Aklief vs Retin A

Listen to the article instead of reading through it.


For patients with acne, certain topical medications can help in managing the symptoms and improving skin condition. Aklief (trifarotene) and Retin-A (tretinoin) are two such drugs that are often prescribed for acne treatment. Both belong to a class of medication known as retinoids, which work by affecting the growth of skin cells. However, their mechanism of action differs slightly.

Aklief is a first-generation topical retinoid that selectively targets retinoic acid receptor gamma (RARγ), one of the main types of receptors in the skin involved in cell proliferation and differentiation processes. This specificity allows it to treat mild-to-moderate facial and body acne effectively.

On the other hand, Retin-A affects all three retinoic acid receptors—RARα, RARβ, and RARγ—and has been used for decades to address various dermatological conditions including blackheads, whiteheads and other types of pimples associated with acne. It's also proven effective against fine lines, dark spots or rough skin caused by sun damage.

What is Aklief?

Trifarotene (the generic name for Aklief) is a novel retinoid specifically designed to target acne, and it's the first new retinoid molecule approved by the FDA in over 20 years. It works by binding selectively to the gamma subtype of retinoic acid receptors (RAR-gamma), which are predominantly found in the skin. By doing so, Aklief effectively reduces inflammation and encourages rapid cell turnover, helping clear out blocked pores and preventing new blockages from forming.

On the other hand, Tretinoin (the generic name for Retin-A) was one of the first retinoids used for acne treatment. It binds to all subtypes of RARs - alpha, beta, and gamma - thus having broader activity but potentially more side effects as well due to its non-selective nature.

While both are effective at treating acne vulgaris when applied topically once daily in the evening, Aklief has been shown in clinical trials to be less irritating than other topical retinoids like Retin-A. This could make it a better choice for those with sensitive or dry skin types who have struggled with tolerating traditional topical retinoids.

What conditions is Aklief approved to treat?

Aklief (trifarotene) is approved for the treatment of acne in certain cases:

  • Acne vulgaris, a common form of acne seen in teenagers and young adults.

Retin A (tretinoin), on the other hand, has been approved for use in various skin conditions:

  • Acne vulgaris
  • Keratosis pilaris, a condition that causes rough patches and small, acne-like bumps on the skin
  • Fine wrinkles and darkened patches of skin caused by sun damage.

How does Aklief help with these illnesses?

Aklief (trifarotene) is a medication designed to manage acne by activating retinoic acid receptors in the skin. It accomplishes this by binding to these receptors, triggering a series of cellular reactions that lead to decreased inflammation and increased cell turnover. This process helps unclog pores and reduce the formation of new acne lesions. Retin-A (tretinoin), on the other hand, works similarly but also stimulates collagen production which can help with fine lines and wrinkles along with managing acne. Cell turnover is an essential process for healthy skin as it allows new cells to replace older ones, improving overall skin health. Both Aklief and Retin-A are derivatives of vitamin A indicating their vital role in maintaining skin health; however, Aklief specifically targets only one type of retinoic acid receptor making it more targeted than Retin-A which has a broader effect.

What is Retin A?

Retin A, a brand name for tretinoin, is a retinoic acid that increases the turnover of skin cells by preventing their adherence. It was first approved by the FDA in 1971 and has been used extensively to treat acne vulgaris and improve signs of photoaging. Retin A comes in different forms such as gel, cream or liquid and can be applied directly on the skin.

As tretinoin does not have any effect on sebaceous gland function or keratinization which are typical factors contributing to acne formation, it results in a side-effect profile distinct from other anti-acne treatments such as antibiotics. Its primary mechanism focuses on cell turnover which makes it less likely to cause bacterial resistance - an issue often seen with long-term antibiotic usage for acne treatment. Furthermore, being topically administered allows minimal systemic absorption thereby reducing potential systemic side effects. The impact on cell turnover can prove beneficial especially for patients who do not respond well to "typical" over-the-counter anti-acne products.

What conditions is Retin A approved to treat?

Retin A, also known as Tretinoin, is approved for the treatment of various skin conditions such as:

  • Acne vulgaris
  • Fine wrinkles and dark spots caused by sun damage or aging
  • Rough areas of skin, often found on the hands and face.

This medication works by promoting rapid turnover of skin cells to reveal a healthier layer underneath.

How does Retin A help with these illnesses?

Retin A is a topical medication used in dermatology and skin care, which works by increasing the turnover of skin cells, thereby promoting exfoliation and the reduction of acne. It acts on retinoic acid receptors in the skin to speed up cell division and discourage dead skin from clogging pores. This mechanism also stimulates new collagen production, hence its popularity as an anti-aging treatment. Similar to Retin A, Aklief also targets retinoic acid receptors but it's more selective in its action thus potentially causing fewer side effects such as irritation or dryness. However, due to Retin-A's long-established history and wider spectrum of action within the world of dermatology - including treating acne vulgaris, reducing fine lines/wrinkles, minimizing hyperpigmentation – it might be preferred when a patient doesn't respond well to newer alternatives like Aklief or may be combined with other treatments for synergistic effect.

How effective are both Aklief and Retin A?

Both trifarotene (Aklief) and tretinoin (Retin A) are successful retinoid medications designed to treat acne, but they were approved by the FDA several decades apart. Trifarotene was approved in 2019 while tretinoin was one of the first topical retinoids for acne treatment, approved back in 1971. The effectiveness of these two drugs in treating acne involves their activity on different receptors; Trifarotene is a selective agonist for the RAR-γ receptor subtype while Tretinoin targets multiple subtypes.

A direct comparison of trifarotene and tretinoin has not been made. However, both have shown significant efficacy in reducing lesions and improving overall skin appearance within weeks of starting treatment with comparable safety profiles. While there is no head-to-head trial comparing trifarotene to tretinoin directly, an indirect comparison can be made by examining studies using each drug separately.

Studies on Tretinion show that it's effective at treating mild to moderate acne from even the first week or two of treatment, its side effect profile is generally manageable consisting mainly of localized irritation such as redness and peeling which tends to decrease over time as skin builds tolerance.

Trifarotene due to its selectivity towards only one type of receptor might offer some advantages regarding tolerability over other retionids like Retina A that target multiple types leading sometimes to more pronounced side effects especially at higher concentrations or during initial therapy phases.

While both medications are considered effective treatments for acne vulgaris, trifarotine being newer lacks longer term real-world data compared with Retina A that has been around since seventies providing ample evidence about long-term safety & effectiveness profiles.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Aklief typically prescribed?

Topical applications of Aklief (trifarotene) and Retin-A (tretinoin) are used for treating acne. The suggested usage for Aklief is to apply a thin layer once daily in the evening to the areas where acne is present. It's important that this cream not be applied on eczema-affected skin or in the eyes, mouth, or vaginal area. Retin-A should also be applied once daily, ideally before bedtime. Its strength can range from 0.025%–0.1%, but studies have shown that 0.025% is sufficient for most individuals with mild to moderate acne severity; however, if there's no response after few weeks, dosage may increase under medical supervision up to 0.1%. As with any medication use as directed by your healthcare provider and never exceed their recommended dosage.

Find Top Clinical Trials

Choose from over 30,000 active clinical trials.

At what dose is Retin A typically prescribed?

Retin A treatment typically begins at a lower concentration, often 0.025% applied once daily in the evening to clean and dry skin. The concentration can be gradually increased up to 0.1% as tolerated by the patient's skin, always following medical advice closely. It is important not to apply more than instructed, as this will not improve acne or wrinkles faster but may increase irritation risk. If there is no visible improvement after several weeks of regular use or if adverse reactions persist, consult your healthcare provider for possible dosage adjustments or alternative treatments.

What are the most common side effects for Aklief?

Common side effects associated with Aklief (trifarotene) include:

  • Skin redness
  • Scaling, dryness, and peeling of the skin
  • Stinging or burning sensation on the skin
  • Itching
  • Sun sensitivity

Retin-A (tretinoin), on the other hand, has been reported to cause similar side effects as Aklief. However, it may also lead to:

  • Temporary changes in skin color
  • Blistering skin
  • Crusting of treated skin

It's important to note that these are just potential side effects; not everyone who uses these medications will experience them. If they persist or worsen over time, speak with your healthcare provider for advice.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Aklief?

While both Aklief and Retin-A are topical treatments for acne, they may cause different side effects. For Aklief (trifarotene), potential serious side effects include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling in your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Severe skin irritation after applying the medication: burning, stinging, itching or redness
  • Skin discoloration or scaly/dry skin
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight leading to sunburn
  • Eye discomfort if the cream gets into your eyes: blurred vision, eye pain or swelling

Retin-A (tretinoin), on the other hand can lead to:

  • Sensitivity reactions like severe burning sensation at application site
  • Unusual changes in skin color
  • Worsening of acne during initial weeks of therapy
  • Stinging and tingling sensations with possible swelling and blistering

If any serious symptoms persist or worsen over time while using either product you should discontinue use immediately and consult with a healthcare professional.

What are the most common side effects for Retin A?

Retin A, a well-known acne treatment, can cause some side effects such as:

  • Dryness and peeling of skin
  • Mild burning or stinging sensation on application
  • Light sensitivity leading to sunburns
  • Tingling or slightly stinging feeling in the skin
  • Discoloration of treated skin (usually temporary)
  • Excessive redness or swelling (indicating possible allergic reaction)

Remember that proper use and sunscreen are essential while using Retin A due to its potential for causing photosensitivity. It's always advised to start with lower strength formulations before moving onto higher strengths, if needed. Your dermatologist will guide you best regarding this based on your specific needs and tolerability.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Retin A?

While Retin A is widely used and effective in treating acne, it can occasionally cause severe side effects. These may include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction or intense skin response: hives, itching, redness, swelling in your face or throat, difficulty breathing, burning sensation on the skin
  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior such as agitation or confusion
  • Blurred vision or sensitivity to light
  • Swelling of eyes and eyelids (very rare)
  • Increased sunburn susceptibility due to heightened photosensitivity; always use a sunscreen while using this medication
  • Severe redness of the skin, peeling and discomfort

If any of these symptoms occur while using Retin A consult with your healthcare provider immediately.

Contraindications for Aklief and Retin A?

Aklief and Retin-A, like many other acne medications, can cause dryness or redness of the skin in some individuals. If you notice your symptoms worsening or any serious irritation occurs, please consult with a healthcare professional.

Neither Aklief nor Retin-A should be used if you are taking oral retinoid medication such as isotretinoin due to concerns about vitamin A toxicity. Always inform your physician about all the medications that you are currently taking; discontinuing oral retinoids may require several weeks for them to completely clear from your system before starting topical treatment with Aklief or Retin-A.

Just like Wellbutrin and Prozac must not be taken together with MAOIs, it is also crucial to consider potential interactions in dermatological treatments: both Aklief and Retin-A should not be applied at the same time as benzoyl peroxide creams because they could deactivate each other. Always apply these treatments at different times of day (one in the morning and one at night) to avoid this interaction.

How much do Aklief and Retin A cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for a 30g tube of Aklief (trifarotene) cream is around $530, which works out to approximately $17.67/day if you're applying it once daily.
  • The price for a 20g tube of Retin-A (tretinoin) averages around $140, working out to about $7/day when used as directed.

Thus, if you are using either medication as prescribed by your dermatologist, Aklief tends to be more expensive on a per-day treatment basis than Retin-A. However, please note that cost should not be the primary consideration in determining which of these medications is right for you.

As far as generic options go:

  • Trifarotene is currently only available under its brand-name version - Aklief.

  • Tretinoin (Retin-A's active ingredient), however, has been available generically for quite some time and costs significantly less:

    • Generic tretinoin comes in several different concentrations and forms with prices varying widely depending on the specific product chosen. As an example: generic tretionoin 0.025% cream can range from approximately $50-$100 for a similar size tube (~20 grams). This would equate roughly to between $2.5–$5 per day when used once daily according to directions.

Popularity of Aklief and Retin A

Trifarotene, available under the brand name Aklief, and Tretinoin (Retin-A) are both forms of topical retinoids used in the treatment of acne.

Tretinoin, sold as Retin-A among other brands, has been a part of dermatological treatments for decades. It was estimated to have been prescribed to approximately 4 million people in the US in 2020. It is considered a reliable standard treatment option for mild to moderate acne due to its efficacy and tolerability.

On the other hand, Trifarotene or Aklief is relatively new on the market having received FDA approval only recently in October 2019. Prescription numbers are still rising as it gains ground within dermatological practices; however, exact figures are not yet available due to its recent introduction into pharmaceutical markets.

While both drugs act on retinoic acid receptors which influence cell growth and differentiation contributing towards their efficacy against acne; they differ primarily based on their receptor specificity with Aklief being more selective thereby reducing side-effects associated typically with Tretinoin use such as skin irritation.


Both Aklief (trifarotene) and Retin-A (tretinoin) are topical retinoids widely used in the treatment of acne, backed by clinical studies indicating their effectiveness over placebo treatments. Due to their different mechanisms of action, with Aklief targeting all types of acne lesions including blackheads, whiteheads and inflammatory pimples, and Retin-A primarily working on cell turnover to prevent the plugging that can lead to acne, they tend to be prescribed under different circumstances.

Aklief is a newer addition to market than Retin-A and may be considered for patients who do not respond well or have experienced side-effects from other retinoid therapies like tretinoin. Both drugs are available as a cream or gel; however, only Retin-A is accessible in generic form which represents substantial cost savings particularly for those paying out-of-pocket.

The initiation phase for both medications may involve an adjustment period where initial breakout might occur due to speeding up the process of bringing microcomedones up-to-surface quicker.

In terms of side effects profile - skin irritation such as dryness, peeling and redness at application site are common but typically decrease after regular use as your skin adjusts. With Aklief being less irritating compared to traditional retinoic acid derivatives like tretinion due its selective nature towards one specific type receptor(RAR-γ). For users starting either medication it's advised that they monitor changes closely especially at beginning stage of therapy and seek professional help if severe reactions persist.