All about coal tar

Coal tar is a black liquid, rich in organic matter, that is derived from coal and has been around for many years as a treatment for psoriasis. It is effective in treating mild to moderate plaque psoriasis. Coal tar has few side effects, but it has a strong odour, and you may find it messy to use.

To use, apply coal tar-based products in the direction of the hair growth and let dry on your skin for at least two hours. Be aware that coal tar can stain fabric, so don't wear your favourite clothes at this time! Check with your doctor about possibly applying coal tar at night, not only to avoid staining day-time clothes, but also to minimize any self-consciousness about the odour of the coal-tar. (Keep in mind, though, that the coal tar may stain your sheets and pyjamas - maybe reserve an older set for this purpose.) Different people experience different success with coal tar products (e.g., some people may experience skin irritation) - ask your doctor about which products might work best for you, and for how long you should use them.

For psoriasis scaling on the scalp, coal tar-based shampoos are available.

Your doctor may recommend using coal tar together with another psoriasis treatment, ultraviolet B phototherapy (often referred to as the Goeckermann regimen). Studies have shown this combination therapy to be very successful in helping to clear lesions.

Recently, some people have voiced a concern that using coal tar may cause skin cancer. However, at present, no evidence exists to support this, and experts continue to believe that the concentrations of coal tar found in most psoriasis products are low enough to be safe. If you use coal tar, talk to your doctor about any skin cancer concerns you may have.

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