We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Healthline only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.

Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
  • Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
  • Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
  • Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
We do the research so you can find trusted products for your health and wellness.
Was this helpful?
  • Customer ratings: We included products that were as close to a 5-star rating as possible.
  • User reviews: We looked for the pros and cons of each product as reported by real-life users.
  • Active ingredients: Aside from coal tar, we also included a few products with other psoriasis-benefiting ingredients, such as salicylic acid.
  • Scent and added fragrances: You’ll find a combination of products with added fragrances, as well as those with natural scents, based on your preferences.
  • Moisturizers: A few of the products in our roundup include additional moisturizing ingredients specifically designed for dry hair.
  • Affordability: You’ll also find products at a range of prices to fit your budget.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$20
  • $$$ = over $20

Best overall

MG217 Psoriasis Medicated Conditioning Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: 3% coal tar
  • Free of: N/A
  • Pros: It has a higher coal tar strength compared with other OTC shampoos.
  • Cons: It contains parabens, sulfates, and fragrances.

Customer reviews note that the coal tar smell can linger after use, but they have found the results to be worthwhile. Others advise that for best results, you may want to lather the shampoo and keep it on your scalp for several minutes before rinsing it out.

Best known brand

Neutrogena T-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula

  • Price: $$$
  • Key ingredients: coal tar 0.5%, 2% Neutar solubilized coal tar extract
  • Free of: N/A
  • Pros: It helps control itchiness and buildup after first use.
  • Cons: In rare cases, the shampoo may discolor gray, white, or color-treated hair.

Overall, users agree that the scent of this shampoo is off-putting, but most seem to agree that the results are worth the smell. A few users also reported skin irritation, so you may consider doing a patch test on another area of your skin before applying the shampoo to your full scalp.

Best OTC extra-strength formula

Neutrogena T-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Extra Strength

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: 1% coal tar, 4% Neutar
  • Free of: aluminum
  • Pros: Extra strength formula is still gentle on the scalp and contains added moisturizers.
  • Cons: It has an unpleasant smell

Customers tend to review the Extra Strength version favorably, with many noting that the unpleasant smell is worth the results. Some even note that this product works better than prescription formulas they have tried in the past.

Best for budget

Medicasp Coal Tar Gel Dandruff Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: 0.5% coal tar
  • Free of: N/A
  • Pros: Tar smell doesn’t linger like other coal tar shampoos.
  • Cons: It may be drying to the hair.

The manufacturer and customer reviews describe better symptoms after one use, though some users note that Medicasp may be drying to the hair. It may also take a few weeks to see the full benefits of this product.

Best sulfate-free product

ArtNaturals Scalp 18 Shampoo

  • Price: $$
  • Key ingredients: 0.5% coal tar, tea tree oil
  • Free of: sulfates, parabens, and animal products
  • Pros: It’s great for dandruff.
  • Cons: Some users report dry ends after prolonged use, and some mention strong smell.

This shampoo is vegan, and is also free of both sulfates and parabens. It’s also listed as a climate-pledge-friendly product.

Best shampoo and conditioner duo

Pete & Pedro Control and Condition

  • Price: $$$
  • Key ingredients: 1.8% coal tar, 1.5% menthol
  • Free of: parabens
  • Pros: As a duo product, this set helps take the guesswork out of finding the right conditioner to complement your coal tar shampoo.
  • Cons: Some of the ingredients may be irritating for sensitive skin.

Overall, users report favorable experiences, including soft hair. However, one user on Amazon noted the duo products didn’t alleviate itchiness as promised. The peppermint oil and menthol may also cause irritation. If you have sensitive skin, consider doing a patch test before use.

Best generic brand

True + Real Therapeutic Plus Tar Gel Dandruff Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: 0.5% coal tar
  • Free of: N/A
  • Pros: It’s more affordable than Neutrogena T-Gel Original Formula and has the same active ingredients.
  • Cons: It may also leave an unpleasant smell.

Overall, customers agree that this product is worth the tar smell, and many are pleased with the value for the price.

Best for thinning hair

Pura D’or MD Maximum Defense Anti-Hair Thinning Shampoo

  • Price: $$$
  • Key ingredients: 0.5% coal tar, vitamin E, biotin
  • Free of: gluten, sulfates, and parabens
  • Pros: It may help treat thinning hair.
  • Cons: It’s more expensive than other coal tar shampoos on the market.

Customers note that this shampoo has a pleasant smell, while others have pointed out recent changes to the formula that make it seem watered-down. Overall, this is a highly rated coal tar shampoo.

Best for dry/damaged hair

Tarsum Relief Shampoo

  • Price: $$
  • Key ingredients: 2% coal tar, beta hydroxy acid
  • Free of: N/A
  • Pros: It can be used either as a leave-in treatment or shampoo.
  • Cons: It may be pricier for the amount of product offered.

One downside to this product is the price for the amount of shampoo (whether it’s 4 ounces or 8 ounces). However, customers note that the price is worth the effectiveness, and say that this product worked on their scalp better than prescription formulas.

Best for itchy scalp

Major Thera-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: 0.5% coal tar
  • Free of: N/A
  • Pros: It’s a budget-friendly option for itchy scalp.
  • Cons: It has a strong smell.

Customers say that this product has a stronger smell, but many find the results worth the odor. Others note that the Major Thera-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo also helps control flakiness.

Best for dandruff

MG217 Dandruff Therapeutic Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: 3% coal tar
  • Free of: N/A
  • Pros: It treats dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis symptoms.
  • Cons: There’s a lack of customer reviews.

MG217 products are rated highly overall on Amazon. As of yet, this particular shampoo has not yet been reviewed.

Best maximum strength coal tar shampoo

Alphosyl 2-in-1 Shampoo

  • Price: $$$
  • Key ingredients: 5% coal tar
  • Free of: N/A
  • Pros: It’s designed for both children and adults.
  • Cons: It’s pricier than other options on this list.
Name Price Best Key ingredients Free of
MG217 Psoriasis Medicated Conditioning Shampoo$overall3% coal tarN/A
Neutrogena T-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Original Formula$$$well-known brand0.5% coal tar, 2% Neutar solubilized coal tar extractN/A
Neutrogena T-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Extra Strength$OTC extra-strength formula1% coal tar, 4% Neutaraluminum
Medicasp Coal Tar Gel Dandruff Shampoo$budget-friendly option0.5% coal tarN/A
ArtNaturals Scalp 18 Shampoo$$sulfate-free option0.5% coal tarsulfates, parabens, and animal products
Pete & Pedro Control and Condition$$$shampoo and conditioner duo1.8% coal tar, 1.5% mentholparabens
True + Real Therapeutic Plus Tar Gel Dandruff Shampoo$generic brand0.5% coal tarN/A
Pura D’or MD Maximum Defense Anti-Hair Thinning Shampoo$$$for thinning hair0.5% coal tar, vitamin E, biotingluten, sulfates, and parabens
Tarsum Relief Shampoo$$for dry/damaged hair2% coal tar, beta hydroxy acidN/A
Major Thera-Gel Therapeutic Shampoo$for itchy scalp0.5% coal tarN/A
MG217 Dandruff Therapeutic Shampoo$for dandruff3% coal tarN/A
Alphosyl 2-in-1 Shampoo$$$maximum strength coal tar shampoo5% coal tarN/A
  1. Thoroughly wet your hair, especially the scalp.
  2. Separate your hair into sections as you apply a small amount of coal tar shampoo to each area.
  3. Gently massage the product until you’ve covered the entire scalp and roots of your hair. Let the product sit for up to 5 minutes, or as directed.
  4. Rinse out thoroughly. Repeat, if desired.
  5. Follow up with your choice of moisturizing conditioner.

How often should you use coal tar shampoo?

Does coal tar shampoo cause any side effects?

Will coal tar shampoo bleach my hair?

Can using coal tar shampoo lead to hair loss?

may be seen in scalp psoriasis

What type of conditioner should I use?

How do you get rid of the coal tar shampoo smell?