Watch Out For Coal Tar! 11 Things You Need Know About This Ingredient

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Coal tar has been around the medical and industrial fields since the 1600s, but is it safe to use on your skin and hair? Here are 11 FACTS you need to know about it.

In this article:

  1. It Is Found in Many Products
  2. It Is Used To Treat Different Conditions
  3. It May Cause Skin Irritation
  4. It May Lead to Allergic Reactions
  5. It Makes Skin More Prone to Sun Damage
  6. It Is a Possible Carcinogen
  7. It Can Stain Skin and Nails
  8. It Has an Unpleasant Odor
  9. It Is Unsafe for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women
  10. It Is Used in Synthetic Dyes
  11. It is Banned in the European Union and Canada

The Beauty Industry’s Dirty Little Secret: Everything You Need to Know About Coal Tar

Coal Tar Definition: Coal tar is a thick and dark liquid by-product of burned coal. It has about 10,000 chemicals, but only half have been identified. It is widely used for medical and industrial purposes.

 

1. It Is Found in Many Products

Coal tar was discovered in 1665 and has been used for non-medicinal purposes since the early 1800s. It’s used as a sealing, heating, and binding agent in construction. Aside from its industrial uses, coal tar can also be found in personal care products. You can find coal tar in medicated shampoos, soaps, ointment, lotions, creams, foams, gels, emulsions, and even in makeup.

2. It Is Used To Treat Different Conditions

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Coal tar has anti-fungal, anti-itch, anti-parasitic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is an over-the-counter treatment for psoriasis, dandruff, eczema, and head lice. It usually comes in the form of a topical ointment or shampoo. When used properly, it can help relieve itching and minimize cell thickening.

3. It May Cause Skin Irritation

One of the coal tar side effects is the possibility of skin irritation. After using products with coal tar, some people have reported feeling stinging or burning sensations. Others have experienced redness, swelling, or tenderness. Tar acne is another side effect of long-term use. It will appear like a break out of small bumps on the skin.

If you experience any of these, stop using the product/s immediately. If the symptoms don’t go away after you stop using the product, contact your doctor.

4. It May Lead to Allergic Reactions

Coal tar contains a lot of chemicals, and many of these chemicals are still unknown. That’s why one of the risks of using coal tar is it may lead to allergic reactions. Any kind of swelling, rashes, hives, trouble breathing and chest tightness are all forms of severe allergic reactions and will require immediate medical attention.

5. It Makes Skin More Prone to Sun Damage

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Coal tar helps to shed the dead cells on the skin while simultaneously slowing down the growth of skin cells. That’s why one of the side effects of coal tar is photosensitivity.

People with photosensitivity are more prone to have severe sunburns when exposed to the sun. That’s why doctors will recommend avoiding direct sun exposure for 24 hours after using products with coal tar.

6. It Is a Possible Carcinogen

Carcinogens are substances that promote the growth of cancer cells in tissues. But does coal tar cause cancer? While there is no evidence that it causes cancer in humans, studies have shown that it increases the risk of cancer in some animals. The U.S Food and Drug Administration recognizes this risk and has set a limit of 0.5-5% of coal tar components in topical products.

RELATED: 16 Best Natural Makeup Products Your Skin Will Thank You For

7. It Can Stain Skin and Nails

In it’s purest form, coal tar is a dark and thick substance. In fact, it was originally used to pave roads. So even if it’s just one of the many components of a skin care product, it can still stain your nails and skin.

When you use coal tar for hair, don’t be surprised if notice some discoloration. Some people report that their hair turns grey after using the medicated shampoo. If you’re not careful, coal tar products can also stain your furniture and clothes permanently. The discoloration on nails, skin, and hair should wear off once you stop using the product.

8. It Has an Unpleasant Odor

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There’s no getting around it, coal tar is tar. And tar, well, smells like tar. While some people don’t mind the smell, others find it strong and unpleasant. Most people notice the smell when they use it in its shampoo form. You are more likely to notice the odor when you use the shampoo because you usually have it leave it on for 10 minutes or more before rinsing.

9. It Is Unsafe for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Your skin can absorb coal tar, and it can work its way into your bloodstream. If you are breastfeeding, it’s components may contaminate the breast milk you produce. If you are pregnant, it’s components can go through the placenta and may harm the developing baby. It’s best to avoid products with coal tar if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

10. It Is Used in Synthetic Dyes

While the medical use of coal tar is well-documented, one of its lesser known uses is in the cosmetic industry. Coal tar is sometimes used as a synthetic dye. It gives color to some brands of eye makeup and hair dyes. Some of your favorite eyeshadow or mascara may contain coal tar!

11. It is Banned in the European Union and Canada

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Many countries have banned coal tar dyes entirely. In 2013, the European Union has banned the use of coal tar dye in cosmetics. Canada adopted the same ban in 2014. The restriction is primarily because of its link to allergic reactions, skin irritations, and cancer. Cosmetic companies are encouraged to find a safe and alternative way to pigment their products.

 

Here are more cosmetic ingredients to avoid in this video from Liah Yoo:

It’s important to understand the ingredients of the products you are using so you don’t put yourself at risk. Coal tar may be useful to treat certain medical conditions, but it can be harmful when it’s used for an extended period of time. In the United States, cosmetic companies still use coal tar dyes in their products. If you are concerned about the possible side effects, be sure to check the labels and ingredients of your favorite makeup brands. For safe and non-irritating results, it’s best to use organic and natural skincare products.

Do you have any skin products with coal tar? Will you continue using them? Let us know in the comments section. 

Up Next: Best Natural Ingredients For Skin Health

The post Watch Out For Coal Tar! 11 Things You Need Know About This Ingredient appeared first on Better Organic Skin Care.