Photodynamic therapy (PDT), a potential therapy for cancer treatment, utilizes exogenously applied or endogenously formed photosensitizers, further activated by light in an appropriate wavelength and dose to induce cell death through free radical formation. 5-Aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) is a pro-drug which can be converted to the effective photosensitizer, protoporphyrin IX (PpIX). However, the use of 5-ALA in PDT is limited by the low penetration capacity of this highly hydrophilic molecule into appropriate skin layers. In the present study, we propose to increase 5-ALA penetration by using formulations containing glycerol monooleate (GMO), an interesting and useful component of pharmaceutical formulations. Propylene glycol solutions containing different concentrations of GMO significantly increased the in vitro skin permeation/retention of 5-ALA in comparison to control solutions. In vivo studies also showed increased PpIX accumulation in mouse hairless skin, after the use of topical 5-ALA formulations containing GMO in a concentration-dependent manner. The results show that skin 5-ALA penetration and PpIX accumulation, important factors for the success of topical 5-ALA-PDT in skin cancer, are optimized by GMO/propylene glycol formulations.