Cutaneously directed chemical warfare agents can elicit significant morbidity and mortality. The optimization of prophylactic and therapeutic interventions counteracting these agents is crucial, and the development of decontamination protocols and methodology of post dermal exposure risk assessments would be additionally applicable to common industrial and consumer dermatotoxicants. Percutaneous (PC) penetration is often considered a simple one-step diffusion process but presently consists of at least 15 steps. The systemic exposure to an agent depends on multiple factors and the second part of this review covers absorption and excretion kinetics, wash and rub effects, skin substantivity and transfer, among others. Importantly, the partitioning behavior and diffusion through the stratum corneum (SC) of a wide physicochemical array of compounds shows that many compounds have approximately the same diffusion coefficient which determines their percutaneous absorption in vivo. After accounting for anatomical variation of the SC, the penetration flux value of a substance depends mainly on its SC/vehicle partition coefficient. Additionally, the SC acts as a ‘reservoir’ for topically applied molecules, and tape stripping methodology can quantify the remaining chemical in the SC which can predict the total molecular penetration in vivo. The determination of ideal decontamination protocols is of utmost importance to reduce morbidity and mortality. However, even expeditious standard washing procedures post dermal chemical exposure often fails to remove chemicals. The second part of this overview continues to review percutaneous penetration extending insights into the complexities of penetration, decontamination and potential newer assays that may be of practical importance. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.