• Coal tar therapy has been used for many years in the treatment of scaling skin diseases, including psoriasis and eczema. Previous studies of the potential effectiveness of tar have utilized phototoxic erythema assays with long-wave ultraviolet light (UV-A). However, in clinical use, coal tar is rarely used with UV-A, particularly for scalp disease. Therefore, we investigated a nonphototoxic approach to evaluate different coal tar products. Coal tar was found to suppress epidermal cell DNA synthesis in the hairless mouse model, and this is the basis for the assay presented. Using the epidermal cell DNA synthesis suppression assay, we observed that crude coal tar and a new extract of crude coal tar were equally effective and that a concentration gradient effect was achieved. In addition, four commercial coal tar shampoos assayed varied greatly in their ability to suppress epidermal cell DNA synthesis. One shampoo was washed after ten minutes and no significant alteration of suppressive effect was seen.
(Arch Dermatol 1982;118:487-489)