Hairdressers are one of the largest groups affected by occupational contact dermatitis. In this population-based study, 193 trainee hairdressers and 184 practising hairdressers each completed a questionnaire and had their hands examined. Participants were asked about past or present atopy including eczema, asthma or hayfever, which occurred in 59.2%, and were individually correlated with a history of occupational skin problems. Almost 60% of hairdressers and trainees had experienced changes on their hands since commencing hairdressing, while 29% had evidence of abnormal skin on examination on the day of participation. Atopic individuals, who plan to work in a career such as hairdressing with known high rates of occupational contact dermatitis, should be advised to care for and protect their skin from the outset to prevent the development of this condition. There has been little awareness of this issue in Australia, despite longstanding knowledge of the association of hairdressing and contact dermatitis.