Pentrax Shampoo

** Originally posted by ncdfave **

Hi everyone -

I've used Pentrax Shampoo for quite a while, until I couldn't get it anywhere. I called the manufacturer and was told that it was a manufacturing issue and would be released in early 2008. Well, I've just learned that it will no longer be made at all...ever! I'm devastated! It's the ONLY thing that has worked for my scalp. I've tried other lotions/shampoos, but they make my hair fall out (and I hate to admit that I'm too vain to go bald). I've also tried Denorex, which I heard would help a lot, which is did but only for as long as you leave the stuff on! So basically for 3/4 min in the shower, then it's back to itch, itch, itch. I read about another shampoo called Polytar Plus (from the UK). Does anyone know anything about this one? I'm a little apprehensive about trying something that I can't buy here (MA).
Any input is welcome! Thanks!

God Bless the Red Sox!

Report post

12 replies. Join the discussion

** Originally posted by AnnieB **

Here is a discussion about PENTRAX being discontinued. Someone suggested having it made up by a compounding pharmacy.

Report post

** Originally posted by Resist **

Polytar Plus

PolyTar Plus claims to be 4% Coal Tar Solution. This is not the same as Coal Tar without the word "solution", so don't be fooled. I had to argue with an online retailer about this little fact. PolyTar's real percentage of Coal Tar is 0.05%. If a company adds anything after the words "Coal Tar", then you can be sure the percentage is much lower than what they claim it to be.

Report post

** Originally posted by iceman1234 **

Resist, you are wrong. I buy an overseas brand of PolyTar and it is a true 4% w/w which means it is 4% coal tar of the total volume.
I used pentrax for 20 years and yes it was a 5% coal tar solution. Then all the other companies started fabricating percentages to make is seem like it was ha higher percentage. What you really looking for is xx% Coal Tar Solution. It took me awhile but i found a palce to get an overseas brand that actually has 4% coal tar solution. You can find it at pharmacy direct com. The stuff works pretty good.

By the way...... yes there are US branded polytar's that are acutally 0.5%, but the stuff from these guys is a true 4%.

Report post

** Originally posted by TomDermitch **

Howver, it is designed as a dog's shampoo with conditioners. Probably to get around any lawsuits. It is pretty cheap so maybe it's just what you want...

Shampoos + Conditioners
All Pets

Product Information
Nova Pearls Coal Tar Pet Shampoo


Availability :
Usually ships within 3 to 5 days
This item is available online, but is not available in stores.

Prices, promotions, styles and availability may vary by store and online.
• Shampoo controls seborrheic dermatitis in dogs
• Features novasome encapsulated moisturizers and a coal tar USP 5% solution in a Ph-balanced shampoo
• 12 oz. See Features and Additional Info for more details. • You may return this item to any Target store.
• Catalog # : 10316195 ASIN: B0002AQG5G DPCI: 241-08-8047
• Item can not be gift wrapped.
• Made in USA • Shipping & Delivery Information
• Estimated Ship Dimensions : 8 inches length x 3 inches width x 1.5 inches height
• Estimated Ship weight: 0.90 pound
• This item can only be shipped to the 48 contiguous states. We regret it cannot be shipped to APO/FPO, Hawaii, Alaska, or Puerto Rico.
• We regret that this item cannot be shipped to PO Boxes.

Report post

** Originally posted by Resist **

Resist, you are wrong. I buy an overseas brand of PolyTar and it is a true 4% w/w which means it is 4% coal tar of the total volume.
I used pentrax for 20 years and yes it was a 5% coal tar solution.

Actually you are wrong! The Pentrax bottle says 7.85% w/w Fractar equivalent to Coal Tar 5%. No solution mentioned on the bottle.

Report post

** Originally posted by TruthoftheMatter **

I've suffered from many of the same frustrations outlined above since the disappearance of Pentrax 5% and also received a very rude reaction when I questioned PharmacyDirect as to the concentration of coal tar in Polytar Plus. So rude as to make me suspect they're probably not much more than frat boys (been there... done that!) importing the stuff and selling it out of their garage for beer money. As a result, I've dedicated a considerable amount of time and researched the subject very thoruoghly. By the way, for the benefit of the individual in MA... they sell it out of CT... you don't have to get it from the UK. That's if you still want it after this... my explanation gets quite verbose but it's all here for everyone's benefit. I've also TARRED and feathered the frat boys with it!

First, in response to the conspiracy theory on the other thread to this message board referenced above; that the manufacturers of tar shampoos are for some reason witholding coal tar from the market... the real reason is pending litigation in (where else!) California. Rather than have to add a cancer warning label to their products, manufacturers are substituting other components like salicylic acid, minimizing the concentration of coal tar or simply taking products off the market (Pentrax 5%... at 5% it was a sitting duck!). Resolution of that law suit has been held up because the FDA has always allowed topical/medicinal concentrations of up to 5% of coal tar. However, the FDA has never had jurisdiction to control coal tar because it was an accepted medical treatment long before the organization was created... it's grandfathered! The California suit aims to add controls to coal tar usage and levels. The WHO (World Health Organization) has always controlled coal tar but each European country is kind of on their own with regard to topical/medicinal applications. The levels talked about there are the first hint that Polytar Plus isn't what we're led to believe it is or unfortunately, hope it is.

Second, concentration of a component in a liquid is measured in many ways; three of which are weight of that component to the total weight (w/w), volume of that component to the total volume (v/v) and weight of that component to the total volume (w/v). This is where it gets hairy... every manufacturer seems to designate ingredients and their concentrations slightly differently and when you throw in products that aren't labelled for sale in the U.S. (Polytar Plus), comparison gets monumentally tougher yet. The basic thing to realize is that COAL TAR SOLUTIONS, when used in the manufacture of shampoo, are expressed in percentages of that solution only and that these percentages get further diluted when the other components are added. What must be compared... bottom line... is the percentage of crude coal tar (CCT) in the final products. I'm not sure how to get this site included as a live link but if it doesn't come through that way, you can type it in mechanically... there's a very informative article at:

Polytar Plus calls out coal tar SOLUTION at 4% w/w. Pentrax 5% called out Fractar, an extract of coal tar at 7.85% w/w (that's in solution). For Pentrax 5%, Medicis stated the 7.85% to be equivalent to 5% coal tar, which is CCT. Though Stiefel conveniently doesn't state the equivalent for Polytar Plus, it will obviously be much less than 4%... my guess is absolutely no higher than 2.5% (CCT). However, solutions of coal tar as high as 10% can be reduced to 2% CCT or even lower depending upon the formulation of the shampoo... so, you can see where the same proportion of 10% solution to 2% CCT could mean the Polytar Plus is as low as 4% solution to 0.8% CCT. Someone should have a bottle analyzed... it can't cost that much... anyone work in a lab?

Polytar AF is available in/from Canada (U.S.?). For this product, Stiefel states 0.5% decolorized coal tar (I believe this to be CCT), 1% w/v pyrithione disulfide, 2% w/v salicylic acid and 0.5% w/v menthol. Though it doesn't have the higher level of coal tar, because this product combines four of the five or six most effective components... at least for dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis... coal tar, sulfur, salicylic acid and menthol... without zinc (sometimes effective), which can reduce the effectiveness of the others, I've found it to be plausible in fighting psoriasis symptoms... it really kills the itching. However, I've found that using it along with a steroid lotion (there's many, but ie: betamethasone dipropianate), which I only use for flare ups works real well. The lotion is slightly thicker than water and totally evaporates quickly. It's reasonably priced and very effective eliminating scaling and totally eliminates any redness but requires a prescription. The only other alternative seems to be a prescription for a compounded tar shampoo as mentioned above. I'm afraid that's all there is to the story

Report post

** Originally posted by RichJ **

hi truth of the matter,
welcome to the p family. you have meet some of the wonderful people on here and will find alot of great info. welcome and nice to meet you.

try and have a good day all


Report post

** Originally posted by TruthoftheMatter **

The more I look into this area, the greyer it gets... what a racket! I had an appointment with my dermatologist today and asked her if she could prescribe a coal tar shampoo to be filled at a compounder. She knew she could but had never done it (and she's far from a rookie!) and asked me to talk to the compounder and find out what's available. Ok... I called the primary compounder in Buffalo and they said they could do it and as a matter of fact, they found Pentrax in their Martindale's(?)... for car buffs, that's probably something like the 'Blue book' for drugs or at least where they can obtain the 'scuzzy' on the various products. They said they could compound a formula based on Pentrax.

However, believe it or not, both the dermatologist and the compounder were extremely non-commital (I read that as unsure!) as to what all the concentrations meant in conjunction with 'solution' vs. without and how they're represented. The compounder threw the w/w, w/v & v/v stuff at me but when I didn't bite, their way out was to say they could match the formulation of Pentrax (as close as possible). I wrote to Stiefel yesterday and asked them point blank what the equivalent CCT is in Polytar Plus so that I can compare it to the 5% in Pentrax and the 0.5% in Polytar AF... no answer yet. Don't hold your breath!.. they're enjoying all the new business from the transplanted (and I believe misled) Pentrax people.

The Martindale's(?) did include a carcinogen warning (against skin carcinoma... most likely on the scalp) for Pentrax usage by people with psoriasis... probably because skin layers under the top few are exposed to the coal tar. I assumed from the conversation that you're able to purchase up to a 5% CCT formula based on Pentrax even without a prescription... sorry I didn't nail that part down! Everyone will have to check that out in their own states. That's based on the fact that they indicated they could go to a higher than 5% level 'with a prescription.'

I guess coal tar somehow messes with DNA where it's applied and that's what tends to prohibit the over-production of skin cells (psoriasis plaque) but since the FDA recognizes up to 5% CCT as a safe topical/medicinal level (no documented history of being an appreciable cause cancer), I feel safe enough personally because it's in a soap base and you rinse it off. Everyone has to make their own decision there. The law suit in California does claim to have some proof of such for concentrations above 0.5% but both the FDA and the NPF (National Psoriasis Foundation) have gone on record against that. I'm not a doctor but for sure!.. don't drink it and don't use it during pregnancy... or if you're trying. Matter of fact, potential fathers either... just to be extra safe.

Report post

** Originally posted by TruthoftheMatter **

I'm a displaced M.E. that hated chemistry but my digging here has finally produced some proof. The two links below are for technical data inserts required with the sale of medications in S. Africa. One is for (standard) Polytar Liquid and the other is for Polytar Plus Liquid. There isn't one available for Pentrax 5% Shampoo... probably because it's off the market. As soon as I can get my hands on the Martindale pages for both Polytar Plus and Pentrax 5%, I'll post them for a true comparison.

Though these two data sheets are in the same format, they differ slightly by author and a little interpretation is required:

Click here: POLYTAR PLUS (medicated scalp cleanser)

Tree tars or pitch do not have any medicinal value and are probably included for their color, thickness or smell. Polytar Liquid actually has only 0.1% crude coal tar (solution) and even if you toss in the arachis oil (coal tar extract) at 0.03%, you only have 0.13% crude coal tar. Polytar Plus has the same 0.1% crude coal tar (solution) and even if you toss in the 0.3% arachis oil (coal tar extract), the crude coal tar is only 0.4%, not 4.0%. Besides the difference in the amounts of arachis oil and pine tar, the biggest difference in these two products is the 3.0% hydrolized protein in the Polytar Plus. In my opinion this is simply a filler... it's major use is as a treatment for allergies or food intolerances and as a flavor enhancer. It's probably cheap and harmless since it's used for babies that aren't breast feeding (don't use coal tar products if you're breast feeding!) and don't take well to cows milk. But, most importantly, it allows Stiefel to claim 4% w/w total composition, which they're peddling as 4% coal tar solution and doing nothing to define actual percentage of crude coal tar.

I still think the Pentrax 5% formulation will show 5% crude coal tar and I'll update when I can prove it.

Report post

** Originally posted by TruthoftheMatter **

These are the actual links for the product data sheets... sorry about that:

Report post

** Originally posted by iceman1234 **

There seems to be some misunderstanding about percentages and labeling. Let me clear this up with the information i got from the pharmacy direct guys.

Coal Tar Solution by industry standard is is 75-80% alcohol and the coal tar that is suspended on the alcohol is 20-25%.

If a product says 5% coal tar solution, then it is equivilent to about 1% coal tar.

Pentrax used a 7.35% Fractar which was a proprietary blend and was equivilent to 5% coal tar. The polytar i buy from pharmacydirect seems to work fine, but i have to use it all the time, so maybe it is only 1% coal tar.

I spoke to the people at and they have confirmed their promise to have a shampoo available by June that will be a 5% coal tar. When i asked them what the labekl will read, they said is will state 25% Coal Tar Solution USP -AND- Equivelent to 5% coal tar.

They said it will be an 8oz bottle and will retail for $24.95.... I asked why so much? They explained that the shampoo goes a long way and it is designed so you only have to use just about 1/2 ounce each shower and that once it had cleared up my psoriasis, that the maintainance use would be only about once a week ir as needed. They also said when the volume of bottles goes up they will look at reducing the price. They did however say that there will be quantity discounts. I also asked what to look for and they said the name of the new shampoo is psoriatrax. LOL.... I told them i was going to post the information here and they said they would give me a free bottle, so thats good too.

So finally it seems there will be a true 5% coal tar shampoo next month. I remember using pentrax and i would use it for one week and once i cleared up, i would not have to use it for about a month, thats what i liked about the stronger shampoo and im looking forward to having it again.

Report post

** Originally posted by iceman1234 **

I just found out that pharmacydirect is now selling PsoriaTrax 5%. The site says 25% coal tar solution. I talked to them and they explained that all coal tar shampoos use a coal tar solution and that 20% of the solution is only actual coal tar. Anyway, they are not is stock but are taking orders. btw, they said it will ship in about 2 weeks.

Report post

This discussion is closed to replies. We close all discussions after 90 days.

If there's something you'd like to discuss, click below to start a new discussion.

Things you can do

Support the National Psoriasis Foundation

Help the National Psoriasis Foundation reach its goals and support people like yourself by making a donation today.

Donate to the National Psoriasis Foundation

Discussion topics

Additional resources

Community leaders