vaseline will curb the burning feeling pretty quickly. This is a topical solution only. Don’t put Vaseline in your mouth to combat chili burn!

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content. It was originally published on October 28, 2013.
  • Baking Soda People. Scrub and wash hands with it. If it is still burning make a paste and let it sit.

    For a hot mouth if you can’t or won’t drink cows milk. Take 8 oz warm water and 1 – 2 tsp of baking soda swish it around and spit out. This is also an old remedy (reduce to 1 tsp per warm cup of water) for acid indigestion or upset stomach. Just sip it.

  • I once inadvertently got severe chilli burn on my hands – I tried all the suggestions here with no relief. Then I read somewhere that Bicarbonate of Soda, or toothpaste can work to ease the burn. I had some bicarbonate of soda toothpaste to hand so I tried that and it really helped.

  • I often end up in severe oral pain because my SO “forgets” that’s he’s put chilli in something or leaves it spread over a food preparation surface. An amount that other people claim not to be able to detect leaves my mouth burning for hours. We’re both vegan so no dairy in the house and alcohol and fatty foods make me very ill. What’s my best option? I suck on ice cubes for a couple of hours, but as soon as I stop the pain returns. I’ve tried soy and oat milk but it doesn’t do anything. I enjoy eating lemons but they don’t help.

    I’m on the verge of moving out over this. I don’t understand people who say chilies “enhance flavour.” They make everything I eat for the rest of the day taste like cardboard because no flavours can get past the burning. They’re not food!

    • Hi Sally, well, we’ll agree to disagree on the last part:) But on the chili burn, you’ve likely hit on your best two options: water or some type of citrus. Water isn’t obviously the typical best option as it tends to simply move the capsaicin around the mouth, spreading the pain. But doing so, it may lessen the overall spiciness (it’ll just be more broad across the mouth.)

      I’d say trying lime juice if lemon isn’t doing anything to help.

    • I’m in this situation and I just wanted to say I burned both my hands really bad and vegan yogurt is doing the trick. (Forager Cashewmilk is the type I’m trying). I put it on just my right hand to compare and just cold water on my left, I still feel my left and 10 minutes later nothing on my right still after about 5m.

    • If it’s a recurring issue you could try breastmilk. I Use mine and it’s technically vegan because I consent. You can buy it online and keep it frozen. It’s also 4.5% fat which is better than animal milk. I am serious, a lot of us breastfeeding moms use it as a cure-all. Even for scrapes and cuts. Good luck!

  • I got burned on the hand for first time ever never felt pain like it an all my years of defence work or decades of full contact karate. Each time I tried some of the recipes it seemed tospread anyway after three hours and thinking I would have to go to bed with this I put on aloe Vera as my hand had been in water all night to cool them. Either a. All the suggestions worked or the aloe Vera hand cream did. Either way the pain settled almost at once so good luck folks

    • I am sure is the miracle of aloe Vera I burned my face eyes with rubbing my hand after using red chilie I did not use immediately but I used the plant that I have
      At home and the burning disappear
      I would recommend every body to have this plant at home

  • I deseeded chillies and put my hands in a bowl of water from the chillies with the seeds .. was in tremendous pain with burning sensation that was for hours .. ice helps but is temporary when all else fails I swear this works ..keep sucking you fingers for a long Time while Watching a movie 🍿 only this helped me..I normally do no write online but was moved to let others suffering pure hell do this to save yourself 😁

    • It can work, but like citrus juice, it’s not that pleasant to drink. Better for use for chili burn on fingers.

    • In my youth, I once drank a glass of cider vinegar thinking it was apple cider. It was the worst experience of my life and as I live and breathe I will never touch the stuff again. The smell of someone else using it within 50 feet makes me retch.

  • As I was reading “Acidic liquids: Citrus juices can work here, especially lime juice and lemon juice. But of course, neither of these are pleasant to drink.” I was actually taking a sip of lemon juice. I love sour things as much as I love hot things.

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