Here’s How Much to Tip Your Hairdresser
Have a hair appointment coming up? Find out how much to tip your hairdresser and the assistant stylists—and how much to give at the holidays.
Making the decision to add caramel balayage highlights or a major bang chop to your ‘do? Easy peasy. Deciding how much to tip your hairdresser for creating that new look? Not so much. That’s because deciding how much to tip is innately discretionary, says Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert and the owner of Access to Culture. “Tipping can be one of the most confusing aspects of culture because no one is required to follow a set amount,” she explains. But what most experts agree on is that tipping your hairdresser is an important show of appreciation (same goes for tipping at the nail salon.)
Tipping your hairdresser (and tipping well) also helps build and maintain a good relationship for the long haul—the kind of relationship that can sway your hairdresser to squeeze you into a packed schedule at the eleventh hour, recommend the best shampoo and conditioner for your hair type, or go the extra mile to share the best haircut for your face shape or the latest hair color trends (and make sure the one you love is actually the best hair color for you). “Hairdressing is an art,” says Aida Mulic, owner of Envision 1111 Salon in Lynnwood, Washington. “You’re not only paying for the service but for your hairdresser’s artistic talent.”
Plus, stylists tend to rely on this extra money to make ends meet. As Kyle Miller, a master stylist at Day Salon in Newburgh, Indiana, explains, “We’re in a service-based industry, and not only do we appreciate tips, but they’re also an essential part of most stylists’ income.”
But how much is enough—and how much is totally not? We asked pros to spill the tea to help you determine an actual number and navigate gray areas where a gratuity isn’t so clear cut.
How much should you tip your hairdresser?
Whether you’re hopping into the chair for a quick trim, a major chop, or a three-hour coloring sesh, a reasonable tip range is 15 to 25 percent (low end if you aren’t so happy; high end if you’re thrilled with your new look). “I look at tipping as rewarding a service, just like at a restaurant—you’re paying for the food, then tipping for the service of someone bringing it to you,” says Mulic. “At a salon, you’re paying for the time, the products, the training, and then tipping for the level of experience and service you receive.”
That said, Mulic reminds you to tip only on the price of the service itself, not on any salon products you purchase—such as if your stylist recommends a great shampoo for your curly hair—when checking out.
Four people worked on your hair. Do you tip them all?
Here’s where things get confusing. In larger salons, your hairstylist might be doing the main gig, but there’s an assistant handing over the highlight foils, another apprentice shampooing your hair, and sometimes even a fourth person handling the blowout. “This can be a tricky one,” admits Joico guest artist Tiffany Molina Pachl. “Every salon does it differently, and I wouldn’t be afraid to ask either the receptionist or your stylist what the policy is. Sometimes the stylist will split all their tips with the assistants per an agreement. At other salons, the assistants may be paid on a commission, or they’re in school earning credit hours, and the salon tips them out differently.”
You might consider handing each of them a $5 bill to show your gratitude. “I actually love to tip the stylist’s assistant,” says Leticia McKay-Everett, a hairdresser in Dayton, Ohio. “Honestly, they’re the hardest workers, and most of the time, it’s a thankless job. A tip will remind them of their importance.”
Should you tip if you’re using a gift certificate?
Let’s say a loved one gets you a gift certificate to a salon. Technically, the service is already paid for, so should you still tip your hairdresser? Devin Toth, a hairstylist at Salon SCK in New York City, says it’s still nice to tip if you’re using a gift certificate. Some salons may actually let you leave a tip using the money on the gift card itself, but if you aren’t sure that’s allowed, call the salon ahead of time and ask. That way, you aren’t inadvertently stiffing your hardworking hairdresser.
Ugh. You hate your cut or color. Now what?
You’re in the salon chair looking at your hair in the mirror, and you aren’t happy with the results. To tip, or not to tip? Admittedly, this is another gray area—and one that even the pros have conflicting opinions about. Hairstylist Monica Davis, a professional hairstylist and founder of the My Straightener blog, says no, you shouldn’t reward a bad job … but you shouldn’t stay mum. “Helping a hairdresser understand where they lack proficiency is the best way to tip if you don’t like the result,” she explains. “Be polite, though. Everyone makes mistakes.”
Others believe that handing over a leaner tip (like 10 percent) is a kinder move, even when you’re unhappy. “Most clients tip even on the rare occasion that they don’t like their results,” Toth explains. “They still want to show gratitude for the hairdresser’s time and effort. They also know that sometimes there’s a little bit of trial and error with hair, especially with color services, and it’s usually understood that through communication, their results will get better over time while working with the same hairdresser.”
Consider, too, whether a miscommunication led to a cut or color job you don’t love. “Sometimes a hair adjustment is just a simple miscommunication between you and your stylist,” Pachl adds. “It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve received a bad haircut or color.”
There are arguments to be made for tipping and not tipping if you don’t like the results, but the bottom line is that figuring out how much to tip your hairdresser in this situation is up to you. Just make sure you’re polite and be completely honest with your hairdresser to get the results you want during your next appointment.
Do you have to tip if your stylist is also the salon owner?
While that used to be the case, times have changed, says Mulic. Remember: With a tip, you’re also acknowledging the owner’s time, products used, education and training, and experience. Those extra dollars are also going to the overall functioning of the business. “If you go into a salon that pays commission or an hourly wage to their employees, they’re also providing the space and a lot of extra overhead in order for that salon to succeed,” explains Miller. That includes countless hours, sleepless nights, and the added financial burden that not everyone is willing to risk.
If your hairdresser rents a booth and is the sole proprietor, those tips help cover rent and product purchases; those products can be expensive since they’re not being bought in bulk at a discount (something that large salons do).
Tipping in the time of COVID-19
“Going without our essential services during the pandemic made us appreciate our service providers even more,” says McKay-Everett, who has been seeing increased tipping in the beauty industry since COVID-19. Pachl urges you to remember that the beauty biz has taken a big hit, with plenty of extra expenses in the past two years, from masks and disinfectants to limited capacity for clients’ safety. “Fewer clients in the salon means less money behind the chair,” she points out, “so adding extra bucks to a tip, if you can afford it, is truly appreciated.”
How much should you tip your hairdresser during the holidays?
Ah, the holidays. A time to pull out all the beauty stops so you can match the sparkle of the season. But you’ve been tipping your stylist all year long. Is it necessary to ante up again? The short answer: Sure. If you happen to have an appointment during the holiday season, it’s nice to increase your usual gratuity as a gesture of cheer and thanks. “The standard 18 to 20 percent tip will be more than OK,” Davis says, “but you can show extra appreciation by adding an additional 10 to 15 percent.”
Toth, who believes it’s completely up to the client, explains that “some people don’t tip any differently during the holiday season. Others tip double what they normally would. Some round up by 50 or by the hundred. Some people tip the value of the entire service and even a lot more.”
At the very least, if you’re stopping by the salon during the month of December and your budget doesn’t accommodate an extra outlay of cash, a small gift—like cookies, chocolate, or even a bottle of wine—is a kind gesture.
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Bonus tips for tipping your hairdresser
Want to make your tips extra special? Toth offers these suggestions:
- There’s no wrong way to give a tip. You can leave cash, write a personal check, utilize apps like Venmo and PayPal, give the tip in person or in an envelope (or a handwritten card), or simply leave it at the front desk for the hairdresser to pick up.
- You can make tipping as fun and personal as you’d like. Some people leave cute messages or inside jokes on their tip envelopes, or even draw funny doodles. Toth has a client who always tips using only $2 bills.
- In addition to giving cash, think outside the box for an extra-thoughtful thank-you. Some of the best tips include referring your hairdresser to new clients, giving them social media shout-outs, writing them excellent reviews on Google and Yelp, and continuing to come back as a loyal client.
Now that you know how much tip your hairdresser, find out how much to tip hotel housekeeping so you’re not scrambling for information on your next trip.
Additional reporting by Kelly Kuehn.
- Sharon Schweitzer, international etiquette expert and owner of Access to Culture
- Kyle Miller, master stylist at Day Salon in Newburgh, Indiana
- Tiffany Molina Pachl, Joico guest artist
- Monica Davis, professional hairstylist and founder of the My Straightener blog
- Leticia McKay-Everett, a hairdresser in Dayton, Ohio
- Devin Toth, hairstylist at Salon SCK