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How Much To Tip a Hairdresser and Other Salon and Spa Professionals

BY: Editors | Jun 21, 2019

woman tipping for service

A trip to the salon or spa should be a relaxing experience, not a crash course in tipping etiquette. And since salon tipping is a practice that's both generally expected and rarely talked about, it can be hard to know the difference between being stingy and being overly generous. So how much should you tip a hairdresser? What about a nail artist or an aesthetician? Do you follow the 20% rule or is $5 generally enough? Below, we lay out how much to tip a hairdresser and other salon and spa professionals, so you can stop worrying and truly let go.

Salon Tipping at a Glance

Use this handy chart to quickly find an appropriate tip, or consult the sections below for a more in-depth response:

SERVICE AND/OR PROFESSIONAL HOW MUCH TO TIP
HAIRCUT 20%
STYLING ASSISTANT
(ASSISTING WITH COLOR OR SHAMPOO)
$2 per assistant OR an additional 2%–3% on your total tip
SPECIAL EVENT HAIRSTYLE 25%–30%
MANI-PEDI 15%–20%
WAX 20%
MASSAGE 15%–20%
AIRBRUSH TAN 20%

How Much to Tip a Hairdresser

Like dining at a restaurant, getting a haircut usually calls for 20% gratuity to the hairdresser. Tip more if you're pleased with the service; if you're not, feel free to bring your haircut tip down to 5% or 10%. This is good etiquette regardless of whether the stylist is an employee, an independent contractor, or the salon owner.

Don't forget about salon assistants—the people who shampoo your hair and assist with color services deserve a tip too. When we talked to Jason Hall, co-owner of Chicago's Red 7 Salon, about salon etiquette, he said it helps to ask your stylist if they "tip out," or give a portion of their tips to assistants. If they do, bump up your stylist's tip to 22% or 23% to cover the difference. If they don't, it's polite to tip the assistant around $2, though more is always appreciated for exceptional service.

Hairstyling for weddings and other special events is a different story, however. Jason said a tip of 25%–30% is necessary for the extra effort these services require.

How Much to Tip at a Nail Salon

If you're happy with your manicure, then there's not much gray area about how much to tip at the nail salon. It's customary for nail artists to receive 15%–20% gratuity for a manicure. To avoid ruining their handiwork, it's a good idea to pay and tip before they apply the polish so you won't be fishing for your credit card with tacky nails. You can follow the same rule of thumb (er, big toe) concerning how much to tip for pedicures.

What about a bikini wax? Do you tip for that?

Tipping 20% is standard practice for a bikini wax. Tip a little extra "if you have a lot of hair and your aesthetician does a little more than she should ... like around the thigh area," according to Anjelie Anzure, an aesthetician at Chicago's Salon 1800.

How much should you tip for a massage?

Along with "Should you get naked for a massage?" the issue of "Do you tip for a massage?" is a question our editors hear most often. Just as with any gratuity-based service, tipping isn't required after a massage, but it is polite. Good etiquette calls for a tip of 15%–20% for a massage, more if you really enjoyed the session.

Do you tip at a tanning salon?

For a session in a tanning bed, tipping isn't required. When we talked to Matthew Turner, owner of Chicago's Halsted Street Beach Tanning, about tanning etiquette, he said: "[Some people] leave a couple dollars [for] cleaning the bed. It's nice, but it's not something expected or even anywhere remotely required."

Tipping is customary after an airbrush tan, where 20% of the full price is standard. "We are basically artists in spray tanning because we are doing cosmetics," Mathew said. "You're getting a cosmetic applied to you."

Do you tip at a med spa? 

Here's where it gets tricky. If you're getting a facial, microdermabrasion, peel, or other service performed by an aesthetician, tipping 20% is customary. 

But do you tip for laser hair removal or other more intensive medical services? It depends. These treatments are expensive, so tacking on an additional 15%–20% tip really adds up. Plus, these treatments are typically performed by nurses and doctors, who are getting paid a salary, and salaried employees typically don't get tips. (Aestheticians, on the other hand, are often paid hourly.)

Yet, it's a nice gesture to throw someone an extra $20 or so, particularly if they're performing hair removal and you'll see them a lot over the next few months. If you're really unsure, ask the med spa what their policy on tipping is because some of them don't allow it anyway.