The use of crude coal tar as a useful adjunct in the treatment of cutaneous disease was first reported by Fischel1 in 1894. One of its earliest staunch proponents in this country was C. J. White,2 who found it to be of great value in a wide variety of conditions.
However, to the present day, the exact manner in which tar acts upon the diseased skin is unknown. In animal experimentation tar is known to produce epidermal proliferation, and yet dermatologically tars are employed to reduce hyperkeratosis, parakeratosis, and acanthosis. Rothman and Shapiro3 would explain this seeming discrepancy by the fact that tar initially has a suppressing action on the rete pegs and dermal papillae.
Coal tar has long been recognized as causing sensitization of the skin to ultraviolet rays. Goeckerman4 originally used this principle with excellent results in psoriasis. This sensitizing
COLE HN. Goeckerman Therapy in the Management of Common Dermatoses. AMA Arch Derm. 1959;80(6):788–791. doi:10.1001/archderm.1959.01560240140015
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