Tipping Your Hair Stylist

Let’s face it – tipping your hair stylist (and hair stylist’s assistant) can be confusing. Am I tipping enough? Not enough? What about tipping on salon specials and/or discounts, etc? Never fear! A stylist is here to answer all of those questions. Thanks, Tera!

I was recently asked by my pal and client Sarah of Hair Thursday if I would write about properly tipping assistants and stylists in the salon. I’m not sure why it hasn’t dawned on me to write about this because I do get asked the question often when I’m working. So here is a little Q & A about what I know and what I think. If you have any other questions I haven’t answered, please feel free to ask it in the comments below!

What should I tip my stylist?

You stylist is performing a service and should be tipped between 15-20% of the price of the service depending on how you enjoyed the service. If you stylist is running on schedule, really listened to what you had to say about your hair and gave you exactly what you had in mind then tip on the higher end of the scale. In some cases, your service may be discounted for whatever reason; it is then expected that you add gratuity on the original price of the service.

What should I tip the assistant?

This depends on exactly what she did for you. If she only shampoos your hair for a cut then $3-$5 is fair. Again, if it is a shampoo that relaxes you to the point of drooling go for the higher end of that scale. If she applies your tint and then shampoos your hair, $5-$8 is acceptable. Some clients get a double process color that requires more than one shampoo, in this case she would really appreciate $8-$10.

Disclaimer: These rates are based on average stylist pricing in Newport Beach, CA. Depending on where you live, it may be higher or lower!

What is the purpose of the assistant?

It was my dream from the day I set foot into beauty school to have an assistant. All of the top stylists I respected worked with assistants and that was because they were so good and so busy that having help was the only way to manage their client base.

As an assistant, I looked for the stylist that I thought did the best work in my area. He saw approximately 30 clients a day, did amazing hair and with that came a lot of money. And let’s face it, as much as I love what I do, at the end of the day it is about the money!

As a stylist, I love working with an assistant for many reasons. It gives me daily opportunities to teach, which makes me better at what I do. Every client gives me a chance to show my assistant something that will help her be a great stylist in the future; whether is is customer service, terminology, color formulation, cutting techniques or blow drying. She helps by mixing up color, applying tints, cleaning up and doing shampoos. This allows me to see more clients in a day so I have better availability and to let me really focus on a haircut or color technique. My assistant runs my life in the salon and I honestly believe it has freed me up to do my best work.

I pay a lot of money to see my stylist. What if I’m not comfortable having the assistant apply my color?

As a stylist, I would never allow my assistant to apply color if I wasn’t totally confident she would do it properly. She has been fully trained in my technique and must be given the opportunity to use what she has learned. If a client is adamant that I apply her color and I have time, I will happily oblige. I did have to train my clientele that this is the way I work when I first started working with an assistant and most are quite comfortable with the process now.

I believe this topic is covered but again, feel free to ask away if you think of something else I can add to it!

  1. Jen

    December 7, 2010 at 6:49 am

    One question – what about tipping at the holidays/a holiday gift. I tip well – 20% to 25% – and have services every 6-8 weeks. (alternate – cut/style one appointment, color/cut/style the next, etc.)

    Do I need to tip more at the holidays? Do I need to give my stylist a holiday tip/gift? I don’t want to offend by not giving her one, but I feel my services are expensive for the area and I tip her well each time.

    Thanks for your help!

  2. Tammi Marie

    December 7, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Agreed, I have no idea what to do about the holidays. Last year I just gave her a Christmas Card with her usual tip inside (I always tip 20%). I didn’t know her all that well to give her a real gift. This year I went at the end of November so I won’t be seeing her again until January so in that case I wouldn’t give her anything for the holidays since I won’t see her. Or did I do a taboo and I should have given her something in Nov?

    Oh and what if my stylist just has another stylist who isn’t busy at the moment wash my hair? I didn’t tip her. I mean I bring a $20 to the salon and that has only ever happened once, so I had no money to tip her. But they are at the same level.

  3. Lacretia

    December 7, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Thank you for this post! As a woman who has always had a hairstylist mother do her hair, I never knew how to tip once I went to the salon! I feel much better now!

  4. EH

    December 7, 2010 at 9:05 am

    So, the stylist never tips out the assistant? I’d always assumed that was the case… given they are helping in all manner of ways, not just on the shampoo.

  5. Manda

    December 7, 2010 at 9:19 am

    This is awesome. Looking forward to more info from Tera… This is so valuable and it’s something SO awkward to ask about as you pay!! And I’ve done it!! :)

  6. Tera Stephens

    December 7, 2010 at 9:39 am

    @Jenn- 10 years ago, when the economy was jumpin, I would leave the salon with bags of gifts during December! The past few years I have received a few gifts from really regular clients who have been coming to me forever. Occasionally, a client will tip a little extra and say “Merry Christmas!”. While it’s not expected, it is a really sweet gesture.
    @Tammi Marie- In the case of another stylist washing your hair, you could’ve maybe tipped that stylist $5 and given the remaining $15 to your stylist.
    And if you don’t see your stylist in December, I would say don’t worry about even addressing the holiday!
    @EH- My assistant makes a modest salary. By having her earn her own tips with great customer service, she is learning to be a better stylist.
    @Manda- I miss your cute face!

  7. sharon

    December 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Great post! And perfect timing. I have an appointment next week. I owe Kimmie back tips!! :) Seriously, so helpful!

  8. Mia

    December 7, 2010 at 10:15 am

    What to tip the assistant always confuses me because, I once worked in a high-end salon where the stylists tipped out the assistants at the end of the day. Of course some people still left tips, but when they did, it was more like bonus money for the assistants. Is tipping out the assistants customary?

  9. Sarah

    December 7, 2010 at 10:30 am

    First off, I am a stylist. I do not have an assistant, but the assistants in my salon usually don’t get tipped out by the stylists. That being said, they only make around minimum wage, so it’s nice to have a few bucks thrown their way.
    I’ve picked up slack for my fellow stylists by shampooing or mixing color, and do not expect to be tipped. We usually pay it forward.
    As far as holiday tips go, it depends on what you can afford, how long you’ve been a client, how well you feel like you’ve been treated in your time as a client there.
    I have some clients who will tip $100+, while sometimes I receive cookies or a lotto ticket in a card. It’s not the amount, but the sentiment.
    Don’t break the bank trying to give a great holiday tip, but keep in mind that we work very hard this time of year (it’s our busiest season by far!) and it’s just nice to know we’re being thought of during the holidays.

  10. Shanna ~ My Favorite Everything

    December 7, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Great post Tera! Though I’m feeling horrible…..I’ve always tipped the girl that has done my hair in the high end and assumed she was passing on a portion to her assistant. I guess I’ve always thought of it like a restaurant where you don’t tip the bus boy, the chef, the host, etc…but that gratuity is somehow shared proportionately. Guess I need to do a better job :-( Thanks for the info!

  11. Lynn @ Walking With Scissors

    December 7, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Holy crap. I had no idea it was supposed to be that much!!! I always tip $10. Guess I should be rethinking that…

  12. Claudia

    December 7, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Follow same guidelines if your stylist is the salon owner?

  13. Shanna ~ My Favorite Everything

    December 7, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Hysterical, and I could be wrong, but I think that’s my hair you’re doing in the photo! :-) Damn girl, the color you did looks great!

  14. sizzle

    December 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    No wonder my stylists have loved me- I have been tipping BIG.

  15. Sarah

    December 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    It is your hair, Shanna!! Taken at the Emmy party. ;)