Whether you frequent an upscale salon or a local barbershop, you may be unsure how much to tip, and no wonder.
Tipping can seem arbitrary, and you may be unsure of your understanding of tipping etiquette. For example, are there hard and fast rules about tipping, or is it up to your discretion? Is there a current rate? Do barbers and stylists expect a certain percentage? Is cash better? Do you tip salon attendants?
To clear up the confusion about how much to tip hairdressers, Amanda Hamarics, a stylist at Salon Blu in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Emily Hegdahl, an education specialist at the Professional Beauty Association in Scottsdale, Arizona, offer their expertise.
With years of experience behind the salon chair, here’s what Hamarics and Hegdahl recommend:
Should you tip in the salon?
There is no ambiguity about whether hairdressers should be tipped. The answer is yes.
Tips make up a significant portion of a hairdresser’s income, according to Hamarics.
Hegdahl explains that many hairdressers don’t receive a salary, an hourly rate, or benefits like medical care or paid time off. Rather, many of them are paid commission-based, so they will receive a percentage of each service they provide to a client, usually between 30% and 50%.
Other barbers rent a chair from a salon, so they will need to discount the rental of that chair, plus all the overhead for the services they provide, with the money and tips they get from their clients.
Also, adds Hamarics, “it’s important to show your appreciation for the person who is providing you a service or helping you.”
How much should you tip?
When you think about tipping, many hairdressers recommend thinking in percentages. Hegdahl says that 20% is a good rule of thumb, while Hamarics says that 18-20% is typical. You can apply that tip range to all sorts of services, from long balayage sessions to a quick kid’s cut.
For example, you might be wondering how much to tip for a $200 hair coloring service. If you want to tip 18%, you would give your barber $36; if you want to tip 20%, you would tip $40. For a less expensive service, say a $50 haircut, the same principle applies. In this case, 18% of $50 would result in a $9 tip, while you would pay an extra dollar to tip 20%.
Do you also tip salon attendants?
Sometimes there are additional salon professionals who accompany your barber and provide services such as shampooing, toning, or blow-drying. Do you tip them?
“I would say yes, but probably a lower dollar amount,” Hegdahl says, adding that stylists often tip their assistants with their own day’s tips.
She recommends between $5 and $10 depending on what they do for you, but there is some ambiguity.
“In some salons, the assistant is doing a lot of the work, and in other salons, the assistant might just be shampooing,” Hamarics says.
Should you tip in cash or with a card?
“Cash is still king,” says Hegdahl.
In general, hairdressers prefer to receive their tips in cash, he adds, mainly because they will keep more than tips added to credit card payments.
Although stylists should pay taxes on their tips, either in cash or by card, credit cards sometimes have additional processing fees that eat up the money stylists take home, explains Hegdahl.
“I think a lot of people in the service industry prefer cash,” Hamarics says, adding that he knows not everyone has cash on hand. “But I think when people realize we’re not getting the full amount they’re trying to give us, they’ll try to switch to cash.”
Do you tip for a Redo?
Sometimes you walk out of the salon and discover that your highlights are a little too golden or your cut was a little uneven, and you need to go back to your barber to remedy the mistake. Do you tip for remodeling?
There are some nuances here, according to Hegdahl.
For example, if the hairdresser did everything the customer asked, but the customer didn’t like the final look and wanted to come back for a different look, Hegdahl would recommend tipping.
On the other hand, “if something happened and it wasn’t the result the service provider promised them, then I would say no, no tip is required,” he says.
But Hamarics says it’s good to remember that when a stylist redoes for someone, it’s a space in their day where they’re not doing commissions and tips with another client.
What happens if you can’t pay the tip?
Sometimes salons increase the fees for their services. Whether rising rates are due to inflation or a stylist’s promotion, higher prices can make some services unaffordable for certain customers, especially when it comes to adding tips.
Because tips are a critical component of a barber’s income, customers shouldn’t think of them as optional. But if adding the tip to the total bill for a salon service really does make it unaffordable, there are a few alternatives to consider.
One option is to book your services at a salon that offers services within your price range.
“If a salon is really expensive and maybe not in your budget, there are other salons 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 pulling out the scissors or foils.
Hamarics consults with each client before each appointment, so there are no surprises when it comes time to pay the bill and add the tip. During the consultation, Hamarics says that some of his clients even give him a number: “They can tell me, ‘Hey, my budget is $200. What can we do within that?’”
“It does not depend only on the client; it’s also up to us as stylists to really explain to our clients what the price is, and if there’s anything we can do to make them more comfortable,” she says.