A review of the Web site and advertising for the psoriasis treatment, Cleariasis.

Grade D

Cleariasis® is a line of products from Skin-Tech Research and Development for treating psoriasis and other skin diseases. The products include a spray, a cream, a shampoo, a soap, and pills. The spray, cream, and shampoo contain coal tar as the active ingredient (at 0.5% strength, the lowest level at which the FDA allows psoriasis treatment claims), with neem (margosa), tea tree oil, and other substances added. The pills are simply neem leaf, and the soap contains Dead Sea salts and other oils.

The first thing one notices about Cleariasis® products is the expense. Compared to other coal tar products, especially. Here’s a breakdown of approximate discounted prices:

Skin Therapy Spray$17.50/oz
Skin Therapy Cream$35.00/oz
Medicated Shampoo$5.00/oz
Internal Therapy$1.20/pill
Skin Therapy Soap$6.00/bar

For an example of how expensive these Cleariasis® products are, over at NeemAura Naturals, a person can get a bottle of 90 pills with 440 mg crushed neem leaf (just like the Cleariasis® “Internal Therapy”) for just $17.95, or just 20 cents per pill. The Cleariasis® product is six times more expensive, without any apparent extra value.

How do the coal tar products compare? It’s hard to be completely fair, here, since the Cleariasis® products have oils and whatnot in them which normal coal tar products do not. But, let’s compare prices anyway. MG217 is a coal tar ointment with a strength of 2.0%, or four times higher than the Cleariasis® products. Yet 3.8 ounces of MG217 costs just $14.00, or $3.68/oz, meaning the Cleariasis® cream costs 9-and-a-half times as much (or, MG217 costs just 10.5% of Cleariasis®).

If you’re uncomfortable comparing a cream to an ointment, the MG217 shampoo, with 3.0% coal tar (even more!), is just $1.75/oz, or 35% of the cost of the Cleariasis® shampoo.

But enough about the high costs. The ingredients which the spray, cream, and shampoo share (besides coal tar) are neem and tea tree oil. I can find no evidence that either of these ingredients have ever been clinically tested for their effects on psoriasis in particular, or any reason to believe that they (or any of the other ingredients) would work with “synergy” with the coal tar to produce better results.

Other apparently-unsupported claims include: that the Skin Therapy Spray “promotes skin cell repair” and “goes beneath the epidermis down into the dermis, where most topical treatments cannot reach.” That it can “rehabilitate the skin’s structure” or “restore elastin and collagen in the skin.” Also, that the Skin Therapy Cream “helps restore the natural pigmentation to the epidermis,” or that it acts as a “powerful… anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal.”

The most bizarre claims, however, are offered up with the description of the Internal Therapy capsules. For example, “Medicine is now beginning to recognize that a build-up of the immune system is needed for complete treatment of psoriasis.” This is false for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that suppressing the immune system is a recognized treatment for severe psoriasis (using drugs such as cyclosporine). Going the other way by “building up” the immune system can make psoriasis symptoms worse.

But they’re not done:

A special concentrate of medicinal margosa, this is a really amazing natural medication: It oxidizes the blood to promote healing, dilates blood vessels to increase circulation, aids the kidneys to kill blood poisoning, protects the liver and is a powerful anti-flammatory.Every single one of these characteristics is beneficial to damaged skin.

How many ways is the above misleading, at best? Given all the recent research into the importance of antioxidants, anything which “oxidizes the blood” should generally be considered to be bad for one’s health. Psoriatics already have dilated blood vessels, dilating them more is not needed. Psoriasis isn’t caused by “blood poisoning.” And there’s no reason to think that just because one has damaged skin, one’s liver is in jeopardy.

(Note also that according to New Scientist, neem may not be safeBroken Link.)

And I know I was trying to get onto subjects other than price, but it’s notable that the Cleariasis® web pages regularly suggest that for best results, one should use at least three of their products. While they do offer further discounts on package deals, the costs are still higher than buying comparable non-Cleariasis® products singly.

Okay, aside from the five products mentioned above, the Cleariasis® site offers up a lot of other information on many other pages. I won’t go into detail on most of the things they say, I’ll just highlight a few:

In the “Cleariasis® FAQ” (as opposed to their “Psoriasis FAQ,” see below), in answer to a question about side effects, the author(s) state, “There are no known side effects of the Psoriasis treatment. The Cleariasis family of products consists of all-natural ingredients of the finest quality.” The first part is simply false, since coal tar is known to be a photosensitizer — coal tar products usually carry a warning to avoid sunlight for 24 hours after application. The second sentence is an attempt to get an unwary consumer to believe that natural things are necessarily safe things, although I’m sure the owners of Cleariasis® would balk at rolling in poison ivy, even if it were “of the finest quality.”

On the “Our Pledge to You” page, they strongly imply that the testimonials they’ve received from “existing clients” claiming “excellent results” are good enough to consider the Cleariasis® products “tested” and “proven.” This is, of course, nonsense, or we would have to consider the products of many, many quacks to be “proven,” as well, since they had/have testimonials, too. The FDA and Federal Trade Commission often file complaints and lawsuits against health products with nothing but testimonials for “evidence.”

While it’s wonderful that the Cleariasis® folk “dedicate the information on this site to all who suffer from this physically and emotionally trying disorder,” it doesn’t necessarily count for much when it’s pretty clear that the information is being presented in order to sell products. Really, if the products didn’t exist, would the rest of their site have been put up?

There are two important things to note about the Cleariasis® “guarantee” web page (“Our Product Exchange Policies”). One is that they imply, through loose grammar, that their actual product has over a hundred years of “historically proven value,” when that’s true only of coal tar. Whether Cleariasis® itself has any value is questionable, at best, since they use the least amount of coal tar that they legally can (and their pluralization of “FDA approved ingredients” is not true, since only one ingredient, the coal tar, is approved for the treatment of psoriasis).

Second, their “guarantee” isn’t much of a guarantee. If Cleariasis® isn’t working for you, then within 60 days of invoice date (not the date you receive your product), you call them, and they’ll try to first figure out how it’s your fault that their products aren’t working. If their suggestions as to how you should change your routine of using their products still don’t help, they’ll gladly exchange the products you’ve got for different products of theirs. And, since they remind you on this page, over and over, about how people are different and psoriasis is such an unpredictable disease, even if you’re completely dissatisfied, they don’t volunteer to hand you your money back. It’s not even an option.

The Cleariasis® description of what psoriasis is can be best described as short. And the idea that built-up skin plaques come first, with inflammation coming later, is strange, to say the least. Most researchers seem to think it works the other way around.

The glossary provided on the site has much misinformation in it, too much to detail here at all. Suffice it to say that anyone who offers up “Leaky Gut Syndrome” as a possible cause of psoriasis without any supporting evidence whatsoever has failed a major credibility test.

The “Psoriasis Diet Guide” is a mish-mash of dietary advice, apparently based upon the idea that speaking to “thousands of skin sufferers” is a good way to “determine what foods have an impact.” From what I’ve seen, the general rule on dietary psoriasis triggers seems to be that everyone’s got to figure it out for themselves, and no single set of “recommendations” will do much good.

This page also has a glaring typographical error on it, as after we’re told to avoid “excessive grease,” this suggestion is made: “limit yourself to spicy and/or fried foods.” I’m sure the author(s) meant for us to eliminate spicy or fried foods, rather than for us to live on them exclusively, but this was too much to pass up.

The Cleariasis® folk also offer some pages for “members only,” sign-up requiring at least an email address. In that section, they have a page of “Other Psoriasis Treatments,” devoted to describing the negative aspects of UVB and PUVA (getting some details wrong), Methotrexate, Cyclosporine, and topical Steroids, all to try to scare you away from these effective treatments; a page with “Helpful Hints” about the fabrics you wear, detergents you use, when to apply treatments and what soap you should use (Cleariasis® soap suggested, of course); and a page on “Emotions” which misses the point about psoriasis and stress, and, contradicting the “Helpful Hints” page, tells us we shouldn’t let our disease “dictate what clothes” we wear.

Most of the information in this last bunch of pages can be found elsewhere on the web, without a sales pitch, an attempt to get your email address, or the obvious dismissal of valuable mainstream psoriasis therapies, a couple of which are potent enough that anyone needing them would be a fool to even attempt to use the extremely weak Cleariasis® products.

They’re also promising that a message board and a one-on-one support chat feature will be forthcoming.

In conclusion, the Cleariasis® site offers a very expensive set of products and a lot of misinformation about those products in particular, and psoriasis and its treatment in general. Cheaper products with the same FDA-approved medication (coal tar) abound on the market, at much higher strengths than available from this company.