Keratinocyte (KC) apoptosis plays a critical role in regulating epidermal development and restraining carcinogenesis. Apoptosis balances proliferation to maintain epidermal thickness, contributes to stratum corneum formation and may eliminate pre-malignant cells. Apart from the normal developmental program, KC apoptosis can be triggered by UV light and other stimuli. Dysfunctional apoptosis occurs in some skin diseases, such as psoriasis and skin cancer. Here we review the current state of knowledge of KC apoptosis, with particular focus on apoptotic signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms of apoptosis control, and discuss new insights into the complex role of apoptosis in skin carcinogenesis that are emerging from mouse models.