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Food & Recipes

How to Quickly and Easily Cool Down ‘Jalapeno Hands’


I absolutely love adding an extra kick of heat to my recipes with spicy peppers. However, I’m far less thrilled about the lingering “jalapeno hands” or “hot pepper hands” that stick around hours later. Anyone who’s accidentally touched their eye after slicing up peppers knows what I’m talking about. Your fingers can feel totally fine, but as soon as they touch a more sensitive area, it’s like tiny explosions erupting on that skin.

After one too many skin-scorching moments (and my refusal to give up on the fiery ingredients), I decided to try a couple remedies that claim to stop our hands from turning into tiny torches.

First, I needed the perfect recipe to test things out. I decided to go with Kwame Onwuachi’s scotch bonnet hot sauce. For reference, scotch bonnets rank in at about 350,000 on the Scoville heat scale, which is 35 times hotter than jalapenos. The sauce was delicious on eggs I had made for brunch that day — and accidentally touching the sensitive skin on my ear proved my hands were indeed still clinging to that heat.

Best Remedy for Jalapeno Hands

I read on a few different foodie message boards that olive oil is supposed to help by drawing out capsaicin oils that seep into skin while handling peppers. Unfortunately, rubbing a small amount on my fingers and rinsing off with regular hand soap didn’t do much to extinguish the burn. Yes, I tortured myself by intentionally (but much more delicately) touching the other ear to check — all in the name of science!

My hands cooled down for the most part on their own by the next day, but I was determined to find a real answer to this pepper predicament. I chopped up a couple of my remaining scotch bonnets and sautéed them with veggies to eat with rice for lunch. While waiting for those to cook, I tried a tip shared by the delightfully named Cayenne Diane.

Rubbing alcohol and dish soap are at the top her list of jalapeno hand remedies. I honestly kicked myself for not thinking about dish soap in the first place knowing how helpful it is for things like getting rid of similarly lingering residue on clothes. The addition of rubbing alcohol, which Diane explains should dissolve the pepper’s oil on your hands, made this method sound even more promising.

I poured enough rubbing alcohol into a bowl to let my fingers soak for a few seconds, then rinsed with dish soap and warm water. It actually felt like I was wiping the heat away under the faucet before I dried my hands off. In fact, I was so confident it had worked that I decided to test it out by touching the even more vulnerable skin at the corner of my eye. Thankfully, I wasn’t met with any burning sensation whatsoever! Just the sweet relief of finally figuring out a way to keep my beloved spice on my plate, not my skin.

I definitely recommend giving this a try the next time you handle hot peppers to protect against accidentally scorching yourself. Your eyes and ears (not to mention other sensitive areas) will be glad you did.

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