Melatonin, a ubiquitous methoxyindole, is produced by and metabolized in the skin. Melatonin affects skin functions and structures through actions mediated by cell-surface and putative-nuclear receptors expressed in skin cells. Melatonin has both receptor-dependent and receptor-independent effects that protect against oxidative stress and can attenuate ultraviolet radiation-induced damage. The widespread expression and pleiotropic activity of the cutaneous melatoninergic system provides for a high level of cell-specific selectivity. Moreover, intra-, auto- and para-crine mechanisms equip this system with exquisite functional selectivity. The properties of endogenous melatonin suggest that this molecule is an important effector of stress responses in the skin. In this way, melatonin actions may counteract or buffer both environmental and endogenous stressors to maintain skin integrity.