Coal tar is applied to the skin to reduce the itching of
atopic dermatitis. It is not as strong as a
corticosteroid and can be used as a "bridge therapy"
from a stronger medicine when symptoms have improved. Coal tar may also be
used for treatment of thick skin (lichenified) if
other treatment is not effective.
Coal tar is available as a gel, cream, or ointment or as a solution
for the bath. Examples of coal tar preparations include Targel and Exorex.
Coal tar preparations are generally thought to be safe. Use coal tar carefully near the eyes or in skin folds. Do not use a tar preparation if your skin rash is very inflamed.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerAmy McMichael, MD - Dermatology Ellen K. Roh, MD - Dermatology