How Does Pepper Spray Work?

by | Jul 1, 2024

How Does Pepper Spray Work

​You’ve heard about pepper spray as a self-defense tool. Typically, it’s a canister that streams or sprays a pain-inducing liquid. In any form, it’s what’s inside that counts: spicy capsaicin. Nowadays, it has personal and commercial applications.

Before we get into that, let’s dive into what makes pepper spray an appealing crime deterrent. That begins with grasping what it is.

What Is Pepper Spray Made Of?

As the name implies, pepper spray is made from peppers. These plants naturally contain capsaicin, a difficult-to-say but easy-to-use chemical. It’s one of the key compounds that gives chili peppers their signature “punch.” In reasonable quantities, capsaicin lends spicy foods enjoyable heat and flavor.

On a whole other scale, capsaicin can render a criminal helpless. When leveraged correctly, the same component that makes a meal tasty causes agonizing pain.

Spicy Peppers

How Does Pepper Spray Work?

When pepper spray makes contact with someone’s face, it causes a powerful burning sensation in the eyes and throat within seconds. Quick incapacitation is the goal.

Here’s a mini science lesson about how pepper spray works. Capsaicin binds to the TRPV1 receptors of cells in the eyes and respiratory system. When these receptors activate, they send signals to the brain that cause a burning sensation.

This product uses the power of Mother Nature to incapacitate someone for up to 45 minutes. Most people on the receiving end experience impaired vision, coughing, and intense burning sensation on the skin. This gives the user plenty of time to run (if it’s an individual) or get law enforcement on the scene (if it’s a business).

The Effects of Pepper Spray

While painful, pepper spray does not generate long-term harmful effects for most people. However, individuals with asthma or other respiratory issues may require medical attention.

In addition, many people wonder, can pepper spray blind you? Not permanently, although it might be hard to see with watery, painful eyes. There is no evidence it causes eye injury or damage. However, it’s best to avoid repeat exposure, which can affect the cornea in the eye.

What to Do If You’re Affected

You may wonder what would happen if some spray comes back at you. Normally, the spray doesn’t distribute very far. But fans, wind, open doors, or other factors can change the area’s dynamics and spread the droplets farther.

If you weren’t able to remove yourself from the immediate area, take these actions promptly:

  • Remove the clothing you were wearing.
  • Rinse the affected areas of your body with water for at least 15 minutes to wash away the capsaicin and other chemicals.
  • You also can use mild soap to remove some of the oil-based spray from your skin.
  • Apply a cold compress to alleviate the lingering side effects.
  • If you are still suffering, seek medical attention.

Pepper spray is not to be handled carelessly. It’s merciless.

Personal Devices

Most people are familiar with personal pepper spray devices—you likely own one or know someone who carries one. These devices are marketed as non-lethal self-defense tools. For some people, it’s a less extreme option than a concealed firearm.

The most common options are cartridges that click onto a belt or a keychain. They come in various sizes, from ones that easily fit in the palm of your hand to flashlight-style devices that provide light and the option to spray an attacker. Many are dark, basic colors that don’t attract attention. However, you’ll also find bright, bejeweled devices that look at home on a keychain.

Bejeweled Pepper Spray

Many incorporate a locking mechanism so they can’t distribute the spray accidentally. Some also feature an ergonomic design for ease of use. If you’re looking for something extra, some companies add a UV dye to their spray. Even after the spicy effects of the spray wear off, the attacker’s skin bears a stain as evidence.

Personal pepper spray comes in various strengths, typically measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). A high SHU rating unleashes the most pain. Most products contain between 500,000 and 2 million SHUs.

Be mindful that the spray can easily spread out to a large area. While this is an excellent tactic for dealing with more than one person in a space, it’s a downside if you have innocent people nearby.

Is Pepper Spray Illegal?

Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states. However, each state may have specific restrictions. Look up your home state’s laws before purchasing a device for yourself or your business.

Common restrictions include minimum age requirements, maximum canister sizes, potency limits, and licensing requirements for the seller. Many states ban online purchases. You may also encounter legal trouble in some scenarios—like if you spray without provocation.

Be smart, and be sure the law is on your side.

When Criminals Get Nasty, Get Revenge. Learn More About FlashBang.A
When Criminals Get Nasty, Get Revenge. Learn More About FlashBang.A

FlashBang: Pepper Spray and Other Deterrents for Businesses

Pepper spray isn’t just for your keychain anymore.

FlashBang from Deep Sentinel is a powerful crime suppression solution that can impede and subdue intruders at your business. This all-in-one crime-fighting solution offers smoke bombs to reduce visibility, ear-piercing sirens and strobe lights to aggravate, and a special delivery of pepper spray to bring the pain.

Special safeguards ensure that FlashBang only deploys deterrents during a crime. Pepper spray requires a two-step approval process. In addition, the Deep Sentinel guards who watch over your security cameras receive specialized training. The system’s software also helps determine the best approach to an active situation.

The pepper spray device within FlashBang can deploy one canister or a four-canister mechanism. FlashBang’s pepper spray blaster sprays in a 120-degree cone. Given the power of this deployment, overspray may occur. Businesses can expect the effects to linger for at least 20 minutes and up to two hours in areas with minimal ventilation. Residue may land approximately 15 feet around and below the canister.

Know your options for fighting back against criminals, including this latest industry-leading option from Deep Sentinel. With FlashBang, businesses can finally “bring the heat” and stop intruders in their tracks.

FlashBang Blog Banner - DesktopA
FlashBang Blog Banner - MobileA

When Criminals Get Nasty, Get Revenge.
With criminals becoming more violent, the response needs to become more aggressive. FlashBang subdues even the most determined intruders with smoke bombs, pepper spray, strobes, and sirens. Visit or call 833.983.6006 for more information.

Share This