Coal tar is applied to the skin to reduce the itching of atopic dermatitis. It is not as strong as a corticosteroid and can be used as a "bridge therapy" from a stronger medicine when symptoms have improved. Coal tar may also be used for treatment of thick skin (lichenified) if other treatment is not effective.
Coal tar is available as a gel, cream, or ointment or as a solution for the bath. Examples of coal tar preparations include 5% coal tar in a hydro-alcoholic gel (such as Estar) or 5% liquor carbonis detergens in a cream base.