There's a lot that goes into making a trip to the hair salon or barbershop, from finding the perfect stylist to scouring Instagram for hair inspo. Still, the one thing that remains a question before you even step foot inside the salon is—wait for it—tipping. You may find yourself treading on murky waters when it comes time to pay for your service (what's actually expected, and what should you do in cases of a dissatisfied service?). "Generally speaking, the stylist does not pocket the full amount of their service fee—most of that money goes back to the salon to pay for overhead costs to keep the business running," says Amy Abramite, professional hairstylist. "A substantial part of the stylist's income comes from tips, which can show to them that their skill level is appreciated and valued."
Whether you're stuck wondering how much to tip a barber or how much to tip for a haircut, we've got all the answers, straight from pros on the other side of the styling chair. Below, Abramite along with pro barber Parker Williams share all we need to know about tipping. Read on to learn the customary rules of exactly how much to tip your barber or stylist.
Meet the Expert
How Much to Tip
"When tipping a stylist in the hair salon, the same etiquette applies as you would follow in a restaurant," says Abramite. "I recommend tipping between 15 to 20% of your service total for your technician." And if you're wondering if it's necessary to tip for that ultra-soothing shampoo and massage session you received right before sitting in the styling chair, Abramite says that should also be taken into account. "If you enjoyed your shampoo and head massage, a nice tip for a salon apprentice is three to five dollars."
The same rings true when it comes to how much to tip for a men's haircut—Williams notes that the industry standard lies between 20 to 25%.
Tipping During the Holidays
Between holiday parties and long weekends, having flawless hair is important for many during festive season, and stylists are likely working overtime. "Most clients like to tip double during the holidays," says Abramite, noting that some tip the normal cost of a visit. (For example, if you normally pay $30 for a haircut, then you would tip them $30 during the holidays—it's a nice way to say "thank you" for a year's worth of great hair). Williams adds that "there is no expectation for clients to tip more during the holidays, however, barbers and their regular clients create relationships over time, and many clients choose to honor this with higher tip percentages along with small gifts during the holiday season."
When to Tip More
Certain circumstances warrant heftier tipping. For instance, if you're running late to your appointment, Abramite says that tipping more is a nice gesture. "If you are late, the stylist has to work quicker while keeping the quality of the service at the same level, which is challenging in a time crunch," she says. "Tipping more shows you respect their time, and is a nice way of saying 'sorry' for pushing their day behind." Williams agrees, adding that "barbers have upwards of 15 clients scheduled back to back, so one late client in the morning can affect each of the following appointments." Consider tipping extra to offset the inconvenience.
While tipping more isn't expected if you're a regular client, if you feel like your stylist listened to your needs, you got exactly what you came in for, and overall had an exceptional experience, this can be the cause for a larger tip. "It’s important to take care of the people who are taking care of you," says Williams. "While it’s not necessary to tip more as a regular customer, tips help promote a mutually beneficial ongoing relationship between clients and barbers."
While it's a subjective judgment, good service is when the barber or stylist listens carefully, has a pleasant attitude, and takes the amount of time necessary to give a great cut. An exceptional barber or stylist will be engaging, entertaining, quick to offer suggestions on how to better wear your hair, and keep an immaculate work area.
How much to tip your barber if your stylist works on your hair outside of the salon (for example, coming to your home) can vary, but generally speaking, Abramite recommends tipping double the amount you would in the salon. "That would be a $30 to $40 tip on a $100 service," she says. "You may not be aware, but it takes a lot of effort for your stylist to transport their tools on location."
When to Tip Less
If you've ever been the recipient of a bad haircut but still felt obligated to give a decent tip, know that you're not alone. "If you are unhappy with the outcome of your hair service, you can chose to tip less," says Abramite, with a caveat. "I would focus on the attentiveness of your stylist and how well he or she listened to your needs." After all, if realistic expectations were not met after a thorough consultation, you have a right to be disappointed. This would be the case if, for example, you asked for a particular length and the stylist clearly missed the mark you verbally agreed upon.
Also, if their area is not well-maintained or if they rush through your haircut, this is grounds for tipping less. That said, if your barber or stylist is guilty of any of these offenses, it may be time to find a new stylist or barber to cut your hair.
Tipping the Owner
Most owners agree that while they don't expect tips, they always appreciate them. "If the salon owner is cutting or coloring your hair, it is customary to tip them 15 to 20%, just as you would any other stylist—they are still providing a service even if they own the business," Abramite notes. "It is unnecessary to additionally tip the salon owner if another stylist in the salon serviced you."
Just tip the people who touched your hair on your visit. If you’re unsure of proper etiquette, you can ask the receptionists to help guide you through the tipping process.
Why Tipping Really Matters
"Just like in many other service industries, tipping plays a large part in supplementing a barber's income," says Williams. Rest assure that tipping your barber or stylist well doesn't go unnoticed—it can speak volumes about how you appreciate their work. And, tipping builds confidence and trust in your relationship with your stylist. According to Abramite, this can pay off when it comes to the results you get. "Your stylist will definitely go the extra mile to make sure you are happy with your next salon visit," she says.