Chronic disorders, such as obesity, diabetes, inflammation, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis, are related to alterations in lipid and glucose metabolism, in which peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR)α, PPARβ/δ and PPARγ are involved. These receptors form a subgroup of ligand-activated transcription factors that belong to the nuclear hormone receptor family. This review discusses a selection of novel PPAR functions identified during the last few years. The PPARs regulate processes that are essential for the maintenance of pregnancy and embryonic development. Newly found hepatic functions of PPARα are the mediation of female-specific gene repression and the protection of the liver from oestrogen induced toxicity. PPARα also controls lipid catabolism and is the target of hypolipidaemic drugs, whereas PPARγ controls adipocyte differentiation and regulates lipid storage; it is the target for the insulin sensitising thiazolidinediones used to treat type 2 diabetes. Activation of PPARβ/δ increases lipid catabolism in skeletal muscle, the heart and adipose tissue. In addition, PPARβ/δ ligands prevent weight gain and suppress macrophage derived inflammation. In fact, therapeutic benefits of PPAR ligands have been confirmed in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, such as encephalomyelitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Furthermore, PPARs promote skin wound repair. PPARα favours skin healing during the inflammatory phase that follows injury, whilst PPARβ/δ enhances keratinocyte survival and migration. Due to their collective functions in skin, PPARs represent a major research target for our understanding of many skin diseases. Taken altogether, these functions suggest that PPARs serve as physiological sensors in different stress situations and remain valuable targets for innovative therapies.