Historically, neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1) has been inextricably linked with neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2). Both are inherited autosomal-dominant neurocutaneous disorders that have high de novo mutation rates and carry a high risk of tumour formation. However, they are clinically and genetically distinct diseases and should be considered as seperate entities. NF1 is a common disease that mainly affects the skin and peripheral nervous system and causes characteristic bony dysplasia. By contrast, NF2 is a rare disorder with a relative paucity of skin manifestations and high-grade malignancy is unusual. Neurological symptoms are the predominant problem and the cardinal sign is bilateral vestibular schwannomas. In this Review, I discuss the pertinent diagnostic, clinical, and genetic symptoms of NF1 and NF2. I also examine the current views on the pathogenesis of these neurocutaneous disorders in the wake of advances in molecular genetics and the development of mouse models of disease.