On the list of cosmetic or medicinal products you would consider applying to your skin, coal tar probably isn’t one of them. That’s because when we hear the word “tar” we immediately think of a smelly, black, viscous substance that belongs on roof shingles, not skin.
In spite of its unpleasant appearance, coal tar has long been used as an effective treatment for a variety of skin conditions, including psoriasis. In fact, tar products have been used for this purpose for nearly 100 years. Since psoriasis is a fairly common medical disorder—affecting around 3% of people globally and roughly 2% of Americans—health researchers are always searching for new and improved treatment regimens to benefit sufferers. However, physicians and patients continue to turn to products that incorporate the tried and true coal tar ingredient to provide symptom relief.
Tar can actually be produced from either wood or coal (ancient trees), but coal based tar is by far the more popular choice for the treatment of psoriasis. The exact mechanism by which tar relieves symptoms of the condition is still poorly understood, but it is widely accepted that its application to affected areas reduce skin cell overgrowth and alleviates much of the pain and itching associating with psoriasis. It is especially helpful for patients with scalp and plaque psoriasis.
Besides providing symptom relief in psoriasis sufferers, tar products carry the added benefits of being relatively inexpensive, accessible over the counter, and safe for long term use. There has been some debate in recent years about whether use of tar products could possibly increase a person’s cancer risk, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
New Approaches to an Old Treatment
Although tar has been shown to be an effective and practical treatment for many psoriasis sufferers, it is not without its drawbacks. Tar products are known to have a rather pungent odor which only intensifies as the potency of the tar treatment increases (i.e. a 5% tar concentration smells much worse than a 0.5% concentration). Tar products also often have a thick, greasy consistency and their dark color can stain clothing, furniture, and bed linen. Some tar products have a unique formula resulting in a green tar opposed to the thick greasy consistency of the black tar. Tar based shampoos can be very effective in treating scalp psoriasis but they must be left in for around 10 minutes before rinsing which leaves the smell of tar clinging to hair.
Recently however, researchers have begun to address these drawbacks to create tar products that are just as effective but perhaps a little more appealing for users. Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in this area has been the development of green tar products.
Coal tar products intended for the treatment of psoriasis can easily be found in the form of ointments, creams, liquids, shampoos, sticks, and gels. Some tar products have a product texture that is cream based as opposed to the regular tar products that have a oil consistency. But now there are a number of FDA approved tar products that come in a convenient and easily applied forms. Certain tar products work quite effectively. Most tar products demand a thirty to sixty day relief of symptoms.
The development of new tar products may be just the beginning of a host of new advances in the treatment of psoriasis.
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Written by Chase Sabo. Chase is an aspiring writer. He loves to write about marketing, SEO and social media.