Salon and spa practitioners dedicate themselves to pampering others, so it’s only fair that we give them something back. But 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. Below, we lay out how much to tip in a variety of salon and spa settings.
The basics of salon tipping
While every beauty service has its own tipping rates, there are a few basic rules of salon tipping etiquette that apply across the board:
Always tip on the non-discounted rate. Groupons and other deals are a great way to save money on the service itself, but practitioners still give 100% regardless of your discount.
Give more for exceptional service. If your practitioner went out of his or her way to make your experience one of a kind, it’s nice to reward them for a job well done.
When in doubt, bring cash. Salons and spas differ in their payment systems: while some welcome tipping on a credit card, others might not have that ability. Cash is a sure-fire way to ensure your tip gets to where it’s going.
Like dining at a restaurant, getting a haircut usually calls for a 20% tip if you’re pleased with the service. If you’re not, feel free to bring it 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.
If you’re happy with your manicure or pedicure, it’s customary to tip nail artists 15%–20%. 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.
Tipping 20% is standard practice for a bikini wax. But according to Anjelie Anzure, an aesthetician at Chicago’s Salon 1800, some services call for a little extra, like “if you have a lot of hair and your aesthetician does a little more than she should … like around the thigh area. [Then] maybe tip them a little bit more.”
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%, more if you really enjoyed the massage session.
Your tip at a tanning salon depends on what kind of tan you go for. 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. “Usually 20% of the full price is standard,” Matthew said. “We are basically artists in spray tanning, because we are doing cosmetics. You’re getting a cosmetic applied to you.”
When you go in for a full spa day, the idea of calculating tips for the many services and therapists involved has the potential to spoil an otherwise relaxing experience. So don’t let it: wait until the end of your visit to tip with your payment. Many spas have stacks of envelopes at the front desk that clients can use to send individual tips to individual practitioners; all you need to do is place your cash inside and hand it to the receptionist.
How much to tip depends on the service, but for any not mentioned above, 15%–20% is usually a safe bet.