Generic Name: coal tar topical (KOL TAR TOP ik al)
Brand Name: Balnetar, Cutar, Denorex Extra Strength, DHS Tar Shampoo, Elta Tar, Ionil T, MG217 Medicated Tar, Neutrogena T/Gel, Oxipor VHC, Psoriasin, Scytera, Tarsum, Tegrin Medicated, Theraplex T
What is coal tar?
Coal tar is a by-product of coal processing.
Coal tar topical (for the skin) is used to treat the skin symptoms of psoriasis, including dryness, redness, flaking, scaling, and itching. Coal tar is not a cure for psoriasis, and it will provide only temporary relief of skin symptoms.
Coal tar may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
What is the most important information I should know about coal tar?
Follow all directions on your medicine label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.
What should I discuss with my health care provider before using coal tar?
You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to coal tar.
Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to use this medicine if you have other medical conditions, especially:
if you are allergic to any drugs; or
if you are receiving ultraviolet radiation treatment for your psoriasis.
Coal tar products may contain lanolin, mineral oil, or other emulsifiers. Check the label of any coal tar product you are using. Talk with your doctor before using coal tar if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.
It is not known whether coal tar topical will harm an unborn baby. Do not use this medicine without a doctor's advice if you are pregnant.
It is not known whether coal tar topical passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medicine without a doctor's advice if you are breast-feeding a baby.
Do not allow a young child to use this medicine without adult supervision.
How should I use coal tar?
Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
Apply coal tar cream, lotion, ointment, or solution according to the directions on the medication label. Some forms of coal tar may be applied 1 to 4 times per day.
To use coal tar bath oil, pour 1 to 3 capfuls into a warm bath before bathing. The oil can make the bathtub slippery. Take care to avoid a fall.
Shake the coal tar shampoo well just before each use. Use enough shampoo to create a rich lather. Massage the shampoo into your scalp and rinse thoroughly. Apply the shampoo a second time and leave it on your scalp for 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.
Coal tar shampoo may discolor blond or colored hair. This effect is usually temporary.
Do not use coal tar to treat large skin areas. Do not use coal tar over long periods of time without your doctor's advice.
Some forms of coal tar can stain fabric or other surfaces.
Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse while using coal tar topical.
Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Keep the medicine tightly closed when not in use.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Since coal tar topical is used when needed, you may not be on a dosing schedule. If you are on a schedule, use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.
What happens if I overdose?
An overdose of coal tar topical is not expected to be dangerous. Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if anyone has accidentally swallowed the medication.
What should I avoid while using coal tar?
Do not use coal tar together with other psoriasis medications unless your doctor tells you to.
Avoid getting coal tar topical in your eyes. If this does occur, rinse with water.
Do not use coal tar to treat the skin of your groin or rectal area.
Avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays (sunlamps or tanning beds). Coal tar can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and sunburn may result.
Coal tar side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Stop using this medicine and call your doctor at once if you have:
severe stinging, burning, swelling, or other irritation of the treated skin.
Common side effects may include mild skin irritation or skin rash.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
What other drugs will affect coal tar?
It is not likely that other drugs you take orally or inject will have an effect on topically applied coal tar. But many drugs can interact with each other. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.
More about Elta Tar (coal tar topical)
Related treatment guides
Where can I get more information?
- Your pharmacist can provide more information about coal tar topical.
- Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
- Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Copyright 1996-2012 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 1.06.
Date modified: November 30, 2016
Last reviewed: December 01, 2015