how pepper spray works

The Science Behind Pepper Spray: How Does It Work?

Pepper spray, also known as OC spray (Oleoresin Capsicum), has become a popular means of self-defense for both civilians and law enforcement officers.

The mere mention of pepper spray is enough to make most people cringe at the thought of being sprayed with it. But how much do we really know about this potent, non-lethal weapon?

In this blog post, we will delve into the science behind pepper spray and how it works to incapacitate an attacker.


Pepper spray is a derivative of the chili pepper plant, specifically the genus Capsicum.

It contains an active ingredient called capsaicin, which is an irritant to mammals.

When sprayed on an attacker, the capsaicin causes an immediate burning sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat, which can cause temporary blindness and difficulty breathing.

Capsaicin also acts as a vasodilator, causing the capillaries and blood vessels in the eyes to dilate, resulting in increased blood flow to the area. This can lead to swelling and temporary vision loss.


Pepper spray typically comes in a canister that is pressurized with a propellant such as nitrogen or CO2.

When the trigger is pulled, the propellant forces the liquid out of the canister at a high velocity, creating a mist or stream.

The size of the liquid droplets and the pressure at which they are expelled determine the range and effectiveness of the pepper spray. A fine mist is best for short-range use, while a stream is more effective at longer distances. 


Once the pepper spray mist or stream makes contact with an attacker, the active ingredient capsaicin binds to the pain receptors in their eyes, nose, and throat.

This causes an intense burning and stinging sensation that can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

The effects are strongest when the spray hits the face but can also be felt on any exposed skin.

The severity of the effects depends on the concentration of capsaicin in the pepper spray. 

Safely pepper spray contains the highest legal-to-carry OC currently available on the market, with 1.4% Major Capsaicinoids (MC).

When used properly, pepper spray is an effective means of self-defense. It is non-lethal and can quickly incapacitate an attacker, allowing the user to escape or seek help.

Final Thoughts

Pepper spray is a potent, non-lethal weapon that works by causing an intense burning and stinging sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat.

It contains an active ingredient called capsaicin, which is an irritant to mammals.

Pepper spray is effective when used properly, but can also be dangerous when misused. As with any self-defense weapon, it is important to familiarize yourself with how it works and how to use it safely and responsibly.

By understanding the science behind pepper spray, you can make an informed decision about whether or not it is right for you.

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