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.”

  • Jay
    Posted on

    We work so hard, and our job is labor intensive. As an owner, I still pay as much as the booth renters. Our rent can be as little as a $1000.00 a month. Then... we have our supplies which can be as little as another $1000.00 a month. Then, we have insurance, electricity, water, and any other supplies. We clean the salon and do towels. We work when we are sick 99% of the time. We work 10 hour days without stopping to take a break. We are polite when u are late and also no show us or tell us you have the flu, when u are hung over. We depend on each one of your paid spots for our paycheck. We are at your mercy. We can’t ever take off when a family member dies because u might leave us, and u have. We don’t have any holidays paid for, no pension, no sick time. We pay in our taxes and our social security. If we do take vacation, we pay for our vacation and lose our weeks worth of salary. The wealthiest people are the ones who generally don’t tip, the poorest are the most generous. We work so hard to make u beautiful and we are your therapist . I don’t know, what do u think we are worth?

  • Natalie
    Posted on

    Tipping in cash is preferred because in addition to paying credit card fees on services, we pay credit card fees for the gratuity as well. Yes, I know that the fees are deductible, but a percentage. I believe and am grateful for 15-20%. This industry allows me to practice my passion, but at the same time, in the current day and age, there are no benefits. No health insurance, no pension, no sick days, no vacation days, no personal days and when people cancel last minute or no show (which is a lot even with policies in place) we lose money. So gratuities are extremely appreciated. If we do take a sick day or vacation, we risk losing a client(s). There are a lot of amazing reasons to work in a salon/spa, but there are also a lot of challenges.

  • P.
    Posted on

    I used to tip 10$ for a blowout, but I have coarse, thick hair, and a LOT of it, so I've upped my tip to 20$ these days. It's commensurate with the effort the stylist expends and I don't feel like I'm overtipping.

  • MJ
    Posted on

    This is ridiculous....Period The tipping world itself has become so out of control. If I'm paying $100-$200 for a service, then 20% is more than enough for a service that only takes a couple of hours to complete and where the cost of materials is not a lot either. I respect stylists and what they do but they make plenty of money without having to tip a crazy unreasonable amount.

  • Rachel
    Posted on

    I have super short hair and go every other month to my stylist to get it redone, I've been tipping $10 for a $30 haircut... I've always thought that was fairly generous. Is it not? Should I tip more?

  • Julie
    Posted on

    I am the owner of the salon and a stylist and I have to say the whole idea.of not tipping the owner really doesn't add up. I pay myou girls commission, 50-60 percent. Depending on how much they make in a week. I have rent to pay, electricity to pay, insurance to pay, water to pay, the list goes on. Every single thing in that salon I am financially responsible for. If tipping is a thank you for hood service, then whyou would a client not on the good service I provide them just because I own the place?

  • Hope
    Posted on

    The tipping suggested in this article is out of hand.

  • Leslie
    Posted on

    I find this to be contrary to my blo experiences. Most of these blow dry bars seem to employ stylist who are just fresh out of cosmetology school. I typically engage my "bloer" in conversation to gauge their experience, then add that to my experience and satisfaction to determine my tip. I don't follow any rules as not all salon follow the same standards. I follow my own standards and rules, I am a overly generous tipper and I know what is necessary to keep a stylist happy and loyal. I also have my own standards and expectations. I am clear and convey those expectation when I sit in the chair....

  • Anonymous
    Posted on

    The salon pays minimum wage so of course they are recommending 20 plus %. Cash so they don't have to claim it on taxes. Salons are the ones who should pay a solid wage. Tips should be a bonus!

  • Tanya
    Posted on

    This article doesn't really go into how much to tip your hair stylist. I try to tip around 20%, but for example, my last haircut cost $45 and I tipped $15, which may or may not be "over-tipping". I love my stylist, she's the only one I've ever had who just knew how to cut my curly hair and make it look amazing, and so I show my appreciation by tipping. However, a previous commenter stated that as the owner of the salon, she maybe shouldn't get tipped??? This article should really have touched on these topics...

  • D
    Posted on

    That is obnoxious and insane. The salons mentioned should increase their price if their stylists feel their services are worth more, or said stylists may want to consider going into a field of work that has greater earning potential. Gratuity is a bonus, a thank you, and regardless of the number should be graciously accepted as that. 15-20% is standard and appropriate even at the worlds best salons.

  • JoannieO
    Posted on

    I'm 66, a huge fan of salons for relaxation, and also in receiving the latest in hairstyles and hair coloring. In Rhode Island where I live in a tourist town, I have tried multiple salons. The price seems basically fixed, and I attempt to tip 20%. We just had a blowout bar set up in the downtown area, but don't know how it is doing as a business. This is an interesting article. Also in the fact that the stylists prefer CASH to leaving the monies on the credit card. I am sure this has something to do with claiming taxable incomes at the end of the year!!

  • Elizabeth
    Posted on

    I am a generous tipper (standard is 20-25%), and tipping $20 on a $45 service seem a bit outrageous.

  • Jacquie
    Posted on

    Do you tip, and if you do, how much to a stylist who has a salon in his home and he is the only one there?

  • Sheila Rae
    Posted on

    In some aspects I agree with this article, but quality service is expected or you wouldn't be there or return. That is ultimately what you're paying for. I tip for above the expected... if the salon is quiet,if I'm offered a beverage,if the stylist doesn't talk the entire time (I'm their client not friend),if the stylists do not congregate (unprofessional). Also, too often other stylists will walk up and give their opinion or compliment (rude when its not your client even if positive). I should leave happy and relaxed. That is how I base my tipping. Do not serve me in plastic either, and do NOT double book me!

  • Pam
    Posted on

    So, how much if any would you to the owner of a 2 person salon who is also your stylist? The old rules were don't tip the owners, since they keep all their profits versus stylists who pay chair rental fees or earn a percentage of the bill. I'm confused.

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