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. Kathleen

    December 7, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Thank you for this. Thank you very much.

  2. Tera Stephens

    December 7, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    @Jenn- When I started doing hair 10 years ago, and the economy was jumpin’, I would leave the salon with bags of gifts the whole month of December. These days it is a few clients that I have seen very regularly for many years that come bearing gifts! It is totally unexpected but a sweet gesture. It feels really good to know my client is thinking of me!
    @Tammi Marie- If you miss the month of December, you’re off the hook! As far as other stylists shampooing you, I agree with Sarah. We help each other out and don’t expect a tip for that!
    @EH- My assistant (and the other assistants in every salon I have worked in) make a small hourly wage and are expected to earn their own tips. This is part of teaching a great work ethic and customer service.
    @Manda- Thank you! Can’t wait to see your cute face!
    @Mia- That may be more customary in a commission salon where the assistants are employees of the salon and not one stylist. I have always been an independent contractor and have paid my own assistant.
    @Sarah- Well said! Thanks for the input!

  3. Tera Stephens

    December 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    @Shanna- Dude, don’t feel bad! That’s why I wrote the post! Hoping to reduce a little anxiety in the chair!
    @Claudia- My current salon owners aren’t stylists but I know past owners have accepted tips. That is your call, I feel like that rule is a little outdated personally!
    @Sizzle- Very kind!!!

  4. Kammi

    December 7, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    What about tipping when it’s the store owner who does your hair?

  5. Tammi Marie

    December 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I wouldn’t think you tip the salon owner, just like you don’t tip a B&B owner?

    My old salon had a no tipping policy. I miss that!!! Of course it cost more overall but it took away all this guesswork.

  6. Lin Ilsley

    December 10, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I find the general fuzziness of tipping tough. I understand the practice and am a generous tipper, but when it gets fuzzy is when your very good stylist or color artist has an off day. Not when she does a bad job, but when you really just feel that she’s spreading herself too thin and you’re not the sun to her moon. We have a friendship of sorts. We are good for each other. But some visits to the salon are much better than others. Does the tip then vary? And why can’t I tip her 20 to 25% of the total cost and then be assured that she will cover the tip for whoever her assistant is that day; that’s how it worked at the salon I used in the UK and I found it much easier. Just thoughts.

  7. Erica

    December 12, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Hey Tera Great Article! You are the best stylist out there ya know :) Love ya!

  8. Lisa

    December 12, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I go a salon where the owner is the only person there. Do I tip her? I am really confused on this. The owner does my cut, color, shampoo, wax — the works.

  9. Tera Stephens

    December 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    @Lisa- She is providing a service and I’m sure she would appreciate a tip!
    @Erica- thank u!!!

  10. Tina

    January 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Thanks for the article. I wish I could e-mail it to all of the clients at the salon I work for. I am an assistant to a stylist that recently started using an assistant and her clients don’t know the drill. I bust my butt to provide the best possible service to the clients and the stylist I work for but somedays I leave without a tip at all. I certainly hear about how great my shampoo/head massage is and how well I work with the stylist. I absolutely am confident my level of service warrants gratuity, so I am often stumped on what I can do. In a way I think it is the stylist’s responsibility to educate the clients, but what is the best way of doing that without creating an awkward moment?

  11. Crystal Tran Beverly Hills Hair Stylist

    March 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    This is a great article that i feel people don’t fully understand the “rules of tipping” a hairstylist after you are done with a service.

    This is especially a problem when we service customers that are from out of the country and don’t understand the tipping culture.

    Overtime this is something stylist come a costume to but visitors should be more aware of visiting culture.