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Using Coal Tar USP
from Maryann H.

Ed:  I ordered and received a bottle of Coal Tar USP directly from an online chemical company, very cheap considering the cost of retail coal tar products. My original thought was to add it to other products to up the dose but eventually I started painting it on with a brush — works very well. What do you think? Am I asking for cancer?  Am I breaking the law? Thanks, -Maryann H.

*****

Ed’s Response:  Wow.  Good questions, Maryann!  You probably are breaking the law if you live in California because they believe coal tar in all but the minutest dilutions will cause cancer.  Then again, you might only break the law if you resell your Coal Tar USP in California with the express intent of having the purchaser use it on their skin.  (And, since it's working well for you, you're not likely to resell the stuff, are you!)

But jimminy, Maryann!  Give us a few more words on this subject!  Please, answer these...
(1) How and from whom did you purchase the Coal Tar USP and what made you decide to do it?
(2) Is it very extremely yucky to paint on with brush?  Stinks?  Stains?  We want all the goopy details!
(3) How long do you let it stay on your skin?  How long did it take to see good results?

You MUST answer these questions ... otherwise we'll think you've contracted fatal skin cancer and died!  -Ed

*****

Ed: The idea of Coal Tar USP is not mine.  Pharmacists use it all the time in compounding RX-only products. My surprise was its availability on the net.  Then I took it a step further and used it full strength. It is really surprising stuff, not greasy or goopy. I'm just afraid of its potency.  The itching stops completely, sometimes for a week or more.  It is relief like I haven't experienced in years — and I have P all over my body. A Google search will reveal the companies but I am concerned that if you post it on your site my supply will be gone. Thanks, -Maryann H.

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Ed’s Response:  You're probably right to be concerned about using Coal Tar USP full strength.  I "Googled" as you recommended and share your surprise.  I had no idea it could be that easy to buy this stuff. 

Dr. Lowe's book, Psoriasis: A Patient's Guide (1998) lists these U.S. Products as OTC tar-based:

  • Aquatar Gel
  • Baker's P and S Plus Gel
  • Estar Tar Gel
  • Fototar Tar Cream
  • T-Derm Tar Oil
  • T-Derm Tar and Salicylic Acid Scalp Lotion
     
Perhaps examining the labels on one or more of these products would give valuable information on the potency and exact coal tar product being used.

If I were in your shoes I'd ask a pharmacist first about using Coal Tar USP.  They might dispel concern or tell you what to do with the raw product to make it "safe."  More likely they'll tell you to consult a dermatologist.  I used to use an overnight scalp concoction that contained both coal tar and salicylic acid (occluded under a shower cap).  It was prescribed by my derm and prepared by a compounding pharmacist.  It was VERY pricey and, according to the pharm, VERY hard to make (those two active ingredients do not get along very well).  Of course, the "jar" this stuff came in was not labeled with proportions.  So, why did I tell you this story? ....

I imagine there's a reason why I haven't heard from more flakers using Coal Tar USP directly.  HOWEVER, could be no one's thought to "Google" the subject as you've done!  -Ed

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