What is Coal Tar Shampoo?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Coal tar shampoo is a kind of cleanser that is formulated to treat specific skin conditions that affect the scalp. It is used to alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis and seborrhea. The most common symptoms of these ailments are dryness and flaking of the scalp which can also lead to itching and irritation.

Coal tar shampoo can help relieve scalp problems caused by psoriasis.
Coal tar shampoo can help relieve scalp problems caused by psoriasis.

The effectiveness of coal tar shampoo has to do with the fact that it is a keratolytic. This means that it thins the skin and allows excess tissue to loosen and shed. Keratolytics help to slow the growth of bacteria, which also helps to alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis and seborrhea.

Coal tar shampoo can relieve the discomfort of eczema on the scalp.
Coal tar shampoo can relieve the discomfort of eczema on the scalp.

There are some ingredients in this shampoo that can lead to allergic reactions. Anyone who has allergies should be sure to check the ingredients list on the label before using the cleanser. People who have any condition that makes them sensitive to sunlight should not use this type of shampoo.

A pregnant woman should consult her obstetrician before using coal tar shampoo.
A pregnant woman should consult her obstetrician before using coal tar shampoo.

It is always best for individuals to consult a medical professional before using any new products to treat ailments. Women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant should talk to a healthcare provider before using this shampoo. Furthermore, there are some prescription medications and supplements that can have a negative effect when the interact with the ingredients in the cleanser.

It's wise to consult a veterinarian before treating a dog with coal tar shampoo.
It's wise to consult a veterinarian before treating a dog with coal tar shampoo.

Most drugstores carry a few varieties of coal tar shampoo. While prescription versions are available, most people are able to find it at a local pharmacy or drugstore over the counter. In severe cases, patients may benefit from using a prescription-strength product or an alternative therapy to alleviate the symptoms of scalp conditions.

Psoriasis typically appears as scaly, reddish colored patches of skin.
Psoriasis typically appears as scaly, reddish colored patches of skin.

This shampoo is not only used on people, and a number of companies that sell products for pets offer it as well. Household pets, especially dogs, can suffer from dry skin that can lead to itching, irritation, and even cracked skin. Pet owners who notice a pet who is suffering from these conditions might want to speak to a veterinarian about whether a coal tar product will be helpful.

While coal miners have an increased risk of getting cancer, those who use coal tar shampoo do not.
While coal miners have an increased risk of getting cancer, those who use coal tar shampoo do not.
It's important to check the list of ingredients before selecting any new shampoo.
It's important to check the list of ingredients before selecting any new shampoo.
Psoriasis may cause hair loss.
Psoriasis may cause hair loss.
There are some prescription medications that can have a negative effect when they interact with ingredients in coal tar shampoo.
There are some prescription medications that can have a negative effect when they interact with ingredients in coal tar shampoo.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments

anon151843

I have just tried it and so far it works great. itching and flaking have decreased big time! Only downfall I see so far is the smell.

LittleMan

How effective is coal tar shampoo for hair loss? I had heard it could be really good for bald guys, but is that true?

pharmchick78

Before you start using a coal tar shampoo for psoriasis (or any other reason), you should be aware that coal tar shampoo has some side effects.

For example, many people experience itching, burning, tenderness, and extreme sensitivity to light. Others have severe allergic reactions, including hives, a swollen mouth and throat, difficulty breathing, and tightness of the chest.

Finally, you can't use coal tar shampoo on large parts of your body -- it can be dangerous to sensitive areas like the inner thighs and groins.

The same applies to coal tar dog shampoo -- you can still experience sensitivity after washing your dog, because the shampoo gets on your hands. (And if your dog is like mine, everywhere else too.)

So just be careful, and ask a doctor before you start using this or any other medicated shampoo.

closerfan12

I know it sounds absurdly counter-intuitive to use coal tar for shampoo, but I have to say, having tried a ton of other medicated shampoos, coal tar shampoo worked the best.

I have naturally oilier hair, but I hate using really chemical-y things, so I kept trying out all these natural oily hair shampoos and none of them worked for me.

So I finally tried a 5% coal tar shampoo, and it worked so well.

I know a friend who used Denorex coal tar dandruff shampoo, and it worked really well for her too, so all I can say is, although coal tar doesn't sound clean, it certainly gets the job done.

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