Test Your Salon Savvy

Women spend hours every year in salons, sitting under hair dryers, getting foiled, fussed over and primped in those colored smocks. But are we following the rules of salon etiquette? Do you know how to tip and what words your stylist likes to hear? Check your salon savvy with these common questions to find out if you're a beauty school dropout!

How much should I tip my hair stylist?

Emily Post Institute, an organization that 'serves as a 'civility barometer' in American society,' suggests tipping a hairstylist 15 to 20 percent. Hairstylist Tamara Ianos, who is an independent contractor at Innerlooks in Phoenix, Arizona, believes people should tip what they want depending on the services they receive. The more services a hairstylist offers, the more a tip is appreciated. She also draws distinction between an independent contractor and a commissioned employee. The latter may only earn 60 to 70 percent, or even as little as 30 percent, of the salon's listed service cost. The rest goes to the salon, so tips are even more significant to these stylists.

What if there's more than one person working on my hair, how much do I tip them?

Depending on the salon, tipping the shampoo person may or may not be necessary. Don Browne, an independent hairstylist who rents space at Café Paris in Phoenix, Arizona, confirms if a stylist's assistant shampoos your hair and she works for the salon or someone else, the stylist will typically give her a tip for helping out. However, if the shampoo person works for the stylist, it is generally acceptable for the client to tip her. Tipping.org, the original tipping page, recommends tipping $1 to $2 for a shampoo person. If in doubt, ask the receptionist or client coordinator when you schedule an appointment.

What if I don't want someone separate to shampoo/wash my hair?

Browne believes it is absolutely acceptable to request that another person not shampoo a client's hair, whatever the reason. He confirms, 'The bottom line is the client pays the stylist's salary so the stylist should do what it takes to make them happy.'

What if I hate the cut? Can I demand a fix for free?

If a client is unhappy with a service, Ianos has no qualms about waiving the cost and always offers a fix to be scheduled at a later date. Some salons may have a policy on dealing with unhappy clients while independent contractors set their own policies. Ianos says a disappointed client often is the result of a miscommunication and suggests people bring a picture of exactly what they want their hairstyle to look like to avoid any confusion.

Here are some terms to know for effectively communicating with your hairstylist


refers to a straight across bang


refers to a bang that swoops to the side


a style that is slightly shorter in the back and longer in the front


eliminating or thinning hair

Peek-a-boo highlights

chunky colors underneath that are not completely noticeable on top


these can be shorter or longer

Face frame

a hairstyle that tapers in the front

Chunky/blended highlights

chunky highlights are large sections of color, while blended highlights are not as heavy with lots of thin streaks

More beauty tips on SheKnows

10 Hot hairstyles for women in their prime
Hairstyle tips from celeb stylist Sarah Potempa
17 Dos and don'ts for daily hair care


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Comments on "Salon Etiquette 101: How to tip and more"

Bibi January 08, 2014 | 2:49 PM

I get the 20% at a nice salon, but what about when I get my kids a haircut at one a value-priced national hairstyling chain? If the haircut is $10, a $2 tip seems too low because I guess the hairdresser doesn't get hardly much of the $10. I tip $5 for each of my kids' $10 haircuts. I mean, the hairdresser had to deal with a squirmy kid to boot!

Chris November 13, 2013 | 8:53 AM

I have been tipping $20.00, so I guess I must be a cheapskate. I am leaving the salon as they have now added a $35.00 "service fee". That brings my "full foil" to $190.00, and the tip, would bankrupt me. Every 12 weeks, paying well over $225.00, while every 6 weeks, I get my roots done, and that is $65.00 + $20.00 for the tip. I called around because I need a new "person", and nobody charges a "service fee". If she has 4 customers a day, and they all tip her $20.00, that is $80.00, besides what the salon owes her. I think that is a very fair day, of pay. Losing customers is not the way to go. Another woman next to me did not reschedule either, for the same reason. SERVICE FEE.

Jennifer September 13, 2013 | 2:00 PM

I totally agree with Paula. It's the hairdresser's responsibility to tip out the assistants that help take care of her clients. It's ridiculous to expect the client to go around salon tipping out everyone. Just like at a restaurant, we tip the server and then the server tips the bus person that helps clear the tables, allowing them to take on more customers and make more money. I'm a great tipper at minimum I tip 20%, I was a bartender, I know what it's like to depend on tips, but I would never allow nor expect guest to tip me AND my bar back too. The bar back was assisting me not the guest. I tipped them out at the end of the night, and I tipped them well and they took good care of me. That's the way it works!

TMAC August 07, 2013 | 8:11 AM

@ginajermyn: Your rational is ridiculous. Even if you only had three customers per day who tipped $5, that's $36750 per year, which is right around the national average income. (That's a 5 day work week with 3 weeks off). A lot of people with a 4 year degree don't even make that much out of college. Not to mention, if you only have 3 customers per day, then you must be horrible at marketing yourself. And no one forced you to become a stylist; get a career if you want benefits. In summary, the fact that you expect a tip in the range of 15-20% is greedy. You are already getting paid for providing a service. This isn't the food industry where you make $3 an hour and you pay is solely based on tips. If you want handouts, apply for government aid. They'd be happy to help you be lazy.

ginajermyn August 04, 2013 | 9:56 PM

Hello Badhairday! Are you kidding me! Do you really think we get to keep $130.00 of any service we do??? At best that is 45% for those who are just beginning and 50% is average for years!! There is no hourly wage in most cases and if there is it is minimum. Meaning if no one comes in that day. You make $0.00!! Then we must pay for all products we use to service you. Most of us have the kind of heart that just love making you feel beautiful!!! Plus Tip! Most folks think that $5.00 is a great tip for everything! LMAO I could wallpaper a room if I did not need to pay bills. Now don't think I am not appreciative. I know there are tons of ppl who cannot afford it. Especially right now under this horrible administration who has destroyed our economy.We seasoned stylist know the difference in most cases.If you cannot afford it don't come. Please do not put change in the shampoo persons pocket they have one of the most backtracking jobs there are! And some Ladies are shampooed 2 to 3 times. We do what we do because we LOVE it! and we hope that YOU will appreciate and LOVE it also and eventually we will grow a clientele that will support us! Sorry to vent on you but I guess this has been held in a long time! I am fairly fortunate most of the time. Ha ha Most of the time However I have co workers who really suffer. Please just try to under stan how it really works. thanks for listenings. 130.00x50=65.00 nice 65.00-20.00 in color products( and styling) leaves 45.00 Still not bad. add that 5.oo tip now you have $50.00 Lets just hope and pray we have more than 3 ladies come in today! My health insurance is due!! we don't have any benefits either. OOPS forgot to tell to tell you that! That payment alone is $550.00 a month Have a great day!

Badhairday July 19, 2013 | 11:00 PM

One time I accidentally overtipped my stylist, but before I could say "oops" she was gushing with comments about my generosity so I had to let her keep it. Here's the kicker she was a horrible stylist and recently I had to quit her because my last cut looked like she cut it with a hacksaw with her eyes closed. Gosh after spending $130 already, to add 20percent to that would kill me. I give 10-15%. If she doesn't like it, she should go back to school and pursue another career. No one tips ME for what I DO and I don't get paid $130 for two hours work.

Paula June 07, 2013 | 9:20 AM

I think tipping the assistant is outrageous ... Before you get angry, let me explain why ... My hairdresser hires an assistant ~ my hairdresser books 3 clients that basically merge into one another ... The assistant Is washing the hair of one of the clients ~ another one is under the dryer or waiting for her color to set and my hairdresser is cutting the hair of the third one ... My hairdresser is then able to squeeze more people in making her more money for the day and now we her clients are supposed to pay her assistant .... Totally not fair !! Waitresses at restaurants tip out their bussers for helping them ... Say I were to run a babysitting service ~ I want to bring in more kids so I hire an assistant ~ does that mean "my parents" have to also pay my assistant .. Absolutely not ... I'm making more money as a result of bringing in more clients so I pay her .. I think the hairdresser should tip out her assistant and if she can't afford to do that then she shouldn't hire one ... By the way ~ I'm an excellent tipper ... I usually tip more than 20% ... Even if I get bad service ... I just won't use them again ~ and believe me ~ they'll know why ....

idalia May 04, 2013 | 10:02 PM

I didn't tip anything is that ok I was not happy with the price I got charged 95 dollars just for highlights and hair cut they did do champoo and style with hairdryer but wasn't happy at the end results I felt like I didn't get a lot of change done almost left crying I wanted a dramatic change especially when people outside criticize that I don't fix myself I don't do nothing to myself hated it wouldve like something more noticeable done to my hair

Lindsey November 19, 2012 | 6:11 AM

Your advice seems really low compared to the tips I receive. Then again my books stay full and people have to book months in advance and the ones tipping me less than dollars are my last priority. Also, the terms you gave for communicating with your stylist are very dated and inaccurate. A good stylist wouldn't need a photo, but rather would give a flawless consultations that makes sure the end result is accurately determined. Lastly, to say someone should only tip a shampoo assistant one to two dollars is insulting! I know mine usually averages around 5 per guest. She is great at what she does, for $1 they must be doing a horrible job.

FEARLESS December 10, 2010 | 8:19 PM

I agree with you. I almost took on a similar position because I am fairly new and thought assisting would be best. The first Day I shadowed with ADAM BRODERICK SALON IN CT, I was blunt with the other assistants. I said give me the pro's and con's. One assistant told me she was ready to quit. Another one sucked it up because she was informed it would look good on a resume. Another girl had been assisting for 2 years and seemed to just go with the flow and be happy in her position. $8 is okay if its your first job and you dont have bills, but otherwise no. Especially for the work these assistants do. MY teacher in Beauty school told us that years from now, if we have an assistant helping us, dont forget we were once in there shoes, tip them, be kind to them, treat them as equal, help them grow. Besides we take on the Assistant position to learn more and get motivated in this industry, not to be used and walked on.

Gema July 28, 2010 | 8:30 PM

I work for a salon as a salon asst. My duties are front reception, schedule appts., shampoo clients hair, condition and do a scalp massage. I also rinse out color and hi-lites. I ring the clients service and/or products up, reschedule appts with them. I assist a client/customer with purchasing our products be it: hair care, skin care, body care, men's care, or line of makeup. I also do laundering of the towels, capes and smocks. Water inside and outside plants. Sweep up hair from the floor at each stylists stations. I assist them in any way I can with my experience. I empty trash, get the mail, run to the bank for change on a daily basis. I come up with marketing ideas, and help with displays. I work in a salon here in PA. The owner of the salon will only pay me $8.00 per hour, and says that the stylists are not permitted to tip me at the end of the day for shampooing their clients. That the client is to tip me, and if they do not, then she says that maybe the client will remember me the next time. The owner when she is doing hair in the salon once a week, gets tipped by her customers, even when I am doing the shampoo and scalp massage, most of the time the client will tip her and the other stylists more than an average of 10% to 25% for the service, and I will receive nothing. The stylists are not permitted to tip me. I feel that is unfair in this salon. The stylists are making commission on the services that they do.(almost 50% of the service, plus tipping). I do not know if the customers know or understand that concept or not. Do not get me wrong, some, very minimal clients will tip me $1-$3.00 for just shampoo condition and scalp massage. A lot of the other clients, that I am rinsing color or hi-lites from, as well as the final shampoo, condition and scalp massage..are not tipping me. Not because I am not giving them exceptional service, but I think they think when they give the stylists an enormous tip, that the stylists is then giving me a percentage of their tip, and the stylists are not. So, if I am making $8.00 for all that I am doing, and then some, with next to no tips for the shampooing end, whereas if I was receiving tips from the stylists for the work I do for their clients, plus my hourly wage of $8.00, I would make an average of $11-$13 per hour. This is not fair. Because it is not fair, and I have had the same dispute with the owner two times now, I am resigning from the position. The owner keeps telling me that the Salons in the United States and other countries, are doing away with tipping the assistants. I have done my research, and told her I find that to be inaccurate information. She tells me she is on a salon forum, and has been in the salon industry for 30 years now, that she knows how to do business and this is what works. I think she needs to go back to school or business management class to learn the etiquette of running a salon, and not being greedy.

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