BACKGROUND: Hairdressers are one of the largest occupational groups attending our Occupational Dermatology Clinic. However, few seek workers' compensation for their occupational dermatitis. OBJECTIVES: To retrospectively analyse and compare workers' compensation claims data and diagnosed disease data for occupational contact dermatitis in hairdressers from 1993 to 2009, for the state of Victoria, Australia. PATIENTS/MATERIALS/METHODS: Data from the Occupational Dermatology Clinic database, the Compensation Research Database and the Australian Bureau of Statistics were used in this study. RESULTS: The clinic database identified 157 hairdressers and apprentices with a confirmed diagnosis of occupational contact dermatitis assessed between 1993 and 2009. Forty-six unique claims for occupational contact dermatitis from 46 individuals were identified from the Compensation Research Database over the same time period. Hairdressers in the 15-24-year age group were significantly over-represented in the claims data relative to the diagnosed disease data (p < 0.01). The median cost per claim was AU$1421, and the median time off work per claim was 20 days. CONCLUSION: Increased efforts are needed to reduce the incidence of occupational contact dermatitis in hairdressers in Australia, and to ensure that hairdressers with occupational contact dermatitis are aware of their compensation entitlements. Reliance on workers' compensation data for disease surveillance may lead occupational health and safety regulators to underestimate the magnitude of the problem of occupational contact dermatitis in the hairdressing profession.