What to do if you get e-liquid on your skin

We can all be a little clumsy at times, and therefore it’s good to have an action plan if you happen to get e-liquid on your skin during a session. As a novice vaper, it would be natural to panic in such a situation since the bottles are always labelled with tons of scary warnings, do-nots and even advice to call a poison control center in worst case scenarios in the event of consumption or contact with skin.

So if you do happen to have an accident, then of course you’re probably going to fret – but you really don’t need to worry that much. The majority of the warnings on the bottle are really there for the companies’ benefit not yours – they need to cover themselves in the event of misuse. In reality, the odd drop of e-liquid on your skin isn’t going to be that big of a deal.

But still, that doesn’t mean you should be lackadaisical – so bear the following advice in mind, and you’ll be just fine.

Absorption through the skin

Your e-juice bottle will probably have a warning about nicotine being absorbed through the skin, and this one is completely true – after all, that’s how nicotine patches work. Furthermore, “green tobacco sickness” is a direct cause of skin absorption – those responsible for harvesting tobacco can get nicotine on their hands if they aren’t careful, which then gets into their body. So, yes, get e-juice on your skin and your body will most likely absorb the nicotine, but should you really be worried about this?

What can happen if I take too much nicotine?

The levels of nicotine – even in the super-strength e-liquids on sale (36mg/ml) – in commercial e-liquids aren’t going to put you at risk. There simply isn’t enough nicotine in the e-liquid that can be absorbed into your body quickly enough – obviously you’re going to wash off the e-juice as soon as you’ve spotted it on your skin.

Theoretically, though, consider that you left your finger in your bottle of e-liquid for an extended period of time, what would happen? You may begin to feel nauseous or like vomiting, and perhaps you’ll experience, headaches, convulsions or stomach cramps. Rapid breathing and a rapid heartbeat aren’t out of the question. Put your whole arm in super-strong nicotine for hours on end, and yes, there’s a chance you’ll stop breathing, but nobody is ever going to do that – however, that’s what e-liquid manufacturers have to protect themselves against. Too much nicotine generally can cause nausea and headaches, so at worst if you get e-juice on your skin, you may feel like you’ve just been smoking too much.

How much nicotine is too much nicotine?

Now there has to be an arbitrary figure on how much nicotine one needs to take before it’s considered a serious danger to health. The CDC say that 60mg of nicotine can be fatal to the average adult, however this figure is totally inaccurate. If it was true, then simply a few millimeters of normal strength e-liquid could be fatal, and if this was the case then you can be sure the product would never make it onto the shelves.

But the CDC has stuck with this 60mg figure, and that means it must have come from some authoritative source once upon a time – Bernd Mayer did some digging on this and returned with an eye-opening answer. Incredibly, the 60mg government-used figure is actually based on nothing more than a guess, and a guess that was made more than 100 years ago no less, when there simply wasn’t good enough equipment to produce trustworthy results. More recent studies have pointed toward 500 to 1000mg of nicotine being a lethal amount of nicotine, although it may well be even higher still.

However, you don’t need anywhere near that much nicotine to get some nasty results. 100mg or so would leave you feeling rather unwell. But in the amounts of e-juice that you’re going to be handling, consuming too much nicotine in that environment will evoke a similar reaction to drinking too much fizzy drinks or coffee.

Handling e-juice

Hopefully this post is putting your mind at rest about the sheer quantities of nicotine your body needs to take in before there’s any risk of damage. But if your fears still aren’t allayed, there’s more good news – the rate of absorption is so low that you really needn’t worry.

A recent study determined that when testing with an 8mg/ml e-juice, that nicotine absorption was extremely low and that you could dump your palm in it and still not put yourself in danger. When just on the skin, nicotine didn’t even begin to be absorbed for more than two hours, and even when immersing the whole palm, the absorption rate was just 0.5mg an hour.

Hence, you would have to be beyond irresponsible to the point that you were actively trying to cause yourself harm before e-juice being on your skin would pose a serious threat. However, these guidelines would probably be of use to manufacturers who would deal with higher concentrations of nicotine in producing e-juice – in that case, putting on some goggles and gloves would be recommended.

Action to take if you spill e-juice

Now we’ve fully clarified that you don’t need to be scared if you get e-juice on your skin, here’s how you should proceed in the event of a mishap.

1) Look at the overall picture

A few drops on your skin and you can just go and wash it off, but if you end up knocking a whole bottle over then you need a plan, for others if not yourself. Children and pets for example could be threatened in that scenario, so get them out of the room so you can carry out a thorough clean and not put them at risk.

2) Cleaning your skin

Washing off the e-juice straight after it gets on your hand, leg, arm or wherever with some warm water is the best thing to do. Don’t rub aggressively at the skin or you may just aggravate it.

3) Cleaning surfaces

A minor spillage and a few paper towels should do the trick, but if you have a big one then you should probably try soaking up the e-juice first. Cat litter and/or sawdust are a good way to do this, and then once the excess is gone, you can get to wiping down the affected area.

4) Change your clothes

If you’ve spilled e-liquid on your clothes, then you’ll probably want to change them as soon as possible, as otherwise nicotine will absorb into your skin as your nicotine-soaked shirt or trousers acts as a makeshift patch.

5) Be aware of nicotine poisoning symptoms

More of a precautionary measure than anything else, but keep an eye out for any signs of nicotine poisoning in the hours after the incident. This could result from not thoroughly cleaning up the e-juice or spilling more than you first thought.

If you do think you’re experiencing nicotine poisoning systems, then don’t hesitate to contact the poison control center who can give you some tailored advice after you explain your situation. The chances are any symptoms you are feeling will be gone within two or three hours.

Final thought

While you should always be responsible with your e-liquid use, don’t worry too much about said dangers. The most likely pain you’ll feel from a spillage is in your wallet from wasted juice!

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