If you are reading this page, then there is probably a good chance you have burning hands from handling chillies.
The saying "prevention is better than the cure" is very annoying at this point but really could not be more appropriate. We know this is water under the bridge and the horse has bolted at this stage, but wearing gloves is the very best protocol when handling chillies. A box of disposable gloves will not break the bank and is very handy to have around the house - not just the kitchen.
The good news at this point is that while hugely uncomfortable, burning hands from chillies will not kill you. The burning sensation will fade with time.
The burning on your skin is caused by a component is chillies called "capsaicin". Capsaicin is an active ingredient in chillies that gives chillies their heat. It is believed that the plants produce capsaicin to deter mammals (yup - you) from eating their fruit. Now capsaicin is an oil, which when handling chillies readily transfers to the skin. Your body is covered with lots of heat receptors. These receptors sense temperature - when things are too hot or too cold. The capsaicin form a avery effective bond to these heat receptors on your body. In such instances, signals are sent to the brain telling you that you are experiencing pain in certain areas on your body. Much like when you experience a actual scald from hot water or a cut from a knife. The only difference is that although the signal is telling you that your hands are on fire and you are experiencing severe pain as a result of the burning… your hands are not actually on fire or undergoing third degree burns.
The aim of any remedy to combat this burning sensation is to remove the capsaicin from these heat receptors - to loosen the bond between the capsaicin and the receptors. And this is the tricky part.
Over the years we have handled tons of chillies and we have experienced what works and what does not. Scientifically we know that alcohol, vegetable oil and soap will work as they are effective against oily substances. Water on the other hand does not, as oil repels water.
Some people swear by butter… vegetable oil, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, peanut butter… the list is endless. But we have a hack that works for us and we hope this will work for you too.
First things first -
What not to do:
1) Never wash your hands with hot water. Given that capsaicin is an oil - it would make perfect sense as hot water helps rinse off oils. WRONG! Hot water will open the pores to your skin and the capsaicin will only go deeper into your dermis, which will result in hands that burn for days.
2) Don't touch anything else. As you will have noticed, capsaicin is invisible and it is very easy to transfer without knowing. it is the gift that keeps on giving as you will find it popping up in the most unlikely of places.
3) Do not touch any other parts of your body. it will transfer and it will burn there too.
Ok, so here is what we recommend.
Dairy. Dairy is scientifically proven to help with capsaicin. Dairy: milk, cream cheese, ice cream and yoghurt are all good. In a nutshell - dairy contains a protein called casein. This protein is able to break the bond between the capsaicin and the heat receptors in your skin.
Here's what to do:
1) What you will need:
2) Fill the pair of disposable gloves with around two table spoons of each with yoghurt.
3) Put on gloves and leave on for no less than 10 mins. Rub gloved hands together ensuring to cover all the skin with the yoghurt - right to the finger tips. Work that cold yoghurt into the skin. You'll either hate this or love it but it works!
4) Remove the gloves and rinse your hands under COLD running water (remember, hot water opens the pores - BAD) until all the yoghurt has been rinsed off.
Dry your hands.
Your burning hands should be a thing of the past. If the burning continues, just repeat the process leaving the gloves on for longer. It works for us every time and hope it works for you too.
Now go and buy some gloves so you won't need to do this next time around :)