Last week, my partner and I decided to be ambitious and make our own pesto. He put in a few chili peppers to give it a kick, and did it ever. It actually hurt my lips to eat it — which probably should’ve been a warning sign about what would happen later. A few hours after that, we start fooling around, and he reached between my legs. My skin felt irritated for some reason, but I figured it’d feel better once I got turned on. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Things were heating up — and not in a good way. I felt a burning sensation that got stronger and stronger until I couldn’t enjoy it anymore. That’s when I remembered the peppers and realized what was happening. We had to stop to ice my vagina. Nobody had ever warned me about the dangers of having sex after cooking spicy food, so I’m warning you now: If something feels hot in your mouth, it can feel hot on the rest of your body. And when we’re talking about the genitals, you definitely do not want that.
Super spicy food can burn not only the genitals but also any place on the skin it comes into contact with. The culprit of these burns is usually a chemical called capsaicin, Astroglide’s resident OB/GYN Dr. Angela Jones tells Bustle. Watch out for chili peppers, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, and cayenne peppers, because they all contain it. You’ll usually find it in the white part of the pepper, not the seeds.
“In addition to giving peppers their heat and spiciness, this chemical also causes a burning sensation when it comes into contact with skin, or mucous membranes; hence the common recommendation of not rubbing your eyes while cooking with peppers,” says Dr. Angela. “Now, imagine touching your vagina post cooking.” Unfortunately, I don't have to imagine it, so let me tell you: It burns. And the burning does not go away quickly. In fact, it can get even worse than it was for me. Lauren Vino writes in XO Jane that she cut jalapeño peppers before sex, leading to a feeling "like having my period with hot sauce."
You might think simply washing your hands could help you avoid this, but hand soap is unfortunately often not sufficient. Since capsaicin is an oil-like compound, it can repel water or water-based products. “It might be wiser to use something like dish soap, rubbing alcohol, or fatty dairy products like yogurt or milk,” says Dr. Angela. You might even try putting something like this on the part of your skin that’s been burned — yes, even the genitals. "If your vagina is 'on fire,' couldn’t hurt to try; after all, folks have had stranger things in their vaginas," she says. Almond milk did the trick for Vino, who now wears rubber gloves if she cooks spicy food before having sex.
“If you haven’t washed your hands with any of the above suggested things, you may not have completely gotten all of the pepper oil off of your hands, hence, sharing an intimate moment could quickly go south, no pun intended,” says Dr. Angela. Even then, you may want to make sure you’ve got it all off by touching a less vulnerable part of your body and seeing if you can feel anything before moving down to your (or your partner’s) privates.
Or, if you want to spare yourself even the chance of experiencing this form of pain, just take a lesson from me and don't have sex right after cooking spicy food. Your genitals may thank you for it.