Skin is the largest body organ that serves as an important environmental interface providing a protective envelope that is crucial for homeostasis. On the other hand, the skin is a major target for toxic insult by a broad spectrum of physical (i.e. UV radiation) and chemical (xenobiotic) agents that are capable of altering its structure and function. Many environmental pollutants are either themselves oxidants or catalyze the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) directly or indirectly. ROS are believed to activate proliferative and cell survival signaling that can alter apoptotic pathways that may be involved in the pathogenesis of a number of skin disorders including photosensitivity diseases and some types of cutaneous malignancy. ROS act largely by driving several important molecular pathways that play important roles in diverse pathologic processes including ischemia-reperfusion injury, atherosclerosis, and inflammatory responses. The skin possesses an array of defense mechanisms that interact with toxicants to obviate their deleterious effect. These include non-enzymatic and enzymatic molecules that function as potent antioxidants or oxidant-degrading systems. Unfortunately, these homeostatic defenses, although highly effective, have limited capacity and can be overwhelmed thereby leading to increased ROS in the skin that can foster the development of dermatological diseases. One approach to preventing or treating these ROS-mediated disorders is based on the administration of various antioxidants in an effort to restore homeostasis. Although many antioxidants have shown substantive efficacy in cell culture systems and in animal models of oxidant injury, unequivocal confirmation of their beneficial effects in human populations has proven elusive. © 2006 The Society for Investigative Dermatology.