Urocanic acid (UCA), produced in the upper layers of mammalian skin, is a major absorber of ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Originally thought to be a 'natural sunscreen', studies conducted a quarter of a century ago proposed that UCA may be a chromophore for the immunosuppression that follows exposure to UVR. With its intriguing photochemistry, its role in immunosuppression and skin cancer development, and skin barrier function, UCA continues to be the subject of intense research effort. This review summarises the photochemical, photobiological and photoimmunological findings regarding UCA, published since 1998. © The Royal Society of Chemistry and Owner Societies.