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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 5% coal tar in a
hydro-alcoholic gel (such as Estar) or 5% liquor carbonis detergens in a cream
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.
April 17, 2012
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
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