Is coal tar harmful for skin?

coal tar harmful for skin

Beauty may be associated with females but nowadays it seems like male also want to look good by having healthy skin. There are many ways available in the market on improving skin health. It could be from skincare products used directly on skin or taking beauty supplements. The many ways of achieving this has made room for certain substances which may not be suitable for skin, to be used on skin. Thus, you should ask a doctor if you are unsure why certain skin conditions you are having does not improve with skin care. One of the questions you may want to ask is, is coal tar harmful for skin.

Coal tar is a by-product of bituminous coal or black. It contains a tar-like substance called bitumen or asphalt. You may think that coal tar is only for road construction but it is actually used as medicine in treating skin conditions. Thus, coal tar is not harmful for skin. In fact, you may be surprised to know that coal tar has been used to treat skin problems for more than 100 years by now.

Skin specialists may use the substance from its crude to treat people with chronic plaque psoriasis. In such conditions, they may prescribe a 2-5% coal tar in an emollient base using dressings. This treatment is often combined with UV radiation therapy. Dermatologists may also prescribe it to patients with scalp psoriasis. Occasionally, dermatologists recommend coal tar to treat a child’s eczema. In general, coal tar can help with problems with psoriasis, eczema, dandruff and certain dermatitis.

Crude coal tar has a strong and unpleasant smell. Dermatologists do not recommend using it in such a form. Natural form coal tar is usually obtained in solution form (0.1 to 20%) and mixed with other ingredients such as salicylic acid, sulphur, calamine, coconut oil and zinc. The combination is made into the form of lotions, cream, ointment and shampoo. Most coal tar products are mild and are easily available in pharmacies or shops.

It is not completely understood how coal tar works in improving varying skin conditions. It is said to be due to the antimicrobial, anti-itching and keratolytic effect. Keratolytic agents help to shed off dead cells from the top layer of the skin which is important in reducing scaling, flaking, dryness and itchiness. Aside from that, it also helps those with dry skin to keep their skin moist. It also helps to reduce and slow down the growth of skin cells that thicken and scaling the skin. The antibacterial properties prevent skin from further infections.

It is important for those planning to use coal tar, to use it correctly. It is necessary for patients to follow the instructions on the label and how to use it. Below are general tips on using coal tar products:

  • Apply at bedtime whenever possible to avoid daytime discomfort or inconvenience of the smell and staining
  • Leave the coal tar preparations for at least 2 hours unless directed differently by doctor
  • Cover or wrap with bandages to help preparation stay in place. This also prevents staining. Avoid using plastic wrap as this may irritate the skin and make room for infection.
  • When using it on the scalp, best to apply the product in a downward stroke in the same direction as hair growth. Make sure to get the product onto the scalp.
  • Protect the treated area from direct sunlight as the product may cause increase sensitivity to the sun
  • Never apply coal tar product on an infected, blistered, raw or oozing areas of the skin
  • Avoid using coal tar product on the face, around the bottom and around the genitals unless the product are meant to be used onto the area

For adults, symptoms should improve within 4 weeks of using coal tar treatment For children, symptoms should get better within 2 weeks. If symptoms persist or get worse, it is best to get medical advice. Patients need to use coal tar as recommended. This means to make sure to know what to do if accidentally put too much of the product. If a patient puts too much cream or ointment, simply wipe off the extra with tissue immediately. If a patient uses too much of the scalp lotion, rinse hair with water. Using more than the recommended amount may increase risk for skin irritation. Patients should avoid using coal tar products with other medication or skin/scalp products unless the doctor says it is okay to do so.

It can be concluded that coal tar is nor harmful for skin. As a matter of fact, it is used to treat many skin conditions including itching, inflammation and psoriasis. It is rare for people to use coal tar in its crude form. A refined coal tar preparation is the best way to go as it is more pleasant to use.

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