How much should I tip my hairstylist?

Our beauty editor answers your questions

How much should I tip my hairstylist?

Source: Best Health Magazine, October 2010

One of the ironies about going to the hair salon is that it’s supposed to be relaxing, but in truth it can be fraught with anxiety about tipping. Ever envied Grandma, who could get her weekly set and tip just a buck without worrying about whether to leave something for the cute dude who brings the cappuccino? It’s enough to make you want to stay home, throw your hair into Velcro rollers and give yourself a tip.

So, is there a hard and fast rule for tipping the hairstylist? I went straight to an etiquette expert, Daniel Post Senning, to find out. He’s a great-great-grandson of Emily Post and community moderator of the Vermont-based website, run by The Emily Post Institute. ‘The rule is 15 to 20 percent,’ says Senning. At a salon with all the bells and whistles, this can translate into quite a large tip if you’ve had a cut and colour’yes, I feel your pain. Not sure whether’and how much’to tip the multitude of people who helped you? To simplify things, leave a tip at the front desk and advise that it be divided.

Okay. But what about when your hairstylist is the owner? Apparently, the idea that tipping the owner is taboo has changed. Toronto-based John Steinberg, who celebrated 50 years in the business in 2009, says if you’re unsure whether your hairstylist-owner accepts tips, ask at the desk when you go to pay. He’s impassioned, though, about tipping the shampooer, especially when your hair wash includes a little head massage, too. ‘They are the backbone of the business and should be tipped $3 to $5,’ says Steinberg. (‘What?! I tip a dollar!’ a friend gasped when I shared this advice.)

Chad Taylor, co-owner of Moods Hair Salon in Vancouver, and winner of the Contessas 2010 Canadian Hairstylist of the Year Award, says, ‘These days, in most modern salons, owners accept and appreciate tips.’ Alicia Selvi, owner of Caja Studio in Toronto, agrees. ‘I believe people who service you should be tipped, owner or not.’ But Manhattan-based Garren, one of the most famous stylists in the world, reportedly says ‘absolutely not’ (when ‘I mention this to a couple of people in the biz, their response is that he can afford to say this). Emily Post descendant, please weigh in: ‘I like to tip for personal service, and that includes the owner,’ says Senning.

Hold on, though. Let’s not forget what a tip is about. Although etiquette guidelines are important’we depend on them to make life go more smoothly’I think it’s all sounding a little constrictive.

‘Ultimately it’s a gratuity to reflect the quality of the service and is discretionary,’ concedes Taylor. And some people are very comfortable with a more fluid arrangement. For example, my colleague Lisa rounds up the bill to the next increment of $20 for her hairstylist, so the tip is inconsistent, depending on what she’s having done. Others tell me they instead give their hairstylist homemade treats (year-round, not just in the holiday season).

Be aware of local customs when you travel, though. Jie Matar, my hairstylist, apprenticed in Paris. There, he says, ‘if the owner works on you and you walk out without tipping, you’ll be called back!’