Dermatologists have been prescribing coal tar for over 100 years to treat psoriasis.
Many psoriasis treatments that contain coal tar, including solutions that can be added to a bath, foams, shampoos, and ointments. The advantages of using coal tar are that it costs less than most psoriasis treatments and can be used long term.
Coal tar can effectively treat:
- Plaque-type psoriasis
- Scalp psoriasis (especially if itch is the main symptom)
- Difficult-to-treat psoriasis on the palms and soles.
Coal tar treatment can be used alone or as part of a treatment plan that includes other medicines, phototherapy, or both.
Safety and effectiveness
Coal tar is considered safe for long-term use. People who are sun sensitive or take medicine that makes them more sensitive to ultraviolet light should also use a different treatment, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Coal tar can be very effective. Some people see complete clearing with coal tar and long remission periods. Many patients who have difficult-to-treat psoriasis on their palms and soles (palmoplantar psoriasis) see clearing when they use coal tar along with a corticosteroid that they apply to their psoriasis.
Coal tar is also an effective treatment for patients who have scalp psoriasis. It can clear scalp psoriasis and increase remissions on the scalp.
In one study, patients using a lotion containing 1% coal tar had better results than the patients using a product that contained 5% coal tar extract. Other studies have found similar results. For this reason, it’s best to tailor treatment to individual response.
As mentioned, coal tar can be an effective treatment for scalp psoriasis and is found in psoriasis shampoos. When treating the skin, patients should massage the product into the psoriasis. To increase the effectiveness of coal tar, you may have you wrap the affected area. Wrapping greatly increases the strength of coal tar.
Source: American Academy of Dermatology Association