Gratuity at Salons: How Much to Tip for a Haircut

What to tip your hairdresser, the person who washes your hair, and more

Woman having hair cut in salon
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So you're at the salon getting a haircut, how much gratuity should you give your stylist? What about the person who washes your hair? What if the owner of the salon is your stylist?

The Hairstylist and Colorist

You tip a hairstylist and colorist just as you would a server in a restaurant: If the service is excellent, then you tip 20-25%, if the service is good, 15%. If you are not pleased with your cut or color, you should speak up and the stylist should offer to correct your cut or color at no additional charge.

Once your hair is fixed, then 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 a 10% tip.

The Barber

The same goes for a barber. You tip 20% for excellent service, 15% for good service.  

What About Assistants?

In the past, it was customary to tip the person who shampoos your hair $2-$5. These days, stylists usually share their tips with their assistants, leaving you free to enjoy your shampoo and/or blow-dry without worrying over who to tip and how much.  If in doubt, quietly ask your stylist or the receptionist what's expected in your case. 

It's Acceptable to Tip Based on the Pre-Tax Amount

Here's a "tip" for you that many people don't realize: always base your tip on the pre-tax amount, never the full amount. This includes any case where tipping is expected: at restaurants, in salons, during travel, etc.

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

Cash Is Always Preferred

Many salons don't allow tips to be included in the credit card purchase because cash tips are always preferred.

I always tip in cash and recommend others do as well. 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 is to the person caring for you.

What About Other Salon Services?

The same rule applies to your manicurist, your aesthetician and anyone who spends time making you look beautiful (at a cost). They get 15-20 percent as well.

What About Those 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. While state and city officials have vowed to crack down on nail salon owners (and all signs show that they are), many New Yorkers wondered 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, go instead to a salon where you know the working conditions are good. If you don't want to leave your favorite cheap nail salon, consider tipping 25-30%.

Should You Tip the Owner of a Salon?
In the past, you were not expected to tip the owner of a salon but 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.

We explain the reasoning behind tipping owners in the article, Should You Tip the Owner of a Salon if He/She Cuts Your Hair?

What's Expected at the Holidays?

When it comes to the holidays, who gets a tip and who doesn't can be confusing. Giving a holiday tip shows your appreciation to people who provide a service to you on a regular basis throughout the year.

Find out if you should be tip your hairstylist, manicurist and waxer in the article, Holiday Tips, and Hairstylists.