The aims of this review were to examine the place of surface anatomy in the medical literature, particularly the methods and approaches used in teaching surface and living anatomy and assess commonly used anatomy textbooks in regard to their surface anatomy contents. PubMed and MEDLINE databases were searched using the following keywords “surface anatomy,” “living anatomy,” “teaching surface anatomy,” “bony landmarks,” “peer examination” and “dermatomes”. The percentage of pages covering surface anatomy in each textbook was calculated as well as the number of images covering surface anatomy. Clarity, quality and adequacy of surface anatomy contents was also examined. The search identified 22 research papers addressing methods used in teaching surface anatomy, 31 papers that can help in the improvement of surface anatomy curriculum, and 12 anatomy textbooks. These teaching methods included: body painting, peer volunteer surface anatomy, use of a living anatomy model, real time ultrasound, virtual (visible) human dissector (VHD), full body digital x-ray of cadavers (Lodox® Statscan® images) combined with palpating landmarks on peers and the cadaver, as well as the use of collaborative, contextual and self-directed learning. Nineteen of these studies were published in the period from 2006 to 2013. The 31 papers covered evidence-based and clinically-applied surface anatomy. The percentage of surface anatomy in textbooks' contents ranged from 0 to 6.2 with an average of 3.4%. The number of medical illustrations on surface anatomy varied from 0 to 135. In conclusion, although there has been a progressive increase in publications addressing methods used in teaching surface anatomy over the last six to seven years, most anatomy textbooks do not provide students with adequate information about surface anatomy. Only three textbooks provided a solid explanation and foundation of understanding surface anatomy. Anat Sci Educ 6: 415–432. © 2013 American Association of Anatomists.