A trip to the salon or spa should be a relaxing experience, but too often the zen atmosphere fades when it’s time to figure out the tip. Get it wrong, and you’ll likely receive a crash course in tipping etiquette in the most awkward of ways.
Since salon tipping is a practice that’s both expected and rarely discussed, it can be hard to find the line between being shamefully stingy and a little overly generous (although there’s nothing wrong with that if you can afford it and it’s deserved).
So, how much should you tip a hairdresser, anyway? What about a nail artist or an aesthetician? Do you follow the 20% rule or is $5 enough? Below, we lay out how much to tip a hairdresser and other salon and spa professionals, so you can budget without a worry and truly relax.
Salon Tipping at a Glance
Use this handy chart to quickly find an appropriate tip — we explore the benchmarks in more detail below.
|SERVICE AND/OR PROFESSIONAL||HOW MUCH TO TIP|
(ASSISTING WITH COLOR OR SHAMPOO)
|$3 per assistant OR an additional 2%–3% on your total tip|
|SPECIAL EVENT HAIRSTYLE||25%–30%|
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 now-closed 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 something like $2, though more is always appreciated for exceptional service.
Hairstyling for weddings and other special events is a different story. 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, 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 they 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 often. 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 for Laser Hair Removal?
Your legs (and perhaps other body parts) are now as smooth as a dolphin, so should you tip your clinician? Tipping isn’t mandatory for laser hair removal, but considering you might be seeing this person for repeat treatments, it might be worth tipping if you think they’ve done a great job. This does depend if you’ve had your procedure with a doctor or at a salon, however. If it is a salon, check the facility for notices about gratuity etiquette and your payment schedule.
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 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 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 don’t allow the gesture — this way, you’re more likely to avoid awkward paycheck moments.