The skin offers a perfect model system for studying the wound healing cascade, which involves a finely tuned interplay between several cell types, pathways and processes. The dysregulation of these factors may lead to wound healing disorders resulting in chronic wounds, as well as abnormal scars such as hypertrophic and keloid scars. As the contribution of stem cells towards tissue regeneration and wound healing is increasingly appreciated, a rising number of stem cell therapies for cutaneous wounds are currently under development, encouraged by emerging preliminary findings in both animal models and human studies. However, we still lack an in-depth understanding of the underlying mechanisms through which stem cells contribute to cutaneous wound healing. The aim of this review is, therefore, to present a critical synthesis of our current understanding of the role of stem cells in normal cutaneous wound healing. In addition to summarizing wound healing principles and related key molecular and cellular players, we discuss the potential participation of different cutaneous stem cell populations in wound healing, and list corresponding stem cells markers. In summary, this review delineates current strategies, future applications, and limitations of stem cell-based or stem cell-targeted therapy in the management of acute and chronic skin wounds. © 2009 John Wiley and Sons A/S.