The Facts About Coal Tar: What’s It Used In And Is It Safe?

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Coal Tar Cream
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Pharmacist
Pharmacist

How To Keep Safe

The best course of action is to stay informed. Be aware of the products that are suggested by your doctor for treatment of any skin conditions, particularly when treating large areas. Keep a close eye on ingredients lists, so that you can control exactly how much exposure, if any you and your family are subjected to.

If it is not possible to avoid usage, then be aware of the dosage and keep a note of side effects. These can vary dramatically from brand to brand. The following recommendations come from Psoriasis.org , who urges you to not let the details go over your head when you buy over the counter.

Tar can irritate, redden and dry the skin. Test a tar product on a small area of the skin first. If reddening occurs, try applying the tar on top of a moisturizer. Tar can stain clothing, bed linen, and light-colored hair. Tar makes skin more sensitive to sunlight, so be sure to wash it off thoroughly, use sunscreen and monitor your sun exposure. Tar remains active on the skin for at least 24 hours, and you are at increased risk of sunburn during this period.

Studies show some of the chemicals in coal tar may cause cancer, but only in very high concentrations, such as in what is used in industrial paving. Anyone using tar regularly should follow a regular skin cancer checkup schedule. California requires OTC coal tar shampoos, lotions and creams that contain more than 0.5 percent coal tar to be labeled with cancer warnings. However, the FDA maintains that OTC products with coal tar concentrations between 0.5 percent and 5 percent are safe and effective for psoriasis, and there is no scientific evidence that the tar in OTC products is carcinogenic.

We would agree with this advice wholeheartedly. Make your own choices on whether to use coal tar or not, based on the scientific research, and opinions of your medical professionals, but stay vigilant and test small areas of skin at first.

Do you already use or avoid coal tar products? We would love to hear from you.

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