Retinol dehydrogenases catalyze the rate-limiting step in the biosynthesis of retinoic acid, a bioactive lipid molecule that regulates the expression of hundreds of genes by binding to nuclear transcription factors, the retinoic acid receptors. Several enzymes exhibit retinol dehydrogenase activities in vitro; however, their physiological relevance for retinoic acid biosynthesis in vivo remains unclear. Here, we present evidence that two murine epidermal retinol dehydrogenases, short-chain dehydrogenase/ reductase family 16C member 5 (SDR16C5) and SDR16C6, contribute to retinoic acid biosynthesis in living cells and are also essential for the oxidation of retinol to retinaldehyde in vivo. Mice with targeted knockout of the more catalytically active SDR16C6 enzyme have no obvious phenotype, possibly due to functional redundancy, because Sdr16c5 and Sdr16c6 exhibit an overlapping expression pattern during later developmental stages and in adulthood. Mice that lack both enzymes are viable and fertile but display accelerated hair growth after shaving and also enlarged meibomian glands, consistent with a nearly 80% reduction in the retinol dehydrogenase activities of skin membrane fractions from the Sdr16c5/Sdr16c6 double-knockout mice. The up-regulation of hair-follicle stem cell genes is consistent with reduced retinoic acid signaling in the skin of the double-knockout mice. These results indicate that the retinol dehydrogenase activities of murine SDR16C5 and SDR16C6 enzymes are not critical for survival but are responsible for most of the retinol dehydrogenase activity in skin, essential for the regulation of the hair-follicle cycle, and required for the maintenance of both sebaceous and meibomian glands.