Tipping at a salon can be tricky because of the amount of services and people involved. Here’s a guide to how much to tip your hairdresser and more!

By Cari Wira Dineen
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Here's a familiar scene: You get a color, cut, and blow-out at the salon, you're looking and feeling gorgeous—and then you get to the check-out desk and freeze. Suddenly you realize you have no idea who to tip, let alone how much to give anyone. You know that proper etiquette requires you tip your hairstylist, but what about the person who washed your hair or dried it for you? And what if you used a discount offer—how much do you tip then? Don’t let getting your hair done make you come undone! Here’s everything you need to know about how to tip a hairdresser and everyone else at the salon.

What’s the Standard Rate?

When it comes to tipping your hairstylist, always go with the golden rule of 20 percent, says Daniel Post, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute. “Remember that just like servers in restaurants, hairdressers depend on tips as part of their income,” he says. Many salons don't allow you to leave a tip on a credit card, so be sure to have ample cash on you when you arrive at your appointment. “Our society is slowly becoming cashless, but in the world of tipping, cash is king,” says Sharon Schweitzer, international etiquette expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide.

And while tipping your hairdresser is definitely considered proper etiquette, you should also feel good about giving gratuity. “Remember that the word ‘gratuity’ comes from ‘gratitude,’” says Post. “Think of tipping less as an obligation and more of a way of being thankful for someone who is pampering you and making you look and feel your best.” Plus, being a reliable tipper often pays off in other ways. “When you tip well, your generosity will be remembered the next time you come back,” says Post, pointing out that your hairstylist might offer you perks such as free bang trims or touch-ups. One last thing to remember: Tip your hairdresser a little extra at Christmas (another 10 percent) as a holiday bonus.

What About Shampoo, Color, and Blowout?

How much should you tip your colorist or the person who washed your hair? Just remember the golden rule: “You should tip 20 percent on the entire service cost, not per individual,” says Schweitzer. So if your haircut and blow-dry cost $40 and your color was $60, your total service cost comes to $100 and you should tip $20 spread out among the colorist and stylist. That said, if an assistant blow-dried or shampooed your hair, you should give them $4-$5 since they are likely getting paid minimum wage and really rely on tips.

Confused by who helped you? Post recommends you ask the person at the front desk when you check out to help you calculate tips and to help distribute them to the correct people. “When you have three separate people helping you, it can be confusing to monitor their names and what they should be tipped, so defer to the front desk or manager to help you distribute your tips or explain what the system this particular salon uses,” he says. Ask if small envelopes are available for individual tip distribution. “Tipping is something that, when done discreetly, is classy. You shouldn’t be searching the salon for three or four different people making a show of your gratuity,” he says.

What If I’m Using a Coupon?

If you’re using a coupon or bought your service from a discount site like Groupon, ask the person at the front desk to tell you the true cost of the service you received. “Tip 20 percent on the true total cost of the service, not the discounted cost,” says Schweitzer. “The hairdresser did the same amount of work, so they deserve the same amount of tip.” 

Should I Tip the Owner of the Salon?

Post says that most small business owners don’t expect a tip, but if they worked on your hair they would still appreciate it. If you’re not sure, speak up. Ask, “I know this is your place—do you accept tips?” The salon owner might gladly take it, turn it down, or go on to share it with her stylists, so always err on the courteous side and offer the standard 20 percent. That said, if the owner is present in the salon, but did not work on your hair, there is no reason to tip.

Should I Ever Not Tip?

Even if your service isn’t the best, always tip something. “Use the standard 20 percent as a mental marker and you can go up or down from there,” says Post, who says you can tip less if your hair didn’t turn out quite the way you expected or more for really phenomenal service. The only time you shouldn’t tip: When you buy product. “If you decide to buy some styling products or some shampoo, don’t let the receptionist add that to your final bill,” says Schweitzer, who points out that salon products are pricey and can really drive the price of your bill up. Instead, ask for her to ring them up as a separate transaction so that there is no confusion when it comes to gratuity for your services.