Self-defense mace and pepper sprays are extremely effective choices to protect yourself. In this article, we dive into exactly what pepper spray feels like and how it works on the nervous system.

APR 23, 2017


“Pepper spray particles cling to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs causing a violent but non-lethal reaction.”

What Pepper Spray Feels Like

So, you've bought pepper spray and carry it on your key chain but are wondering, "Exactly how good is this stuff going to work in an emergency?" Maybe you are shopping online and wondering whether a stun gun or mace is better for your personal self-defense.

In this article, we dive into exactly what pepper spray feels like and how it works on the nervous system. To learn about the pros and cons of pepper spray, we suggest you read the informative article: The Pros and Cons of Pepper Spray.

First and foremost: pepper spray is a VERY effective and VERY reliable method of self-defense; but it takes a few seconds to really take effect. Don’t panic and just keep spraying!!! As the effects takeover, your attacker will be temporarily immobilized so you can escape.

Most pepper sprays on the market today also contain a UV dye which will not wash off of your attacker. This is added to pepper spray as an additional safety measure which helps police authorities identify your attacker if he escapes the scene and is caught later.

⭐The Physical Effects of Pepper Spray

The main ingredient in mace and pepper spray is extracted from the pepper plant. It's called oleoresin capsicum (O.C.) and it is the chemical compound that causes the violent physical reaction that makes pepper spray so effective for self-defense.

When the O.C. spray comes in contact with any soft tissue part of the body, it causes the blood vessels to restrict and results in the following effects.

⭐Effects on the Respiratory System

As the pepper spray particles cling to the soft tissue of an attacker's throat, nasal passages and lungs, the attacker will experience an immediate and high-level inflammation.
  • The throat will restrict and narrow.
  • Temporary paralysis of the larynx will restrict air flow.
  • Extreme coughing and gasping for breath.
  • Nausea will overcome the attacker.
  • Your attacker’s respiratory functions will return to normal within 20-60 minutes. 

⭐Effects on the Skin

The typical reaction to the skin is extreme inflammation, redness and a burning sensation.

While the effects of mace on the skin surface are not as violent as they are to an attacker's mucous membranes; any pepper spray product that hits the skin will inflame it severely. The concentration of O.C. in pepper spray can be as high as ten times the concentration found in a habanero pepper seed.

In addition, most pepper spray products contain a U.V. dye that stains the skin. This is a safety feature used to assist law enforcement in identifying the attacker.

“The biggest advantage to self-defense that pepper spray offers is the distance it provides between you and your attacker.”

⭐Effects on the Eyes

The effects of pepper spray on the eyes is one of the most powerful self-defense benefits. The reaction is almost immediate and  triggers uncontrollable tearing, involuntary closing of the eyelids, redness, swelling, stinging and temporary blindness to your attacker.

Pepper spray and mace cause temporary blindness but do not cause any permanent damage to the eye.

According to the Vision Eye Institute, the epithelial layer of the cornea is disrupted by pepper spray, so people with impaired corneal integrity (diabetes, dry eye or recurrent corneal erosion) are particularly susceptible to these effects, compared to those with good eye health.


⭐Effects on the Muscular System

Pepper spray products have a secondary effect on muscle coordination. As an attacker's mucous membranes react violently to this capsaicin compound, the body and brain go into full panic mode.

Your attacker may stumble, drop to his knees, not be able to run away and experience extreme disorientation by the effects that it has on the soft membranes (eyes, nose, lungs and throat). Defensive spray products  are designed to debilitate an attacker’s immediate senses first. Often times, reports are that after the initial “blast” from a pepper spray and debilitating effects, the attacker still feels the effects that rake over his body for a long time.

⭐Self-Defense Weapon

It's important to stress that self-defense preparation is not a "one and done" topic. Different situations will be better handled with different self-defense weapons and tactics.

The biggest advantage to self-defense that pepper spray offers is the distance it provides between you and your attacker. The ability to begin defending yourself before an attacker can grab you is a game changer in how the situation ends. Just seeing that you are armed with pepper spray will often be enough to prevent an attacker from selecting you to be their next victim.

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