(Always tip your pedicurist or manicurist.)

By Kristine Gill
July 14, 2020
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We have widely accepted norms for how much to tip for pizza delivery (or any food delivery) and how much to tip your server at a restaurant, but figuring out how much to tip at the nail salon is a bit different. (Maybe you didn’t even know you needed to leave a nail salon tip in the first place.) Tipping etiquette for beauty professionals is a bit different than tipping for food workers, so we have some suggestions from a nail professional who can tell you exactly how much to leave behind for a job well done.

During coronavirus, tipping at the nail salon is as important as ever, if not more so. In many areas, nail salons (and other personal care facilities) have been forced to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19; in some places, nail salons have finally been able to reopen with enhanced cleanliness and hygiene practices. If nail salons in your area have reopened and you feel comfortable going in for a mani or pedi, consider tipping extra. These workers are putting their health at risk to help your nails, the least you can do is give them a few extra dollars.

“Absolutely, 100 percent yes,” says Julie Kandalec, a celebrity manicurist based in New York City and the founder of Masterclass Nail Academy. “The tip should be part of the final price that a client expects to pay,” she says. “For example, if your service costs $50, you should see it as costing $60.”

The widely accepted minimum tip in the industry is 15 percent, Kandalec says, but the most common tip at nail salons is 20 percent. This is similar to what’s expected when tipping at a hair salon or tipping for a massage or spa treatment.

Keep in mind that if you used a Groupon or other type of discount to pay for your service, you should still calculate the nail salon tip for your manicurist based on the full price for the service you received.

Whether you went in for a quick paint job or a full set of new acrylic nails with festive accents, the tip you’re providing should be a reflection of the skill level you received from your manicurist, not just the product you paid for.

“I like to think of it not as paying less for a simpler service, because you are still compensating the artist for their time,” Kandalec says. “Instead, give more for a more specialized or detailed service: 17 to 18 percent for a manicure, and 20 to 25 percent for a new set with nail art.”

No matter what you have done, a tip is a gesture as much as a part of the overall compensation for the nail artist. Keep that in mind while calculating your tip at the nail salon. Even if the job was simple, the money is still appreciated and necessary.

“Personally, I never tip less than $5,” Kandalec says. 

If you’ve ever worked for tips, you know that cash is usually best because it goes straight into your pocket at the end of the shift and is yours to use immediately. The same is true for your manicurist.

“Tips that come from your credit card can take a week or two to get into our hands, and are subject to credit card fees, too,” Kandalec says.

At a restaurant, you leave that cash tip on the table or in the check holder with your receipt. At a nail salon, the options are a little different.

“Most salons have envelopes at the front desk when you pay, and I’ve seen lock boxes that you can slip them into,” Kandalec says. “To take it a step further, when I’m saying goodbye to my technician I’ll say ‘I left you a little something at the front desk’ with a smile, so they know it’s there. Trust me—the mention is very appreciated.”

Kandalec adds that if your technician works for themself and there is no front desk staff to leave money with, just leave the bill partially tucked under a towel at their station.

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Kandalec points out that in other countries, tipping is not only uncommon, but it can also be considered offensive. In the United States, we know that workers in various industries rely on tips. Don’t be surprised if you see signs in nail salons in certain tourism destinations in the United States reminding clients to tip.

If you’re traveling and unsure about whether to leave some cash behind, Kandalec suggests doing a little research.

“Look for gratuity guidelines on the salon's booking website, at the checkout desk, or I have even seen suggested gratuity amounts written directly on the tip envelope,” Kandalec says. “When I am traveling, I always ask Google ‘Do they tip in this country?’ A simple Google search goes a long way.”