Grainy head (GRH) is a key transcription factor responsible for epidermal barrier formation and repair, whose function is highly conserved across diverse animal species. However, it is not known how GRH function is reactivated to repair differentiated epidermal barriers after wounding. Here, we show that GRH is directly regulated by extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation, which is required for wound-dependent expression of GRH target genes in epidermal cells. Serine 91 is the principal residue in GRH that is phosphorylated by ERK. Although mutations of the ERK phosphorylation sites in GRH do not impair its DNA binding function, the ERK sites in GRH are required to activate Dopa decarboxylase (Ddc) and misshapen (msn) epidermal wound enhancers as well as functional regeneration of an epidermal barrier upon wounding. This result indicates that the phosphorylation sites are essential for damaged epidermal barrier repair. However, GRH with mutant ERK phosphorylation sites can still promote barrier formation during embryonic epidermal development, suggesting that ERK sites are dispensable for the GRH function in establishing epidermal barrier integrity. These results provide mechanistic insight into how tissue repair can be initiated by posttranslational modification of a key transcription factor that normally mediates the developmental generation of that tissue.