Whether you frequent an upscale salon or a local barber shop, you might feel uncertain about how much to tip – and it’s no wonder.
Tipping can feel arbitrary, and you might be unsure about your understanding of tipping etiquette. For instance, are there hard and fast rules around tipping, or is it up to your discretion? Is there a going rate? Do barbers and stylists expect a certain percentage? Is cash best? Do you tip salon assistants?
To clear up the confusion about how much to tip hairdressers, Amanda Hamarics, a hair stylist at Salon Blu in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Emily Hegdahl, education specialist at the Professional Beauty Association in Scottsdale, Arizona, offer up their expertise.
With years of experience behind the salon chair, here’s what Hamarics and Hegdahl recommend:
Should You Tip at the Salon?
There’s no ambiguity about whether you should tip hairdressers. The answer is yes.
Tips make up an important part of a hairdresser’s income, according to Hamarics.
Hegdahl explains that many hairdressers don’t get a salary, an hourly rate or benefits like health care or paid time off. Rather, many of them receive payment based off commission, so they’ll receive a percentage of each service they provide for a client – usually somewhere between 30% to 50%.
Other hair stylists rent a chair at a salon, so they’ll need to dock the rent for that chair, plus all the overhead for the services they provide, out of the money and tips they make from their clients.
Plus, Hamarics adds, “It’s important to show your appreciation for the person who is doing you a service or helping you out.”
How Much Should You Tip?
When you think about tipping, many hair stylists recommend thinking in percentages. Hegdahl says that 20% is a good rule of thumb, while Hamarics says that anywhere from 18% to 20% is typical. You can apply that tipping range to all sorts of services, from lengthy balayage sessions to a quick kid’s cut.
For instance, you might wonder how much to tip for a $200 hair color service. If you want to give an 18% tip, you’d give your hairdresser $36; if you want to give a 20% tip, you’d give $40. For a less expensive service – say a $50 haircut – the same principle applies. In this case, 18% on a $50 would work out as a $9 tip, while you’d pay a dollar more to give a 20% tip.
Do You Tip Salon Assistants, Too?
Sometimes there are additional salon professionals who come alongside your hairdresser providing services like shampooing, toning or blow-drying. Do you tip them?
“I’d say yes, but probably a smaller dollar amount,” Hegdahl says, adding that hair stylists will often tip out their assistants out of their own day’s tips.
She recommends anywhere from $5 to $10 depending on what they do for you, but there is some ambiguity.
“At some salons, the assistant is doing a lot of the work, and at other salons the assistant might just be doing the shampooing,” says Hamarics.
Should You Tip With Cash or on a Card?
“Cash is still king,” says Hegdahl.
In general, hairdressers prefer receiving their tips in cash, she adds, mainly because they’ll get to keep more of it than they would with tips added to credit card payments.
Even though stylists should be paying taxes on their tips – whether given via cash or cards – sometimes credit cards have additional processing fees that eat into the money that hair stylists get to take home, Hegdahl explains.
“I think a lot of people in the service industry prefer cash,” Hamarics says, adding that she knows not everyone has cash on hand. “But I think when people realize that we’re not getting the full amount they’re trying to give us, they will try to switch to cash.”
Do You Tip for a Redo?
Sometimes you leave the salon and find that your highlights are a little too brassy or your cut was a little uneven, and you need to return to your hairdresser to remedy the mistake. Do you tip for the redo?
There’s some nuance here, according to Hegdahl.
For instance, if the hairdresser did everything the client asked, but the client didn’t like the finished look and wanted to come back in for a different look, Hegdahl would recommend tipping.
On the other hand, “if something happened, and it was not the result that was promised to them from the service provider, then I’d say, no, a tip is not required,” she says.
But Hamarics says that it’s good to remember that when a stylist does a redo for someone, it’s a slot in their day that they’re not making commission and tip with another client.
What if You Can’t Afford to Tip?
Sometimes salons raise their rates on their services. Whether the rising rates are due to inflation or a stylist’s promotion, the increased prices can make some services unattainable for certain clients – especially when it comes to adding in tip.
Because tips are a critical component of a hairdresser’s income, clients shouldn’t think of them as optional. But if adding the tip into the total bill for a salon service truly makes it unaffordable, there are some alternatives to consider.
One option is to book your services at a salon that does offer services within your price range.
“If one salon is really expensive and maybe not within your budget, there are other salons out there that can benefit you,” Hamarics says.
But if you’re really set on sticking with your salon and stylist, Hamarics suggests asking for a consultation before your stylist starts taking out the shears or foils.
Hamarics does consultations with every client before each appointment, so there are no surprises when it comes time to pay the bill and add in tip. During the consultation, Hamarics says that some of her clients of hers even give her a number: “They can tell me, ‘Hey, my budget is $200. What can we do within that?’”
“It’s not just on the client; it’s also on us as a stylist to really be explaining to our clients what the price is – and if there is anything we can do to make them feel more comfortable,” she says.