Tannic acids (TAs) are believed to be the key active components in plants, and are believed to be responsible for their anti-inflammatory, anti-viral effects and chemoprevention of cancer. However, the molecular mechanisms for the action of TA are unclear. This study examined the effects of TA on cutaneous inflammation with a human keratinocyte cell line (HaCaT). Interleukin-18 (IL-18) has multiple effects upon various cells involved in inflammatory response. In this study, the IL-18 mRNA expression and protein levels were reduced by a TA pretreatment. UV radiation can trigger the induction of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-dependent signalling cascade. Immunoprecipitation and Western blot analysis was performed to determine if TA regulate the MAPK signalling pathway. TA significantly inhibited the activation of p38 MAPK and extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases. Moreover, TA-inhibited UVB enhanced the expression of the inflammatory mediators, IL-1, IL-6, tumor necrotic factor-α, cyclooxygenase-2 and prostaglandin E2 in UVB-irradiated HaCaT cells. The topical application of TA on mouse skin treated with UVB irradiation has shown that TA inhibited the formation of erythema. These findings suggest that TA has significant anti-inflammatory effects on the UVB-induced response on the skin and may be a candidate natural compound for the regulation of cutaneous inflammation.