Basophilic leukocytes are effector cells of the peripheral blood. They have several morphological and functional characteristics in common with tissue mast cells, such as expression of the high-affinity IgE receptor (Fc(ε)RI) and a high content of histamine within their granules. Functional comparison of human basophils and human mast cells isolated from different tissues revealed marked heterogeneity of mediator release after incubation with different secretagogues. Owing to their wide range of surface receptors, their (pro)inflammatory mediators released after activation, their mobility, and their rapid turnover, basophils appear basically to be potent effector cells, which migrate transiently into the skin during IgE-mediated (and/or IgE-independent) inflammatory reactions. The present paper reviews recent findings on the possible role of basophils for different immune reactions of the skin. Inhibition of basophil (and/or mast cell) activity seems to be necessary for both effective prophylaxis and therapy of allergic and inflammatory skin diseases. To date, however, the pharmacological modulation of mediator release from basophils lacks potent clinically useful compounds that can suppress the cellular response, since mast cell stabilizers such as cromoglycate and nedocromil are not effective. With a view to the development of active compounds, further in vitro studies should focus on the mechanisms of cell activation.