The mouse skin has become the model of choice to study the regulation and function of AP-1 subunits in many physiological and pathological processes in vivo and in vitro. Genetically modified mice, in vitro reconstituted skin equivalents and epidermal cell lines were established, in which AP-1-regulated genetic programs of cell proliferation, differentiation and tumorigenesis can be analysed. Since the epidermis, as our interface with the environment, is subjected to radiation and injury, signal transduction pathways and critical AP-1 members regulating the mammalian stress response could be identified. Regulated expression of important components of the cytokine network, cell surface receptors and proteases, which orchestrate the process of wound healing has been found to rely on AP-1 activity. Here we review our current knowledge on the function of AP-1 subunits and AP-1 target genes in these fascinating fields of skin physiology and pathology.