In the field of biomedical optics, optical scattering has traditionally limited the range of imaging within tissue to a depth of one millimetre. A recently developed class of wavefront-shaping techniques now aims to overcome this limit and achieve diffraction-limited control of light beyond one centimetre. By manipulating the spatial profile of an optical field before it enters a scattering medium, it is possible to create a micrometre-scale focal spot deep within tissue. To successfully operate in vivo, these wavefront-shaping techniques typically require feedback from within the biological sample. This Review summarizes recently developed 'guidestar' mechanisms that provide feedback for intra-tissue focusing. Potential applications of guidestar-assisted focusing include optogenetic control over neurons, targeted photodynamic therapy and deep tissue imaging.