Primary neurulation in mammals has been defined by distinct anatomical closure sites, at the hindbrain/cervical spine (closure 1), forebrain/midbrain boundary (closure 2), and rostral end of the forebrain (closure 3). Zones of neurulation have also been characterized by morphologic differences in neural fold elevation, with non-neural ectoderm-induced formation of paired dorso-lateral hinge points (DLHP) essential for neural tube closure in the cranial and lower spinal cord regions, and notochord-induced bending at the median hinge point (MHP) sufficient for closure in the upper spinal region. Here we identify a unifying molecular basis for these observations based on the function of the non-neural ectoderm-specific Grainy head-like genes in mice. Using a gene-targeting approach we show that deletion of Grhl2 results in failed closure 3, with mutants exhibiting a split-face malformation and exencephaly, associated with failure of neuro-epithelial folding at the DLHP. Loss of Grhl3 alone defines a distinct lower spinal closure defect, also with defective DLHP formation. The two genes contribute equally to closure 2, where only Grhl gene dosage is limiting. Combined deletion of Grhl2 and Grhl3 induces severe rostral and caudal neural tube defects, but DLHP-independent closure 1 proceeds normally in the upper spinal region. These findings provide a molecular basis for non-neural ectoderm mediated formation of the DLHP that is critical for complete neuraxis closure.