Hamartomas are composed of cells native to an organ but abnormal in number, arrangement or maturity. In the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), hamartomas develop in multiple organs because of mutations in TSC1 or TSC2. Here we show that TSC2-null fibroblast-like cells grown from human TSC skin hamartomas induced normal human keratinocytes to form hair follicles and stimulated hamartomatous changes. Follicles were complete with sebaceous glands, hair shafts and inner and outer root sheaths. TSC2-null cells surrounding the hair bulb expressed markers of the dermal sheath and dermal papilla. Tumour xenografts recapitulated characteristics of TSC skin hamartomas with increased mammalian target of the rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) activity, angiogenesis, mononuclear phagocytes and epidermal proliferation. Treatment with an mTORC1 inhibitor normalized these parameters and reduced the number of tumour cells. These studies indicate that TSC2-null cells are the inciting cells for TSC skin hamartomas, and suggest that studies on hamartomas will provide insights into tissue morphogenesis and regeneration.