The use of tar preparations in dermatology has been known for many years. Dioscorides described the use of asphaltic tar as a panacea for cutaneous disorders nearly 2,000 years ago.1 Coal tar was discovered and described by Becker and Serle in 1681, but its application was first specifically mentioned by Fischel in 1894.2 Since the inception of its use, coal tar has been tried in many forms and on almost all types of cutaneous lesions. There has been disagreement as to the effectiveness and actual mode of action of coal tar in the cases where it proved beneficial. It has been alleged that coal tar contains a photosensitizing element which makes the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light, and thereby results in an increased erythema and pigmentation of the skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet light.
Goeckermann3,4 first published his regimen for the treatment of psoriasis
EVERETT MA, COFFEY CM. Coal Tar and Ultraviolet Light. Arch Dermatol. 1961;84(3):473–476. doi:10.1001/archderm.1961.01580150119019
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