Why Does Frying Oil Burn Your Eyes?

Although I love fried food and can live on it for many days together, I don’t look forward to frying.

Frying oil hurts my eyes so much that I usually end up ordering french fries. 

I decided to find out why this happens and if there is some way out. 

Why Does Frying Oil Burn Your Eyes? 

Our eyes, just like the rest of the body, react to triggering factors. The burning is a natural reaction as soon as our senses get the signal.

Allow me to elaborate on what exactly triggers the eyes to give such an uncomfortable reaction.

The Defense Mechanism of Our Eyes 

The body is built to protect itself from harmful triggers like heat, smoke, etc. The eyes are sensitive organs and burning is their defense mechanism to external stimuli. 

They react sharply by burning so you can pull away from the trigger. This action of the eyes also helps to protect the rest of the body as the senses try to pull the person away. 

Another natural defense mechanism of the eyes is watering. They begin to water to tear you away from the present surroundings. Watering will also occur when w foreign substance goes inside the eyes. 

The Heat Created by High Temperatures

Frying involves high temperatures. The heat created irritates the nerves of the eyes.

The presence of high temperature triggers burning, and even watering of the eyes. The higher the temperature, the stronger the reaction. 


As oil needs to be heated at a high temperature for frying, it starts to emit fumes.

These fumes irritate the eyes and nose making your eyes burn. Fumes, when inhaled also trigger the eyes to water and burn. 

Not only oil, but certain foods also tend to emit fumes or chemicals when fried. These can irritate the nose and lungs, causing your eyes to burn. 

One example is french fries. When fried, these release chaconine and solanine chemicals. The chemicals are eye irritants and trigger burning and watering of the eyes. 

Another example is frying alkali and acid together. Like potatoes dipped in vinegar. When fried together, they produce a lot of smoke and heat.

Burnt Food Particles 

This is the worst trigger! I say this because not only do the small pieces fly around, they very happily tend to go inside our eyes. 

The stuck particles get reheated repeatedly. The particles are so tiny in weight that they fly away easily. 

As soon as these burnt particles enter the eyes, they can cause burning, watering, and even itching! 

Quality of Oil 

Have you ever tried frying with different oils and noticed any difference? 

You would have noticed that your eyes do not react or react very less to certain oils. While some oils bring out an extreme burning reaction. This is because of the chemical interaction or reaction of your eyes and the oil. 

As the oil gets heated up and begins to fry, it gives off chemicals causing your eyes to burn.

Potato Skin

Sometimes it is not the oil but the skin of potatoes. When heated, the skin of potatoes gives off certain chemicals that can irritate the eyes. 

As the skin takes a long time to fry, the chemicals keep going off. This combination of hot oil and potato skin causes your eyes to burn.

Hot Oil Droplets 

Frying is a risky task if not done with focus. The usual side effects are splatterings that may (Heavens forbid) fall inside your eyes. 

Once the oil splash seeps in, the natural defense mechanism comes into play and your eyes start to burn. 

Air Contaminants 

Burning of the eyes is also dependent on good ventilation. If your kitchen space is small and you do not have adequate air circulation, it can cause your eyes to burn. 

There are also other air contaminants inside the home that can trigger irritation to the eyes like dust, aerosols, cigarette smoke, etc. 

Lack of air circulation can make the air stale. This is especially true while frying in oil. The whole house begins to smell and may even cause suffocation.


Certain spices, if they get into our eyes or nose, can trigger a string of allergic reactions like redness of the eyes, burning, watering, etc. 

Some examples are Pepper, chili, onion vapors, and even salt. If they drift from the frying pan to the eyes, your eyes will start to burn

Material of the Frying Pan 

If the material of your frying pan is not of good quality, the chemicals released from the pan will cause your eyes to burn.

This happens because of contaminated cheap materials used to make pans. They react to high temperatures and release fumes and chemicals. These chemicals irritate the eyes and cause burning.

Prolonged Frying 

If you have fried continuously for a while and then stopped, your eyes may burn. This is a natural defense mechanism in the absence of triggering factors. 

You may observe this if you have fried for a long duration. 

Long after you finish off, your eyes will still burn. 

This is because your nerves are at an edge and they start feeling the absence of a triggering factor to be a sign of bad news. 

Also read: Can You Fry Chicken in Aluminum Pan?

How to Prevent Eyes from Burning When Frying Food? 

Allow me to share a few tips I found effective in dealing with burning eyes during frying : 

  • Keep your kitchen and home well ventilated. If you wish to fry, open a window, and switch on the exhaust or table fan. Make sure the kitchen has good cross ventilation.
  • Use a good air filtration system in your kitchen to get rid of air contaminants. There are many air purifiers you can choose from.
  • Wear eye shields or goggles ( the easiest option). Not the sun-protected ones. The ones we use during swimming. Hopefully, the presence of goggles will prepare our bodies beforehand for what is to come. 
  • Fry in batches rather than engaging in prolonged frying. Take small short breaks. 
  • Use oils that cause you the minimum irritation when heated at high temperatures. You need to experiment with different oils until you find the one that doesn’t burn your eyes. 
  • It is best to go for oils that have the least contaminants. Also, choose the oil with a high melting temperature while frying. 
  • Use good quality pans. Cheap ones emit fumes and chemicals when heated
  • Make sure to stand slightly away and higher than the frying pan. This way there is less chance of oil splashes, food particles, and spices getting into your eyes.
  •  Use a fryer for foods that release chemicals during frying that causes eyes to burn
  • Never fry an acid and alkali together at high temperatures. It may even cause a mild explosion. Avoid combinations like potatoes and acids. 
  • Use the modern deep frying baskets. They are safe and have anti-splatter guards. 
  • Use a wide and deep frying pan so there is a lot of distance between the oil and your eyes.

What to do If Your Eyes Are Burning?

If your eyes are already burning after oil frying, you can try any of the following home remedies.

I have personally tried all of them at some point. 

  • Close your eyes and place cucumber slices on top of your eyelids. Allow the coolness to stay for some time. 
  • Put a few drops of ‘artificial tears’ eye drops. They can be easily obtained from the local medical store.
  • Take two cotton pads. Dip them in ice-cold water. squeeze the excess water and place them on your eyelids. 
  • Rinse your eyes a couple of times to remove the irritants. Go to your room, switch on your favorite music, off the lights. Close your eyes. Allow the music to relax your tensed muscles and nerves around your eyes. 
  • Move outdoors on the balcony or the porch. Deep breathe a couple of times and close your eyes. Stay still and relaxed for some time. 
  • Rinse your eyes. Drink a lot of water to reduce the burning. Walk around. 


Burning of the eyes while oil frying is quite common. It happens to everyone.

The only difference is in the reaction to triggering factors. Examples are hot oil, fumes, food particles, released chemicals due to bad quality of pan or oil, stale air having contaminants, prolonged frying, and bad ventilation.  

I have mentioned tips that will help you get rid of most of these triggering factors so your eyes no longer burn.

Don’t forget to try out the home remedies mentioned above in case your eyes are already burning after oil frying. Let me know which one worked for you. Happy frying!

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I’m Jueria and I am a regular contributor on cookeryspace.com. In my articles, I share time-saving techniques, appliance wizardry, and health-friendly recipes to bring taste and wellness to your table. So raise a glass (or a spatula) with me, to good health and good food, made easy!