Last update Sept. 29, 2023

Tar, Wood Tar, Tar Oils

Likely Compatibility

Fairly safe. Mild or unlikely adverse effects. Compatible under certain circumstances. Follow-up recommended. Read Commentary.

Tar or pitch and its oils are obtained from the destructive distillation of charcoal, wood of various trees and other plant materials. They contain pyrene, which can be toxic. They have antipruritic and weakly antiseptic properties. They are used topically in eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and other skin disorders.

After application of coal tar ointment to the skin, 1% (0.3% to 1.4%) of the applied dose of pyrene is absorbed. (VanRooij 1993)

Pyrene and its metabolites were not detected, or in negligible amounts in three of eleven samples, in the milk of a mother treated for 7 weeks with an application of coal tar to the entire integument except face and breasts. (Scheepers 2009)

A pyrene metabolite was found in the infant's urine, presumably through contact of the infant's mouth or skin with the mother's skin. (Scheepers 2009)

Do not apply to the breast and areas of skin that the infant may come in contact with or suck on. Extreme care should be taken to avoid contact with the mother's skin during treatment or a safer alternative should be chosen. (Butler 2013).


  • (Corticosteroids) (Safe substance and/or breastfeeding is the best option.)
  • Calcipotriol (Safe substance and/or breastfeeding is the best option.)
  • Calcitriol (Safe substance and/or breastfeeding is the best option.)
  • Ketoconazole (Safe substance and/or breastfeeding is the best option.)
  • Pimecrolimus (Safe substance and/or breastfeeding is the best option.)
  • Salicylic Acid (Safe substance and/or breastfeeding is the best option.)
  • Tacrolimus (topical use) (Safe substance and/or breastfeeding is the best option.)

Suggestions made at e-lactancia are done by APILAM team of health professionals, and are based on updated scientific publications. It is not intended to replace the relationship you have with your doctor but to compound it. The pharmaceutical industry contraindicates breastfeeding, mistakenly and without scientific reasons, in most of the drug data sheets.

Jose Maria Paricio, Founder & President of APILAM/e-Lactancia

Your contribution is essential for this service to continue to exist. We need the generosity of people like you who believe in the benefits of breastfeeding.

Thank you for helping to protect and promote breastfeeding.

José María Paricio, founder of e-lactancia.


Tar, Wood Tar, Tar Oils belongs to this group or family:


Main tradenames from several countries containing Tar, Wood Tar, Tar Oils in its composition:


  1. Butler DC, Heller MM, Murase JE. Safety of dermatologic medications in pregnancy and lactation: Part II. Lactation. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Mar;70(3):417.e1-10; quiz 427. Abstract
  2. Scheepers PT, van Houtum JL, Anzion RB, Harder R, Bos RP, van der Valk PG. Uptake of pyrene in a breast-fed child of a mother treated with coal tar. Pediatr Dermatol. 2009 Mar-Apr;26(2):184-7. Abstract
  3. VanRooij JG, De Roos JH, Bodelier-Bade MM, Jongeneelen FJ. Absorption of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons through human skin: differences between anatomical sites and individuals. J Toxicol Environ Health. 1993 Apr;38(4):355-68. Abstract

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