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Tipping Guide for Hairdressers and Nail Salons in London

To tip or not to tip is a difficult question, depending on where you are. Tipping is customary – even obligatory – in some parts of the world. And in others, it is downright frowned upon. With no universal standard, tipping is often a source of confusion for travellers around the world.

Is it customary to tip hairdressers and nail salons in London? The answer is mostly yes. While tipping isn’t nearly as common in the United Kingdom as it is in places like the United States, rewarding good service at a salon is generally well-received.

Learning to tip like a local in London just requires a little research and a touch of cultural savvy. We’ve done the work for you.

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Tipping protocol can be a virtual etiquette minefield. For instance, tipping in the U.S. is more than customary – it’s expected. In Italy or France, it may already be included as part of your bill. In Japan, trying to give a tip might even be considered rude. The U.K. has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to gratuity.

To make matters worse, the confusion surrounding tipping doesn’t just occur because of the differing cultures of countries. There are also varying tipping cultures between different industries within the same city.

Tipping Guide for London, by Industry

Customary Tip
Cultural Notes
Salon – Hair
Generally Expected
Salon – Nails
Not expected, but not uncommon
Not expected, somewhat uncommon
12.5% gratuity fee charged for large parties
Common to leave a few coins
Hotel Bill
10-12% fee added to hotel bills
Hotel Staff
Customary to give a few points per attendee: bell person, room service, maid service
Common to round up to the nearest pound

Why Tipping Isn’t Always Expected

In some countries, the reason tipping is routine boils down to this bit of economic fact: many employers pay sub-par wages to their service and hospitality workers. It’s built into the industry in some economies. Employers pay these staff members a low wage, the cost of which is transferred onto the paying customer.

Not so in the U.K.

A article notes: “all staff in the U.K. must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage,” indicating that workers don’t have to rely on their tips to make a living and that employers can’t expect that tips will fill in the gaps of worker’s low wages.

This doesn’t mean that workers don’t still rely on their tips. Service industry workers still often count on tips as part of their regular income. And the government realizes this.

A government report on tipping states: “There are some 165,000 businesses in the hospitality, leisure and service sectors where tipping is common… employing some 1.3 million workers,” and adds that “tipping is also an important feature in industries such as hairdressing, casinos and private car hire.”

How Tips Work in a London Salon

London Hairdressers - Blade in Soho
Blade in Soho – one of my favourite salon’s in London.

Tips are part of the culture in the beauty industry in London. But how they work can be as varied as the neighbourhoods of London itself. 

How Tips Are Distributed

Not all tips go directly into the pocket of the nail technician or stylist. All salons are different. Some may pool the tips together in a ‘tronc’ to be divided out by a ‘tronc master’ on a certain schedule. Others may be collected by a salon owner and distributed evenly, or by some predetermined formula.

A tipping policy might be posted right in clear view on the wall of the salon, or you may want to ask the stylist, client service staff or salon management directly. But if that feels awkward and you really want to know what happens to your tip, there are other ways to find out.

The British government thinks all consumers have a right to know where their tip goes. They have published a voluntary code of conduct which states, among other things, how tips should be split, how consumers find out, and whether cash and card tips are treated differently.

Places to find more information on the code of contact, and how stylists feel about it are:

Cash or Credit?

As a general rule, a cash tip is a preferred way to reward stellar service. Many salon tipping policies allow staff to keep cash tips directly, but some require electronic tips to be evenly distributed among staff. For high-performing stylists and technicians, those who might create the lion’s share of the tips in that pool, equal division among all players don’t serve them well.

If you don’t feel like reading through government paperwork, the clear answer is: tip your stylist or nail technician cash. Assume that most salon workers and owners will appreciate it. Some salons don’t want the additional paperwork and even insist gratuities are paid in cash. Expect such policies to be posted, if they exist. Or ask the staff of the client service desk what is customary.

Does a Stylist or Nail Technician Have to Report Tips?

Kat getting her haircut in a London Salon

Of course. All employees in tipped positions in the U.K. are legally mandated to report tips and pay taxes on them. Here again, the British government is crystal clear on how this gets done, stating that a worker must pay Income Tax on any tips received, and, in some cases,  make an additional National Insurance contribution as well.

Whether or not a tipped employee pays the additional tax depends on two things:

  • Whom the tip is given to
  • Who decides how the tips are doled out

While the full details of tipping and taxation are available online, this isn’t your concern. At the end of the day, it’s the salon employees and owner who need to worry about tax-related responsibilities. However, it may be nice to know that the tips taxed the least are those that are paid in cash, directly to the employee:

Who to Tip and How Much

The basic rule for tipping in salons is this: if you are happy, it’s nice to show your gratitude with a tip. Salons are a place of pampering and the end results are intended to make us feel good about ourselves. And whatever process we’re there for – there is often more than one person taking care of us in a salon.

If you would like to reward the junior stylist who gives you a great head massage during the shampoo or the stylist who lets you come in for a quick, free bang-trim, here’s some tipping guidelines that can help lead the way.

Salon-Specific Jobs and How to Tip

Hair Stylist, Hair Colorist
15-20% of service
Nail Technician
Corrective Hair Color
20% (even if it’s a complimentary redo)
Complimentary Bang Trim
15-20% of the cost of a haircut
Shampoo Person
Under £5
Blow Dry Person
About £5
Salon Owner

Tips and Tricks for Tipping in Certain Situations

There may be times a salon visit doesn’t go quite right. You may not feel like making an additional display of gratitude and satisfaction. However, it is usually just polite to leave a tip: just as a gesture of good faith.

  • Your result is a disappointment. Talk to the manager or owner. They’ll want to know if you’re not happy and they’ll often refund the cost of your service or deliver a complimentary re-do. Tipping the stylist is not mandatory, of course, but it is a good idea. Especially if you’d like to develop or maintain a relationship at the salon
  • The owner styles your hair.  It used to be customary to skip the tip if the owner styled your hair. Owners often charged higher rates for their services and that was “payment enough.” The general belief was that an owner/stylist would be offended at the offer of a tip. Not so anymore. Whomever your stylist is, if you are happy with the results, a tip is a welcome gesture!

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Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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