If you suffer from psoriasis, chances are someone may recommend pine-tar soap as an traditional home remedy. Manufactures claim the pine tar and pine-tar oils in soaps soothe the itching and flaking associated with the skin condition. Home remedies may not be as effective as prescription medications or commercial products. Ask your doctor about using pine tar soap as a home treatment.
Psoriasis ranges from itchy to painful, according to MayoClinic.com. The rash usually reveals itself as dry, red borders surrounding thickened, silvery skin patches. The chronic condition is an immune system disorder that causes skin cells to build up at abnormal rates. Psoriasis may lie dormant for long periods of time, but stress, weather, illness and medications can trigger recurrences of the rash.
Pine Tar Soap
Manufactures produce pine tar by heating it in an enclosed chamber. The tar is used in a number of products, including soap and wood preservatives. Two of the leading pine-tar soap companies have produced for at least 130 years. The soapmakers claim pine-tar soaps are effective treatments of psoriasis and eczema, work effectively as dandruff shampoo bars, and also contain deodorizing and insect-repelling properties.
Few medical studies have been run on the effectiveness of pine-tar soap to treat psoriasis. The New Zealand Dermatological Society’s online database, DermNet NZ, includes both coal-tar and pine-tar products on its list of suggested topical remedies. It notes that while tar products boast long histories treating psoriasis, it remains unclear why they provide relief. According to the society, tar products work best to relieve chronic plaque psoriasis, which usually affects the scalp, lower back, knees and elbows.
Pine Tar vs. Coal Tar
Currently, coal tar is more frequently mentioned as a rash treatment than pine tar. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that coal-tar prescription ointment, or over-the-counter coal-tar products, may help ease the discomfort of psoriasis. It does not mention pine tar as a useful therapy. The National Psoriasis Foundation notes that coal tar is used more frequently in commercial rash treatments and dandruff shampoos. Coal tar is a potential carcinogen when used in high doses, the foundation warns. People using coal-tar products to treat psoriasis should get regular skin cancer screenings.
Tar products may irritate your skin; test a small amount on a small patch of your skin before using pine-tar soap liberally. DermNet NZ warns that using the soap just before going outside may make your skin more sensitive to UV rays, potentially resulting in sunburn.
Alternative Home Remedies
MayoClinic.com’s recommended home remedies include oatmeal baths, aloe vera gel, or capsaicin — chili pepper — ointment. Over-the-counter ointments containing hydrocortisone or salicylic acid may also be more effective than pine-tar soap, or may complement the soap as a treatment. Again, check with your doctor or dermatologist for guidance.
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Ellen Douglas has written on food, gardening, education and the arts since 1992. Douglas has worked as a staff reporter for the Lakeville Journal newspaper group. Previously, she served as a communication specialist in the nonprofit field. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Connecticut.