For proper tissue morphogenesis, cell divisions and cell fate decisions must be tightly and coordinately regulated. One elegant way to accomplish this is to couple them with asymmetric cell divisions. Progenitor cells in the developing epidermis undergo both symmetric and asymmetric cell divisions to balance surface area growth with the generation of differentiated cell layers. Here we review the molecular machinery implicated in controlling asymmetric cell division. In addition, we discuss the ability of epidermal progenitors to choose between symmetric and asymmetric divisions and the key regulatory points that control this decision. © 2011 Ray and Lechler; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.