How Much to Tip at a Nail Salon

It’s customary to tip 10% to 20% for nail salon services.
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Written by Lauren Schwahn
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Edited by Sheri Gordon
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A visit to the nail salon should leave you feeling glamorous and refreshed. You wouldn’t want to ruin that by digging around in your pocket for money at the last minute — and potentially chipping that fresh polish. Giving some thought beforehand to how much to tip can help you avoid that awkward scenario.

So what’s a good tip? A 10% to 20% gratuity is standard at nail salons, but it’s acceptable to leave more or less depending on factors like your budget and the service you receive.

How much should you tip at the nail salon?

The amount you tip at the nail salon is ultimately up to you. However, the industry standard is 10% to 20%, experts say. For a $45 pedicure, that works out to a $4.50 to $9 tip. You can use a tip calculator to easily find an appropriate tip for your bill.

“You can give 10% for good service, 15% for great service and then 20% or more for exceptional service,” says Elaine Swann, etiquette expert and founder of The Swann School of Protocol in Carlsbad, California.

But what if you receive poor service or results? What if you’re feeling extra generous?

“There are times where one may not be as happy with a service, so one may not feel obligated to tip and that's perfectly understandable,” says Samantha Hanby, owner of Polished Nail Salon in Oklahoma City. “And then some are overly satisfied with the services, and they could tip up to 50% or even 100% of the service.”

Let your budget and your level of satisfaction be your guide.

Why should you tip your nail tech?

Tipping is a way to show the nail technician how much you appreciate their service and how well they’ve taken care of you, Hanby says.

Nail salon services require workers to get up close and personal with customers (think massaging, waxing and exfoliating skin). A great deal of effort and care often goes into the experience, too. Hanby notes that her salon specializes in nail art, which involves intricate designs that not all technicians have the skills to do.

Tipping has also long been a common practice at nail salons.

“We're kind of all experiencing tipping fatigue, but in the service-based beauty industry, it has become quite customary and it's a mainstay,” Swann says.

What’s the best way to leave a tip?

If you have the option to choose between tipping with cash, a credit card or a payment service like Venmo, know that cash is generally preferred by the nail salon. Cash is instant, while electronic payments could take several days or weeks for employees to receive.

The nail salon may also pay a percentage of the total transaction in credit card processing fees when you use a card. That means less of your money goes to supporting the business and its technicians. “It hurts,” says Hanby, whose merchant service fees range from 1.5% to 2.5% or higher.

Have your cash ready in advance to avoid using the nearest ATM at the last second and paying the fees that may go along with it.

You might consider asking who exactly receives the tip, especially if you pay electronically. Does the nail tech who performed your service keep 100% of your tip or will it be pooled, then divided among all the techs? Getting clarification can help you make an informed decision about how you spend your money, Swann says.

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What if you can’t afford to tip or choose not to?

When you plan a trip to the nail salon, try to include the cost of tipping in your budget. But don’t fret if you can’t afford to tip as much as recommended or at all. You’re not obligated to pay for anything more than the base cost of the service.

“You didn’t steal,” Swann says. “People have to give themselves permission to occupy that space of being the authority of their own finances.”

Providing honest feedback can be valuable, whether it’s positive or negative.

“It's a learning opportunity for everyone. Maybe we learn better about that particular client’s preference or maybe we learn how that particular nail tech could improve on her skills,” Hanby says. She suggests speaking with a team member or reaching out through email or social media. You may also choose to leave a review on the business’s Google or Yelp page.

If you had a positive experience, you could make it a point to leave a generous tip the next time you visit the salon. Or you could simply smile and offer your technician a sincere “thank you,” Hanby says. “At the end of the day, they want to know that what they labored for is appreciated.”

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