Coal tar is known as a keratoplastic drug, and is sometimes suggested to treat the skin when suffering from itching, scaling, and flaking. It is considered a suitable medication to treat conditions including psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis.
It causes the skin to shed it’s top layer of dead cells while slowing down the growth of new skin cells. This reduces itchiness, scaling and dryness.
Coal tar crops up in age ingredients list for some shampoos, scalp treatments, soaps, hair dyes, and lotions.
When looking at the label be aware of the following:
Coal tar can be used as a food dye. Artificial coloring agents are made by combining hydrocarbons including toluene, xylene, and benzene, which are obtained from the distillation of bituminous coal. It is not generally obvious when coal tar dyes are used, so be sure to check the ingredients list.
Coal tar has been used for many years – long before steroids were readily available to treat dry skin conditions. Therefore lots of people feel that worries about it’s safety are largely unfounded. It is very cheap to use, and obviously avoids the steroid related side effects of alternative topical ointments.
The FDA considers 0.5 to 5% OTC coal tar preparations safe for psoriasis.
Benzopyrene, one of the compounds within coal tar, has been found to be carcinogenic through skin exposure, which makes these products a particular cancer concern.
Studies have also found that exposure to coal tar produces skin tumors. In addition, it has been linked to cancer of the lung, bladder, kidney and digestive tract, with some instances of skin cancer being reported amongst individuals using coal tar products.
There are also concerns regarding toxic damage to the organs and neurological system. Loss of co-ordination, sleep and emotional disturbances have been linked to coal tar usage.
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