Skin is largely composed of an epidermis that overlies a supporting dermis. Recent advancements in our understanding of how diverse groups of dermal fibroblasts regulate epidermal and hair follicle growth and differentiation have been fueled by tools capable of resolving molecular heterogeneity at a single-cell level. Fibroblast heterogeneity can be traced back to their developmental origin before their segregation into spatially distinct fibroblast subtypes. The mechanisms that drive this lineage diversification during development are being unraveled, with studies showing that both large- and small-scale positional signals play important roles during dermal development. Here, we first delineate what is known about the origins of the dermis and the central role of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in its specification across anatomical locations. We then discuss how one of the first morphologically recognizable fibroblast subtypes, the hair follicle dermal condensate lineage, emerges. Leveraging the natural variation of skin and its appendages between species and between different anatomical locations, these collective studies have identified shared and divergent factors that contribute to the extraordinary diversity of skin.

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