The New Salon Tipping Rules
Whether you get your hair done in someone’s kitchen, have a stylist come to you, or only step foot in the most top-notch establishments, the topic of tipping at a hair salon has always been up for debate—and discretion.
Fifteen to 20 percent may be the often thrown-around standard, but in the age of blow-dry bars ("no cuts, no color, just blowouts"), the “typical” salon model has changed—and so has the way we tip. We reached out directly to some of the top blowout bars and new beauty apps to get a sense of what might be expected.
Blowout and Styling Bars
“We suggest $10 for RPZL blowouts, though the average has been $20,” say Lisa Richards, cofounder of RPZL, a hair extension and blowout bar in New York, where the price of a blowout starts at $45. “This is because we have secured the top stylists for extensions, who also service our blowouts, braids and updos as well. Our clients recognize and appreciate the gorgeous product this delivers, and are generous tippers as a result.”
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Tipping $20 may seem steep on a $45 tab, but RPZL (and many other blow-dry bars) eliminate one piece of the production—and tipping—puzzle: The person who washes your hair.
“Our Headmasters do it all, from the wash, to the massage and blowout, so you only need to tip your stylist,” Richards explains. “They work really hard and are leading experts in the field with a big part of their salary coming from tipping. You are also getting a reduced rate for all services since we devised a way to save time and money with our technology and techniques, but you are still getting the best stylists, products and gorgeous hair every time.”
Vanessa Melman Yakobson, CEO of blo, stands by a similar model. “In most of our bars, the stylist (or, as we call them, ‘the bloer’) will be the one washing your hair so there is no need to double tip for both parts of the service. Should a person other than your stylist wash your hair, it is a nice gesture to set aside a tip for them as well. Our stylists work hard to please our guests, so any acknowledgement in the form of tip is greatly appreciated and not taken for granted.”
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But Don't Forget...
While blo has one price for blowouts, regardless of the length of your hair, Melman Yakobson says if you have exceptionally long/thick hair and require more time in the chair, you may want to throw a little something extra in the direction of your stylist. “It is not expected, but again, it is always appreciated. Also, if you’re really happy with your experience, be sure to share that with the bar with an email to the location or a post on social media. A positive review goes a long way to making our stylists feel recognized and appreciated. We love seeing positive reviews of our stylists.”
And if you purchase your blowout on sale or as part of a package? “At certain times of year, our tabs go on sale so guests can buy eight blowouts for the price of six,” Melman Yakobson says. “We would suggest that the guest tip based on the price of the service prior to the package savings.”
How Do You Tip on Unlimited Blowouts?
Beyond blowout-only bars, there’s another trend that’s slowly taking over: Unlimited blowout passes (you pay one monthly fee and get unlimited blowouts at various salons). BeautyBooked, which offers BeautyPass, is one such service, currently available in New York.
Under the booking model, you enter your desired time and general location online, and the concierge confirms your appointment within minutes. (There’s currently right around 100 participating salons in New York and the Hamptons, including big-time names like Butterfly Studio, Paul Labrecque and James Corbett.)
But, it definitely begs the question: How do you appropriately tip if you aren’t actually paying for each individual blowout when you go to any given salon?
“If you’re happy with your blowout, we think the steadfast tipping rules still apply: 20 percent of the full-priced service. While it may be easier to schedule a blowout, the stylist is still working hard to make your hair perfect, no matter what kind of salon setting you’re in,” says BeautyBooked cofounder Hillary Hutcheson.
And if you aren’t totally happy—Hutcheson says it’s equally as appropriate to speak up. “If you’re not thrilled with your blowout, speak to the salon manager. They will be able to rectify the situation—and maybe even throw in a complimentary service.”
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But Don't Forget...
One somewhat simple secret Hutcheson says people sometimes forget: Stylists prefer gratuity in cash!
“Cash is definitely always preferred by the stylist,” says Alanna Gregory, cofounder of Vive, a monthly membership program that gives you access to a network of 250-plus salons in New York and Chicago. “But we have heard from stylists and customers that cash tips were a pain point so we've begun bringing this experience within our platform—i.e., enabling customers to leave tips on their credit cards after an appointment.”
“At Vive, we don't own salons, but rather partner with salons to fill excess capacity. As such, if a customer chooses to leave a tip, we recommend tipping on the retail price of the blowout,” Gregory says, and adds that if you're uncomfortable giving cash to the stylist, a salon often has envelopes up front. “We share this information with the customer, and the calculated tip at varying percentage levels. We also allow customers to set a default tip level within their settings.”
“I'm not sure if there ever is a 'should' in tipping. We recommend tipping based on the salon, and of course, the stylist. But it always goes back to the level of service and skill.”