CD1d is a major histocompatibility complex class 1-like molecule that regulates the function and development of natural killer T (NKT) cells. Previously, we identified a critical role for the CD1d-NKT cell arm of innate immunity in promoting the development of UVB-induced p53 mutations, immune suppression, and skin tumors. Sunburn, an acute inflammatory response to UVB-induced cutaneous tissue injury, represents a clinical marker for non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) risk. However, the innate immune mechanisms controlling sunburn development are not considered relevant in NMSC etiology, and remain poorly investigated. Here we found that CD1d knockout (CD1d(-/-)) mice resist UVB-induced cutaneous tissue injury and inflammation compared with wild-type (WT) mice. This resistance was coupled with a faster epithelial tissue healing response. In contrast, the skins of UVB-irradiated invariant NKT cell-knockout (Jα18(-/-)) and NKT cell-deficient (TCRα(-/-)) mice, which express CD1d but are deficient in CD1d-dependent NKT cells, exhibited as much cutaneous tissue injury and inflammation as WT mice. In the absence of NKT cells, CD1d-deficient keratinocytes, dendritic cells, and macrophages exhibited diminished basal and stress-induced levels of pro-inflammatory mediators. Thus, our findings identify an essential role for CD1d in promoting UVB-induced cutaneous tissue injury and inflammation. They also suggest sunburn and NMSC etiologies are immunologically linked.