What Are the Benefits of Coal Tar for Psoriasis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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Coal tar for psoriasis can help clear lesions and keep the patient’s skin more comfortable. This topical medication comes in formulas designed for the skin, face, and scalp, such as creams and shampoos. Many of these are available over the counter, although some strong forms may be restricted to prescriptions, depending on where a patient lives. People have been using coal tar for psoriasis for a very long time, illustrating its efficacy; despite the fact that it is messy and smelly, patients continue to rely on it.

The compound is a byproduct of coal and petroleum processing, and tends to be dark brown to black in raw form. One problem with coal tar formulations is that they can stain and cause messes, and the product also has a strong odor; people may need to be careful about where and how they apply it to protect clothing and bedding. If the formulation has a lower percentage of coal tar, these issues are not as significant, but it can also be less effective..

Patients with mild to moderate psoriasis tend to benefit the most from coal tar. When they apply the substance to their lesions, they should notice an improvement within several weeks. The scaly, harsh, dry appearance of psoriasis plaques can start to resolve, along with itching and inflammation. It is important to use coal tar consistently to get the best benefits, as intermittent applications may not offer the same level of protection.


Using coal tar for psoriasis will not completely clear the condition, but it can make patients feel much better. In some cases, it may be combined with other treatments to offer the patient a mix of options. These can include light therapy and other topical drugs along with oral medications. Periodic evaluations can determine how well the patient is responding, to determine if the benefits of the treatment are outweighing the risks of irritation.

Some precautions do need to be taken with coal tar for psoriasis. Patients can experience tingling, irritation, and itching in healthy skin when they apply it, especially at high concentrations; it also needs to be kept away from the eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent irritation. Another potential issue is increased sensitivity to sunlight on areas of skin treated with coal tar, which can result in a severe rash when the patient goes outdoors without adequate sun protection like long sleeves and a hat.


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Post 3

Coal tar is effective, but I've noticed that products with a high concentration of coal tar, or products with chemicals can make psoriasis worse. Not all coal tar products are good. Some can have side effects.

I think that those who are interested in coal tar should use all natural coal tar soap and avoid anything with too many other ingredients an especially chemicals.

Post 2

@ysmina-- I think coal tar has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps kill harmful bacteria and relieves itching and redness. That's why it's a popular treatment for psoriasis. It's actually been around for a fairly long time. It's considered to be an old fashioned treatment, but it's probably the best non-prescription treatment out there.

I have scalp psoriasis and I use a coal tar shampoo to relieve the symptoms. I've tried many different shampoos in the past, prescription and over the counter. Coal tar shampoo is the only one that has worked so well. The good part is that it doesn't stop working after several weeks like some other shampoos.

Post 1

Coal tar actually seems like something that would be harmful, since it's made from coal. How exactly does it relieve psoriasis symptoms? Is it really worth the odor and the mess?

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