How to Get Relief From a Hot Pepper Burn Immediately.

Jalapeño burning your hands, eyes or … whatever else?  Allow me to show you how to get jalapeño off your hands as we enter pepper season. Because even though you should wear gloves when you slice hot peppers – you probably don’t do that.

Jalapeño peppers being sliced and deseeded on a wood cutting board.

I’m worried that you got to this post because you dipped your hands into jalapeno juice and are now running screaming around your kitchen so I’m getting to the important information immediately.

How to Treat a Hot Pepper Burn

Hot peppers contain Capsaicin, a natural oil.  So in order to get rid of the pain, you have the neutralize the alkaline oil.

The best way to do that is with something acidic.  You cannot wash away a hot pepper burn with soap and water.

  1. Douse or soak the area in milk. 
  2. Spread butter or yogurt on the burning area.
  3. Wash your hands with olive oil until the pain goes away and then wash your hands with soap and water.
  4. Dip your hands into a solution of 1 part bleach and 4 parts water. Don’t soak your hands in the bleach solution, just dip them in and take them out.  Wash your hands immediately afterwards.

Use whatever method will work best with where your burn is. I think dairy products work the best but use what you have. If you don’t have olive oil you can substitute with vegetable oil.

** ONLY use the milk method if the pepper burn is in your eyes.

I use the milk method all the time. 

Here’s the thing about me; I injure myself at least 3 times a week.  I cut myself, burn myself and just generally maim myself.  It’s not because I’m particularly clumsy or careless … I just do a lot.  Most of the time I just ignore these injuries and know they’ll go away in a few days.

But sometimes I need the pain to go away IMMEDIATELY. Like that time I suffered a chili con carne injury that I couldn’t ignore.  Nor could anyone who looked at me.


Woman with an eye patch soaked in milk to treat a pepper burn on her eye.


When you have a finger full of hot pepper juice you should avoid touching your eye.

Staub dutch oven filled with the ingredients for making chili including a banana pepper, tomatoes, bay leaf and beans.



I just soaked a pad in milk and wore it like an eye patch.


A glass bowl filled with milk with pepper membranes and seeds in the background.


So if you get a pepper burn anywhere on your body, including your eyes, your fingers, your mouth, your … um … private parts … the very best thing you can do is soak it in milk or spread yogurt on it.

I left my eye sling on for 20 minutes total and I replaced the cotton pad with a freshly soaked pad every 5 minutes or so.  You should feel instant relief from the milk, but as the burn starts to come back, replace with new, cold milk.


Now if you’ll excuse me I have a  mystery scab that needs to be tended to.


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How to Get Relief From a Hot Pepper Burn Immediately.


  1. Hannah says:

    Oh, goodness, that really sucks. I made curry last week and the same thing happened to me.

    I just wanted you to know, milk is actually fairly neutral, with a PH of 6.5-6.7. Water is 7.0, so while it is slightly acidic, that factor really has nothing to do with why milk or oil are able to neutralize Capsaicin. You see, capsaicin is a fat soluble molecule, meaning it will only dissolve in a liquid containing some fats. This is why water will not work. Capsaicin also bonds with the receptor cells in your mouth longer than the molecules that convey sweet, bitter, salty, sour, or umami. This means that you will continue to taste the hot/spicy food, until a fat molecule bonds with it and is able to break it away from the receptor on your tongue.
    In a study at the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, researchers discovered that humans seek spicy foods that activate pain pathways because the brain will release an endogenous opioid, the body’s answer to morphine, which we humans like. They also discovered that capsaicin opens the calcium ion receptors in cells, this emits a nerve impulse when the intracellular electrical potential reaches a certain threshold.
    People become desensitized to spicy foods (and the reason capsaicin is used to relieve pain) is because capsaicin can bond with these calcium ion receptors and leave them permanently open. The cell receives too many calcium ions and the sensory fibers will die.

    You should check out Molecular Gastronom: Exploring the Science of Flavor by Herve This. Translated by M.B. DeBevoise. It explains this a lot better than I can, and many other interesting things too. Some knowledge of biology and chemistry is helpful, but not necessary. If you’re a giant nerd like me, you’ll get into it either way. What Einstein Told His Cook by Robert L. Wolke is another good reference.

    TL:DR Science!!!!

    Best of luck with peppers in the future,

  2. Caitlin says:

    Glad it worked :)

    Milk is only slightly more acidic than neutral, but the reason it works the best is because it contains casein and fats, which dissolve and break up the oils. Which is why they serve sour cream with Mexican foods and yogurt raita with curry :)


  3. Kendra says:

    Stainless steel is also pretty good at removing oil from your skin. I don’t know why, but if you just rub your fingers on a stainless steel surface (like the kitchen sink), it will rid them of all that pesky pepper, or garlic, or fish oil (and the smell along with it). Now I think the trick is just to get it off your hands before it gets to your eyes… I’ve never had to try rubbing my eyeball on the kitchen sink before!

  4. Mmmm, crusty eye milk. I knew I should have eaten breakfast. Sorry about your eye. When we’re at the beach, after a day of swimming in the community pool full of chlorine and who knows what else, when everyone’s eyes are red, blurry and painful, nothing feels better than a few drops of milk. I take an eye dropper and keep it full of milk in the fridge. I always thought it coated the eye. Little did I know, until today that is, that it actually changed the ph.
    Thanks, I can officially say I learned something new today!

  5. Rhonda "SmartyPants" says:

    Great save, Karen. You should turn it in to the folks that do the “Got milk?” ad campaign, but only if they let you in on the upswing in profits it would be sure to cause.

    I really feel sorry for your accident, but the milky white tear got me to thinking about the milky white mustaches that are so phony looking and your tear/drop was real. At least I think it was.

    Please, tell me it was real. I need to believe in something.

  6. Marti says:

    Geez, what if God froze you when you made that face? Think about it… you’d be stuck wearing your “fashionista eye mask” for the rest of your natural life!


    • Karen says:

      You’d be amazed at the involuntary things a face will do when clotted with pepper burns and crusty milk. ~ karen

  7. Jacqueline says:

    I saw the photo of you and thought “The things Karen does to herself, just to teach us all something usefull…”

    • Karen says:

      Jacqueline – Once when I was being interviewed about my job as a television host the reporter asked if I minded basically making a fool of myself on television all the time. (I did the same sort of thing on television as I do on my blog). I said no. Not at all. I don’t do anything more ridiculous or embarrassing than anyone else, I just do it in public. And get paid for it. ;) ~ karen

  8. kelliblue says:

    You poor kid ~ ouchie. That’s quite the getup too…hm, you sure you’re not a robot like the one in Alien? He ‘bled milk’ too. :-\

    My first year in TX, I pulled a ‘Lucy’ as she noted above. I volunteered to make pico de gallo; and of course throughout the day, I too, had an itch here…there…everywhere. My face. Around my eyes. Under my nose. My armpits. Other places.

    My hands started burning. Rinse. Continue chopping. The heat grows more painful. Rinse, repeat, thinking it’ll go away. But my palms, while looking absolutely normal, are now burning with an invisible fire so intense, I can’t even think straight. Then my face starts burning: my upper lip, around my eyes, my pits…those other places. I was in agony. I also tried soaking my hands in ice water, but like Lucy, as soon as I pulled them out of the water…ouch.

    Of course I had absolutely NO fun at the party. Then I had to figure out how to get my contacts out of my eyes without my burning fingers burning my eyes too (get really close to a mirror and literally flip them out of your eye with a fingernail so they stick to the mirror). Needless to say, I burned (but not in a good way) for a solid 48 hours, finally subsiding on Monday, just in time for work, yay. Yup, I had NOT worn gloves, a painful lesson to learn. Haven’t touched pico since. :(

  9. Pate says:

    I’m so sorry that I have not used chilies so I’d have a burning eyeball story to share. But wait….. I do have a finger and food story …… ever cut and trim fresh artichokes? Prep about six and for some reason stick your finger in your mouth?
    OMG! What IS that awful taste? So gross!


  10. Diane says:

    Ha! I did this last year with jalapenos. I washed my hands about a katrillion times, give or take a few. It’s insane how that shit stays in your skin (and your eye) so long! Wish I had the sense to know this information back then, instead I suffered it out like the trooper I am.

    Great read…and laugh! Thanks!

  11. Tricia Rose says:

    Suddenly restaurant eating makes SO much sense…

    Did you do something nice for yourself after that Karen, just some little treat to kiss it better? Brandy maybe?

    • Karen says:

      Tricia – Meh. I just soldiered on with my day. I injure myself so often, if I treated myself with a brandy every time I’d be in Betty Ford. ~ karen

  12. Patty says:

    Funny (?) you posted this as I just splashed a drop (I think) of gasoline in my eye when I was filling my lawn mower yesterday. I thought oh,crap, I don’t have time for this, but went inside and held a cup of water against my open eye. It felt like just 1 drop had gotten in and I don’t know how it got around my glasses, but it never burned, I lost interest in spending any more time in my medical care and I can still see today. I hope you are doing fine also and that your chili was delish!

  13. inki says:

    Dear Karen I do love your stories….

    I remember not washing my hands after a chilly cookout and later going to the bathroom to use a tampon!!!!!!!

    Wont forget that night. But I sure get a laugh out of folks when I tell that story ;-)

    Love from Faraway….

  14. Pat says:

    Cut up hot peppers in the a.m. to start a dish I was making. Took out contact lenses in evening. That stuff was still on my fingers and I probably washed my hands numerous times through the course of the day. I know your pain ….

  15. Kate S. says:

    I’m really curious as to whether your fella saw this fashion statement? If this had happened to me, I would have rigged up a similarly ridiculous makeshift bandage and about the time I had it looking particularly rakish, my husband would suddenly appear. My life is a litany of my husband’s befuddled facial expressions . . . more’s the pity.

    • Karen says:

      Kate S. – No, he wasn’t home at the time, so I took a quick iPhone picture and sent it to him with the caption “More on this and other top stories, later … “

  16. Pixieskulls says:

    My mom always said that if you get chili in your eye you should eat a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. We’re hispanic, do I’m sure that we’ve had this remedy handed down generation to generation.

  17. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Wow..don’t know if I can sleep tonight after seeing that your burn is all gone girl..

  18. Kim says:

    I’m with you on the “no chilly, no chili” rule. Although if we get a freak, below 50 night in the Illinois late summer, I do find myself wanting to make it.

  19. Gayla T says:

    Karen, Karen, Karen! You may as well just pack it in now cause I can tell you that the rest of your life is going to be more of the same since you are in that same groove I’ve been in all these years. It’s that creative gene and it gets us every time. Oh, and please don’t encourage Mary with the grinder. One step up they call it a wood chipper and she could run her mother-in-law through that. As a MIL myself, although an much adored one, I have step in here in behalf of all MILs in the world. Now, as a mother, I have to say, “You better stop that before your face freezes and you look like that forever. Now, you can see how much good I do in the world and why my DILs love me so much. Love Cindy

  20. Abbey T says:

    There are also enzymes found in milk that bind especially to capsaicin when not much else does, and it sweeps the capsaicin molecules away with the milk. =)

    At least… that’s what I learned from Food Detectives!

  21. Tracie says:

    Thanks Karen, I am really looking forward to your recipe. Mine isn’t bad but ends up with that kind of pre-packaged taste. It does sound like a lot of stuff goes in, but I am more than willing to take the plunge! Love chili! I have even been known to make a pot or two in the heat of summer….yum!

  22. Tracie says:

    Too funny! I wonder if your recipe for chili is around anywhere….I make a pretty good chili most of the time, but I always rely on the packaged chili-o spice. I doubt you do that, but then again, you do buy the seasoned nuts…..:)

    • Karen says:

      Tracie – No, my chili recipe isn’t up on the site yet. One day. I didn’t even know they sold chili-o spice! U use oregano, pepper, salt, cumin, chili powder (only the dark kind … hard to find), a hot pepper (clearly) and a few other things. Tobasco, red pepper flakes …. bay leaf. A bunch of junk goes in it. ~ karen

  23. Shirley says:

    That tiny milk “tear” on your cheek was the piece de resistance of your sad picture. Now I’m not calling you a clown, but is that Pagliacci I hear playing in the background?

  24. Lucy says:

    NOW you tell me. A couple of decades ago I had the worst night of my life after making salsa with HOT New Mexico Green Chiles with my bare hands. Was up all night with both hands soaking in ice water, which only helped til I either took them out or the water cooled. Also tried baking soda to no avail – thinking that would help. I remember watching Mongolian Throat singing on some cable channel at 4 AM…at least I was on vacation but it was NO FUN.

  25. Sarah A. says:

    Hope you are feeling better, Karen!

    It makes me feel better to hear that you also get hurt but don’t let that stop you from getting stuff done. I also often am working around the house covered in a strange arrangement of gauze!

  26. Lisa says:

    eye drops, like visine, are also mildly acidic. You can also use a diluted vinegar solution to wash your hands. Pour 50/50 vinegar and water into a bowl and soak your hands for a minute.

    I grow jalapenos and cayenne peppers, and when I freeze/can them in the fall, I DO wear the hospital-style non-latex gloves that you can buy at the drugstore!

  27. Melissa says:

    One word: goggles. Get yourself a pair of goggles – not only because they’re essential to swimming laps, but because they can do dual purpose for rinsing eyes. Or install one those eye washing sinks you find in chemistry labs.

    • Karen says:

      Melissa – I actually own a few pair of onion goggles. I’m going to be honest with you. If my eye itched, I’d just pull up the goggle and itch it. I know I would. ~ karen

  28. Sara says:

    LOVE your site! found it during the homies 2012. a-mazingness! wish i knew about the above pepper burn remedy two weeks ago when i diced chillies, for the first time ever, and without gloves! my fingers were slightly cracked and the chillies seeped into those cracks… my poor fingertips burned for a LONG time! never doing that again!

  29. Karena says:

    Karen you are too much! I hear Wendy’s has good Chili!

    Art by Karena
    The 2012 Artist Series

  30. Codi says:

    I love you (not in a stalker way), and I love your blog (in a stalker way), but this is the first time I’ve seen your facts be a little off. Milk? Only slightly acidic. It’s the FAT in milk that helps. I’d assume whole milk would work better than skim for your eye injury, or even better heavy cream – plus I think you’d get a better crust for the cats that way ;-)

  31. Barbie says:

    So sorry about your eye! However now I know how to cure a pepper burn should I get one someday. We have dried chili peppers out in the warehouse that we use in production of herb “wreaths” and my toddler (yrs ago) got into them and then rubbed his eyes ….we just had to wait it out….wish I had known then about the milk….however….he is allergic to milk so that wouldn’t have worked either I guess….hmmmmm

  32. marilyn says:

    charming look but at least it worked.

  33. Mary Werner says:

    Great way to start my day – with a laugh from you. I got lost in past posts and am now ordering the hand pepper grinder which is just too much fun for the kitchen. May be a better bedroom device as a signal to spouse for what lays (no pun intended) in store for the evening. Or take with me in the car to provide appropriate driving scores to those around me! Wish they made a 3 foot one for when my mother-in-law comes over.

  34. Magpiebird says:

    This morning I gave myself a twine burn on the eye! (lid/corner area.) And thought about googling how to treat a twine burn to the eye, but figured even the internet wouldn’t know that one. And here you are with pepper burns to the eye advice. So weird.

    • Magpiebird says:

      Also weird that a “You might also like” article on your site is treating a mild burn with the bleach method. O.o

      • Karen says:

        Hah! That works too. Nobody believes me, and everyone is scared of it, but it’s a fantastic cure for a mild burn. Apparently I burn myself a lot. ~ karen!

  35. Mary Kay says:

    I did that once – canning hot peppers and rubbed my eye – man 15 mins later I thought it was going to burn right out of my head. I read somewhere about using milk and grabbed the gallon jug and starting washing out my eye – worked BRILLIANTLY!!

  36. Kristin says:

    OMG!!! I hope you’re doing better today. Thanks for the great advice and the “oh so lovely” visual

  37. cred says:

    I have burned my eyes with residual chili oil on my hands but clearly to a lesser degree than yours since it usually subsides rather quickly without milk. Needless to say, relief to be had sooner is welcome- so thank you for the milk remedy.

    btw- the chili looks delicious. My mom always says that her meals taste better when she’s burned or cut herself while preparing it- although, then she enjoys it less. The sacrifices women make!

  38. Deborah says:

    OUCH! Love the new fashion trend you started, watch out Stella McCartney! LOL! And for the record, I don’t wear rubber gloves when dealing with peppers either…rubber gloves are for wussies. :P

  39. Arlene says:

    I had an eyeball burn from a mystery plant last week too…was leaving the house to run back to work _ looked out at my poor little chickens longing for something green from the yard to eat.. So I decided to grab whatever large and leafy plant I could – which included the identifiable dandelion and another larger and yummier looking plant that left an orange stain on my fingers when I picked it. I had second thoughts as I stuffed this mystery plant through the chicken wire ~ but it clearly did not stop me from just crossing my fingers and hoping I didn’t just kill them. Later in the afternoon I too had an itchy eyeball— and used the offending stained finger to scratch my eyeball. Needless to say it Burned Like Hell. Without my newly instilled knowledge (thanks for that) I suffered in vain. Birds are still alive — now just get this crazy burning sensation in my throat when ever I eat an egg :)

  40. Ginny says:

    I haven’t done that yet. Yet being the key word. But I always seem to end up with a bruise and/or scratch that I have no idea when or where it happened. I usually blame the cats for the scratches whether or not it looks like a cat scratch. I mean they get blamed for any of the strange noises that happen in the middles of the night. They don’t seem to mind. Hope your eye feels better!

  41. Diana says:

    Poor Karen!

    I hope, you are fine again…

    And -ähhhm- I am the one who wears rubber gloves:o)
    I hate cutting cold and bloody meat.(Eating- yeah! feeling-no!)
    Or the smell of garlic on my fingers two days after cutting it.

    All the best for you

    • Brenda j says:

      To remove smells like fish and garlic etc., from your skin… and skunk from your dog…use toothpaste! Cheap and easy.

      • Diana says:

        Thanks Brenda j:o)

        sounds good! I will try it.
        someone gave me the advice, to use coffee grounds.
        The only success I had where brown fingers smelling like a coffeebar!

    • White says:

      For garlic (at least), “wash/rub” with clean stainless steel (although they sell s.s. bars for the purpose, any s.s will do, e.g.: sink, utensils, etc.). Effect is immediate.

  42. Yikes! I was so wrapped up in your story I burned my breakfast. Sounds very painful. Hope you are ok now.

  43. Vivienne Grainger says:

    Karen, you crack me up. Not for the situations you get yourself into (because I’ve done the same thing) but your reactions to them. You go, girl.

    As for dipping one’s private parts into milk, I’ve always wondered how guys reloaded that thing …

  44. Spokangela says:

    Well, now you know two people who’ve endured the private parts burned with pepper “situation”. Sure wish I’d have known about the milk thing then…
    I was making Thai… for the new boyfriend, took a shower, decided to “clean up the nether regions” and WHOA!!!! Well, needless to say he go NO ACTION that night.

    I love that you said you had “shit to do” I swear you are one of our long lost sisters :) There’s four of us and we love dink jokes, doin’ “shit” ourselves and gnarly dogs from Ikea. And, we don’t have a Karen… It’s plausible!

  45. Brenda j says:

    A friend ended-up hospitalized due to this stuff on her hands…2nd degree. FOR THE LOVE!!!
    Please be careful Karen; if you have to start typing in braille..I wont be able to read your blogs. (that probably sounds nasty)Its all about me.

    • Rodney says:

      I ate red pepper flakes raw on pizza… Burned like hell and guess what? I came back and ate it again… LOL :)

  46. Jamie says:

    Great tip! I have a tendency to hurt myself a lot too…I have a 6 inch scar now from tripping over a very large chunk of air. Yup air. And whats really really sad about that, it wasn’t the first time the pesky chunks had tripped me up.

  47. Teresa says:

    This is one of the many reasons I love reading your blog, truthful and real to the point of pain. As usual, thanks for the laugh, as well as the knowledge that I am not the only one who “knows better” but does it anyway, and who is too hard headed to let anything stop me from the shit I gotta do!

  48. robin says:

    Another trick… Use vegetable oil as a ‘wash’ for the area. It dilutes the capsacian oil.

  49. Rebecca says:

    If you’d only been wearing your onion chopping goggles, this never would have happened. You should probably just wear them any time while cooking, just for safety’s sake.

  50. Alix Bouchard says:

    My ex boyfriend did that…. The private parts situation.. hah

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