Psoriasis topical treatments: coal-tar

Coal-tar treatments for psoriasis can be thick and heavy creams or are available in a lighter lotion (e.g. Exorex lotion). These can be effective in reducing inflammation and itchiness. They can be used long term on the skin to try and help prevent psoriasis, unlike topical steroids or dithranol which should only be applied to psoriasis plaques. Coal-tar can be used as a topical treatment for areas of the skin and some people had used a coal-tar medicated shampoo specifically for their scalp. Many of the impracticalities talked about in the ‘Psoriasis treatments: an overview of topical treatments’ section were mentioned about coal-tar treatments. The texture, colour and smell were the main issues talked about.

The smell of coal-tar was off-putting for many. Simon described it as “foul smelling” which was “a hit for the self-esteem”. He worried about what others might think if they smelt it on him. Simon also worried about the ‘fumes’ and whether it made his skin/clothes more flammable (able to burn/set on fire).
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Coal-tar treatments can causes stains on bedding and clothes. Other surfaces touched by the skin can also be stained, such as the wall if you brush against it.

Ella had a bad reaction to a coal-tar cream when she was little. It made her skin flare-up and she had to stay in hospital to get better.


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