Erythropoietin (EPO), long appreciated as the chief endocrine regulator of red blood cell formation, is now recognized to exert many additional functions outside the bone marrow. Thus, the quest is on to define the full range of EPO functions in the physiology and pathology of non-hematopoietic tissues. Two recent studies in man and mice have highlighted the importance of the mammalian skin as one peripheral tissue with a previously unsuspected role in EPO biology; both, as a target and as a source of EPO. In addition, the skin has been proposed to function as an oxygen sensor. The present hypothesis essay critically reviews the currently available evidence for this and provides a unifying theoretical scenario for intracutaneous EPO functions and for a potential role of the skin in the control of EPO production. Mainly, we propose that the skin itself directly contributes to the up-regulation of EPO plasma levels in response to hypoxia. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.