Hot peppers make for some incredible cooking, but they can be tricky (and painful) to work with in the kitchen. Take for instance the intense pain of chili burn. It’s bad enough experiencing it on your fingers or in your mouth, but how about a little jalapeño in the eye? Or, worse, something even spicier like a habanero pepper? How do you go about getting rid of that intense burning sensation and constant tearing?
Go get the milk from the refrigerator.
That’s right, head right to the fridge and grab whatever variety of milk you have in there.
Wash your hands with soap, and then soak your hands in milk to rid any chili oils from your fingers. It’s important to get rid of the chili oils that likely caused the issue from the start.
Soak a paper towel in milk and then gently pat (don’t rub) around the eye. Let the milk-soaked paper towel then rest gently on the eye.
Once the most immediate pain dissipates, try getting a few drops of milk in your eyes to calm down the rest of the burn. And then again pat around the eye gently through the process with another milk-soaked paper towel.
Whatever you do, don’t go for water.
Water won’t work for jalapeño in the eye – in fact, it’ll spread around the burning sensation, making you feel even worse. It needs to be milk. Why? Milk is acidic and breaks down the capsaicin in hot peppers, relieving the pain. Water is repelled by the oil-like capsaicin, and just like oil and water in real-life, they don’t mix well together.
For general chili burn on the hands and in the mouth, there are other remedies as well that work. Take a look at our post on treating chili burn for some other simple solutions.
Prepare for the next time you handle jalapeños.
If you plan on cooking often with chilies, it’s best to be prepared. Preventing chili burn is a ton better than treating it. Use food preparation gloves, at minimum. Even consider using eye goggles when handling hotter chilies (like habaneros or ghost chilies.)
The gloves keep your hands from burning, and they are a good reminder to not touch your eyes while handling jalapeños. At the end of prep, simply remove them from the base of the glove and throw them away.
If you're here, you're likely experiencing (or have experienced) chili burn. Do us a favor and get some food prep gloves, so you aren't in the place where you need to land on this page again! Chili burn is not something we wish on anyone. And food prep gloves are cheap.