Knowing how much to tip at a hair salon can be tricky—especially with the number of services and people involved. Here, etiquette experts reveal how much to tip hairdressers, stylists, colorists, and more.
This might sound familiar: You hit the hair salon for a color, cut, and blow-out, you're looking gorgeous and feeling fierce—and then you get to the check-out desk and freeze. Suddenly you realize you have no idea whom to tip—not to mention how much to tip everyone. You might already know conventional tipping etiquette requires you tip your hairstylist, but what about the person who washed your hair or dried it for you while your stylist cut someone else's hair? And what if you used a discount offer—how much do you tip then? So many questions. Here’s everything you need to know about how to tip a hairdresser—and everyone else who helped you at the salon.
Exactly How Much to Tip Your Hairdresser
When it comes to tipping your hairstylist, always go with the golden rule of 20 percent, says Daniel Post, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute. "Remember that just like servers in restaurants, hairdressers depend on tips as part of their income," he says. The only time this isn't true is during the holiday season: Tip your hairdresser a little extra around the holidays (an additional 10 percent should do it) as a generous bonus.
Many salons don't allow you to leave a tip on a credit card, so be sure to bring enough cash with you when you arrive at your appointment. "Our society is slowly becoming cashless, but in the world of tipping, cash is king,” says Sharon Schweitzer, international etiquette expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide.
Most salons also have their own websites with a list of services and prices, or at least price ranges (sometimes service rates vary by who's cutting your hair—the salon owner, a senior stylist?—and how long, coarse, or thick your hair is). Look up prices before you go to gauge how much cash you might need to have on hand.
Why You Should Always Tip
While tipping your hairdresser is definitely considered proper etiquette, you should also feel good about giving gratuity. "Remember that the word ‘gratuity’ comes from 'gratitude,'" says Post. "Think of tipping less as an obligation and more of a way of being thankful for someone who is pampering you and making you look and feel your best."
Plus, being a reliable tipper often pays off in other ways. "When you tip well, your generosity will be remembered the next time you come back," says Post, who points out that your hairstylist might offer you perks such as free bang trims or touch-ups.
How Much to Tip for a Shampoo, Color, and/or Blowout
How much should you tip your colorist or the person who washed your hair (and gave you that unexpectedly amazing scalp massage)? Remember the golden rule: “You should tip 20 percent on the entire service cost, not per individual,” says Schweitzer.
So if your haircut and blow-dry cost $40 total, and your color was $60, your total service cost comes to $100. That means you should tip $20 divided between the colorist and stylist. That said, if an assistant blow-dried or shampooed your hair, you should give them $4-$5 since they're likely getting paid minimum wage and really rely on tips.
What to Do if You Don't Know Who Helped You
Post recommends simply asking the person ringing you up at the front desk to help you calculate tips and distribute them to the correct people. "When you have three separate people helping you, it can be confusing to monitor their names and what they should be tipped, so defer to the front desk or manager to help you distribute your tips or explain the system this particular salon uses," he says. Ask if small envelopes are available for individual tip distribution. "Tipping is something that, when done discreetly, is classy. You shouldn’t be searching the salon for three or four different people making a show of your gratuity,” he says.
What to Tip if You're Using a Coupon or Getting a Discount
If you’re using a coupon or bought your service from a discount site like Groupon, ask the person at the front desk to tell you the true cost of the service you received. "Tip 20 percent on the true total cost of the service, not the discounted cost," Schweitzer says. "The hairdresser did the same amount of work, so they deserve the same amount of tip."
Should You Tip the Owner of the Salon?
Post says that most small business owners don’t expect a tip, and if the owner is present in the salon, but didn't work on your hair, there's no reason to tip.
But if they worked on your hair they'd still appreciate it. If you’re not sure, speak up. Just ask, "I know this is your place—do you accept tips?" The salon owner might gladly take it, turn it down, or go on to share it with their stylists, so always err on the courteous side and offer the standard 20 percent.
Should You Ever Not Tip at the Salon?
The only time you shouldn’t tip: When you buy product. "If you decide to buy some styling products or some shampoo, don’t let the receptionist add that to your final bill," says Schweitzer, who points out that salon products are pricey and can really drive the price of your bill up. Instead, ask for her to ring them up as a separate transaction so that there is no confusion when it comes to gratuity for your services.
Otherwise, even if your service wasn't the best, always tip something. "Use the standard 20 percent as a mental marker and you can go up or down from there," says Post, who says you can tip less if your experience wasn't quite how you expected it to be, or more for a phenomenal experience.