Cutaneous blood flow has been directly quantitated in vivo for the first time without animal death utilizing the rat skin sandwich flap. This was accomplished by conducting experiments that made a direct correlation between two instruments: a laser Doppler velocimeter and an electromagnetic blood flow meter. Data demonstrate that the correlation between these two instruments is high and reproducible (r = 0.96) with a small (1.3%) coefficient of variation. Blood flow to skin in the unmanipulated state varies from 0.7 to 1.2 mls/min in an anesthetized rat. Application of the blood flow correlation to the determination of percutaneous absorption of caffeine across human skin and benzoic acid across rat skin demonstrates that assuming cutaneous blood flow is a particular value day to day in any skin type results in an apparent wide range of total compound absorbed across that skin on independent occasions. Utilizing actual blood flow measurements to calculate the amount of chemical absorbed reduces the range of variability in the total amount of chemical absorbed and provides a more accurate knowledge of events occurring during a particular time of the absorption process. Quantitation of cutaneous blood flow will be useful in physiologic and pharmacologic studies where actual cutaneous blood flow is likely to be important to the processes studied, e.g., delivery of drug to skin, metabolism within the skin, and disposition of drug to blood and skin following topical drug application.