How Much Should You Tip for a Haircut?

Show Your Appreciation With a Proper Gratuity at the Salon

Hair Stylist
 Hero Images/Getty Images  

You're at the salon getting a haircut, but how much gratuity should you give your stylist? Should you tip the person who washes your hair? What if the owner of the salon is your stylist?

These are all very common questions and deciding how much to tip at the salon can be very confusing. You want to show your appreciation for everyone's dedication to make you look great, but making the decision about how much to give can be almost as daunting a task as choosing your new style. Let's explore what the average gratuities are and what the professionals expect.

The Hairstylist and Colorist

Generally, you can tip a hairstylist and colorist just as you would a server in a restaurant. If the service is excellent, you might add a tip of 20 to 30 percent; if the service is good, 15 to 20 percent is a good range.

If you communicated your desires clearly from the beginning and are not pleased with your cut or color, you should speak up. Be polite and ask that it be fixed. The stylist will likely offer to correct it at no additional charge. Once your hair is fixed, feel free to tip as you see fit. Unless your stylist offends you or obviously messes up your hair, the gratuity should be no less than 10 percent. 

Also, be sure to factor in any issues on your part. If you were late to the appointment or couldn't avoid bringing your kids, giving a little extra is a nice gesture. It shows that you understand you may have inconvenienced your stylist in some way and that you appreciate her work just the same.

The Barber

The same tipping guidelines apply to a barber as well. Plan on tipping 20 percent or more for excellent service and 15 percent for good service.  

Salon Assistants

Some salons have a variety of people who help out stylists to make you look great. It's important that you don't forget these assistants, however, tipping standards can vary from one establishment to another.

In the past, it was customary to tip the person who shampoos or blow dries your hair $2 to $5. Today, many stylists share their tips with their assistants, leaving you free to enjoy your shampoo or blow-dry without worrying about who to tip and how much. 

If you're in doubt about how the salon you're at handles tips, quietly ask your stylist or the receptionist what's expected.

Other Salon Services

The same gratuity rules apply to your manicurist, your aesthetician, your waxer, and anyone else who spends time making you look beautiful. They generally receive a 15 to 30 percent, based on the quality and extent of service you received.

Tipping the Salon Owner

In the past, you were not expected to tip the owner of a salon, even if they were also your stylist. Times have changed and in many parts of the country, it is now customary to tip the owner as you would a regular stylist. In rural areas and small towns, tipping the owner may not be expected.

Again, if you aren't sure, ask. The receptionist will quickly be able to tell you if the owner accepts tips.

Tip on the Pre-Tax Amount

Here's a "tip" for you that many people don't realize: it's perfectly acceptable to base your tip on the pre-tax amount rather than the full amount. This can apply anywhere that tipping is expected: at restaurants, in salons, during travel, etc.

While this doesn't matter if the price or the taxes are low in the area, it can be a significant difference if your final bill is large because you're paying for many services. And, when it comes to restaurants, large group bills can add up quickly.

Cash Is Preferred

It can be easy to simply add your tip while processing your debit or credit card, but you might want to think twice about it. Cash tips are often preferred for a very good reason.

Cash is immediate, whereas credit card tips sometimes get paid at the end of the week or even the month. In many industries, especially nail salons and restaurants, tips make up a significant portion of one's take-home pay. So paying in cash means they get paid right away. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it may be to the person caring for you.

Holiday Tips

When the holidays roll around, many people find it to be a perfect time to give a little extra to service professionals they encounter throughout the year. That often includes their favorite stylists.

Holiday tips are appreciated by hairstylists, manicurists, and waxers, so it is a nice token of your appreciation. In some areas of the country, it's appropriate to give a gift instead. This may be a simple card, a gift certificate, or some homebaked goodies. Bigger metropolitan areas generally stick to cash. Be sure to feel out your area—even ask around—to see what's considered proper etiquette.

What About Cheap Nail Salons in New York City?

In May 2015, the New York Times published a tell-all about the nail salon industry in New York City. Secrets of horrible work conditions for workers brought in from China, Mexico, and Tibet were exposed. State and city officials vowed to crack down on nail salon owners and all signs show that they are.

And yet, this left many New Yorkers wondering if they should still go to these salons and, if they do, how much should they tip? Many of these workers live off their tips and get paid a pittance for salary. I have friends ask me, "what do I do?"  It's really up to you.

If it really bothers you, choose a salon where you know the working conditions are good. If you don't want to leave your favorite nail salon, consider tipping 25 to 30 percent and do so in cash.