Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a clinical treatment that combines the effects of visible light irradiation with subsequent biochemical events that arise from the presence of a photosensitising drug (possessing no dark toxicity) to cause destruction of selected cells. Today, the most common agent used in dermatological PDT is 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA). As a result of its hydrophilic character, ALA penetrates skin lesions poorly when applied topically. Its systemic bioavailability is limited and it is known to cause significant side effects when given orally or intravenously. Numerous chemical derivatives of ALA have been synthesised with the aims of either improving topical penetration or enhancing systemic bioavailability, while reducing side effects. In vitro cell culture experiments with ALA derivatives have yielded promising results. However, if ALA derivatives are to demonstrate meaningful clinical benefits, a rational approach to topical formulation design is required, along with a systematic study aimed at uncovering the true potential of ALA derivatives in photodynamic therapy. With respect to systemic ALA delivery, more study is required in the developing area of ALA-containing dendrons and dendrimers.