Comparison of topical therapy for striae alba (20% glycolic acid/0.05% tretinoin versus 20% glycolic acid/10% L-ascorbic acid)

Dermatol Surg. 1998 Aug;24(8):849-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.1998.tb04262.x.


Background: Topical treatment of striae rubra with 0.1% tretinoin and laser treatment of striae rubra and alba with the 585-nm pulsed dye laser are proven therapeutic options. However, little efficacy has been shown for treatment of striae alba topically, and the laser is currently not a suitable treatment option for darker ethnic skin types.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to demonstrate that selected commercial topical agents can improve the appearance of striae alba.

Methods: Ten patients of varying skin types (I-V) having straie distensae alba on the abdomen or thighs were selected to evaluate the effectiveness of two topical treatment regimens. Patients were placed on daily topical application of 20% glycolic acid (MD Forte) to the entire treatment area. In addition, the patients applied 10% L-ascorbic acid, 2% zinc sulfate, and 0.5% tyrosine to half to the treatment area and 0.05% tretinoin emollient cream (Renova) to the other half of the treatment area. The creams were applied on a daily basis for 12 weeks. Improvement was evaluated at 4 and 12 weeks in an objective unblinded fashion at the follow-up visits, a objective blinded fashion by visual grading at the conclusion of the study, and in an objective blinded fashion with profilometry. Additionally, histopathologic analysis was performed.

Results: Analysis of these data reveals: 1) both regimens can improve the appearance of stretch marks; 2) these topical therapy regimens are safe and effective in study patients with minimal irritation; 3) elastin content within the reticular and papillary dermis can increase with topical 20% glycolic acid combined with 0.05% tretinoin emollient cream therapy; 4) both regimens increased epidermal thickness and decreased papillary dermal thickness in treated stretch marks when compared with untreated stretch marks; 5) combined epidermal and papillary dermal thickness in stretch marks treated with either topical regimen approaches that of normal skin; and 6) profilometry can objectively measure differences in skin texture associated with striae treatments when compared to controls, however, it is not sensitive enough to justify comparison or quantitative improvements between similarly effective treatments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / pathology
  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Astringents / administration & dosage
  • Astringents / therapeutic use
  • Atrophy
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / drug therapy
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / pathology
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Elastic Tissue / drug effects
  • Elastic Tissue / pathology*
  • Elastin / drug effects
  • Emollients
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glycolates / administration & dosage
  • Glycolates / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Keratolytic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Keratolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Safety
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Thigh / pathology
  • Tretinoin / administration & dosage
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use*
  • Tyrosine / administration & dosage
  • Tyrosine / therapeutic use
  • Zinc Sulfate / administration & dosage
  • Zinc Sulfate / therapeutic use


  • Astringents
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Drug Combinations
  • Emollients
  • Glycolates
  • Keratolytic Agents
  • glycolic acid
  • Tyrosine
  • Tretinoin
  • Zinc Sulfate
  • Elastin
  • Ascorbic Acid