New treatment of atrophic acne scars by iontophoresis with estriol and tretinoin

Int J Dermatol. 1995 Jan;34(1):53-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4362.1995.tb04381.x.


Background: Common treatment of atrophic acne scars consists of invasive methods such as dermabrasion, chemopeeling, or implantation of bovine collagen. In our study a new noninvasive treatment method consisting of local iontophoresis is demonstrated. Local iontophoresis was performed with either estriol--a mainly topically active estrogen--or with tretinoin.

Patients and methods: Eighteen women were treated with estriol iontophoresis twice weekly for a period of 3 months. In addition to photographic and clinical documentation of the skin, venous blood for determination of serum levels of prolactin and estradiol according to standard radioimmunoassay methods was obtained monthly. Tretinoin iontophoresis was performed according to the same time schedule in 28 patients (19 women and 9 men) with atrophic acne scars.

Results: Improvement of acne scars was observed in 93% of patients treated with tretinoin iontophoresis and in 100% of the group treated with estriol iontophoresis. No hormonal changes were noted in the estrogen group. Side effects involving the skin appeared in the tretinoin group in 4 cases and consisted of increased dryness and of retinoid dermatitis.

Conclusion: Both treatments were shown to be clinically effective in decreasing acne scars and persistence of effects. This promising new therapeutic approach may thus replace invasive treatment methods in many patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Acne Vulgaris / pathology
  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Atrophy
  • Cicatrix / drug therapy*
  • Cicatrix / pathology
  • Drug Eruptions / etiology
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estriol / administration & dosage
  • Estriol / therapeutic use*
  • Facial Dermatoses / drug therapy*
  • Facial Dermatoses / pathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Iontophoresis*
  • Male
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced
  • Tretinoin / administration & dosage
  • Tretinoin / adverse effects
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use*


  • Estradiol
  • Tretinoin
  • Prolactin
  • Estriol