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Coal Tar for Atopic Dermatitis

Topic Overview

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.

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Credits

Current as of: April 1, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Ellen K. Roh, MD - Dermatology

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