What Is Aklief, And How Does It Compare To Tretinoin For Acne?

If you've been to the dermatologist to address your skincare concerns, you've likely discussed or even been prescribed tretinoin, a prescription retinoid used to treat just about everything from fine lines to cystic acne. This simple cream has been the first treatment option for those who struggle with acne. This is because of its ease of use, multiple benefits, and relatively low price, especially compared to more aggressive treatment options like Accutane. Now, however, there's a new option available for those that haven't seen the results they're looking for — Aklief.


Aklief is relatively similar to tretinoin thanks to its status as a retinoid and typical topical use, but it might work better for some skin types and varieties of acne. If you haven't seen the best results or suffered side effects from tretinoin, Aklief might be a better option for you and your skin goals, but it's best to do some of your research before heading to see the dermatologist.

What is Aklief?

Aklief, a prescription topical cream containing .0005% trifarotene, is relatively new on the scene and was first developed as a treatment for congenital ichthyosis, another skin disorder. In 2019, however, after clinical trials, it was approved for treating acne in the United States for people nine years and older. Trifarotene is a retinoid that helps unclog pores, prevent the formation of new acne, and encourage the peeling of damaged skin. This means it treats the problem and helps combat existing scarring or dark marks from past breakouts.


There is no generic form of Aklief, so the price will likely be higher than other topical treatments because of its name-brand status. This, of course, also depends on your insurance. However, it's still generally considered a second option because of its relatively high cost compared to something like Retin-A, which has a generic counterpart. Whatever the case, the benefits of Aklief typically outweigh the cost.

How does it compare to tretinoin?

Both tretinoin and trifarotene, the active ingredient in Aklief, are retinoids that have a similar effect on the skin. They're essentially a more intense form of retinol you see in over-the-counter skincare products, so they're good for preventing the formation of acne and reducing redness and inflammation. The scientific mechanism behind why Aklief seems to zap away acne is unknown. Still, it appears to be better tolerated by those with sensitive skin than tretinoin because it causes less irritation and dryness. 


Unfortunately, however, until there's a generic option for Aklief, which could take quite a few years, thanks to its new status on the market, it will be much more expensive than other retinoid acne treatments. If your skin can handle tretinoin, it's probably the better option thanks to its lower cost, but Aklief is worth trying if you have issues with dryness, sensitivity, or flaking.

What it's good for

Retinoids have powerful effects on the skin thanks to their ability to sink deep into the dermis and promote cell turnover. The most common use for this when it comes to prescription retinoids is to prevent the formation of acne and reduce redness and inflammation. However, they can also be used for other difficult-to-treat skincare concerns, although typically as an off-label use or bonus on top of their reason for the prescription.


Retinoids are common ingredients in anti-aging formulas because they target receptors that handle collagen production. This protein makes skin look bouncy and elastic, leaving you with a smoother complexion. Their ability to increase the rate of cell turnover means they can also help eliminate dark marks and scarring from acne, but this extends to dark marks and spots from sun exposure, another common concern in anti-aging formulas. Adding a retinoid can leave you with an even, blemish-free complexion.

Possible side effects

One of the chief concerns with retinol is dryness and flaky skin, but it seems that this risk is slightly reduced when it comes to Aklief. However, it's still something to look out for, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin, to begin with. Other issues can include redness and stinging upon application, though this is fairly rare and depends on the person. It's important to remember that even though Aklief is assumed to be a bit more gentle, it's still a prescription-strength product.


Additionally, you should look for an increased risk of sunburns and damage from sun exposure. Retinoids help to increase cell turnover and slough off the outer layers of skin, but they also expose more vulnerable new skin as a result. Because of this, it's important to pair Aklief with a skincare routine that moisturizes and protects your skin, especially if you spend large amounts of time outdoors.

How to use Aklief

While using Aklief, your primary concern should be maintaining your skin's moisture. Cutting out other drying products and harsh acne treatments from your skincare routine should help. Still, you should also include a few moisturizing agents like hyaluronic acid and ceramides that help moisturize and repair the skin barrier. During your morning routine, you should include sunscreen to prevent your skin from feeling the harsh impacts of the sun while it's still sensitive.


In most situations, your dermatologist will start you off with the daily application of a small amount of this cream. Still, if you see negative effects, they might recommend you reduce your use to every other day or twice a week. Of course, if you're seeing irritation or feeling the discomfort that eclipses the positive effects, you should discontinue use and look out for another treatment that addresses your concerns without causing negative side effects.

How to get a prescription

Because it's such a high-strength product, Aklief isn't available over-the-counter. To get a prescription, you must visit a dermatologist and discuss whether Aklief will be the right fit for you. Unless you have very dry skin or an allergy to one of the ingredients, your doctor will probably suggest a retinoid as a topical treatment for your acne. Tretinoin is usually the first choice, but it's a good idea to mention Aklief if you have sensitive skin or have already tried tretinoin or Retin-A and are willing to spend some extra money on something a bit gentler.


Aklief isn't an entirely new approach to treating acne, but it is a new option that can help people with concerns about other retinoids. Of course, discussing with a dermatologist is the best way to tell if this product is a good fit. With their training and expertise, they'll be able to set you up with a skincare regimen that treats all of your concerns while avoiding negative side effects.