Atmospheric-pressure dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) in air is investigated for medical applications, especially for skin treatment. When the DBD was tested on mouse skin, a homogeneous discharge accompanied by filamentary microdischarges is observed. For characterization of the homogeneous discharge, averaged plasma parameters (namely electron density and electron velocity distribution function) and gas temperature are determined by optical emission spectroscopy, microphotography and numerical simulation. Chemical kinetics in the active plasma volume and in the afterglow is simulated. Fluxes of biologically useful molecules like nitric oxide (NO) and ozone reaching the treated surface and irradiation by UV photons are determined. Skin biopsy results show that DBD treatment causes no inflammation and no changes in the skin-collagen.