Here’s How Much to Tip at the Nail Salon

Don't let a headache over how much to tip at the nail salon ruin the fun of getting your next manicure. We've done the math for you!

Getting a mani-pedi is a great way to lift your mood and practice self-care. Add in a little hand and foot massage, and it’s also an ideal way to relax and de-stress—that is, until it comes time to pay the bill and figure out how much to tip. Trying to figure out how much to tip at the nail salon can be really confusing, and instead of focusing on how to make your manicure last longer, you’re stuck trying to do mental math.

It’s OK—we’ve got you! We asked etiquette experts, nail techs and salon owners to share exactly when, who and how much to tip at nail salons. Once you’re up to speed, make sure you know the proper tipping etiquette in other situations, from how much to tip your hairdresser to how much to tip hotel housekeeping.

Should you tip your nail tech?

Nail technicians are a part of the beauty service industry, and in the United States, it’s customary to tip service workers. They rely on tips to make a good portion of their income, so you should always plan to tip the person giving you a manicure or pedicure, according to Sharon Schweitzer, an international tipping etiquette expert. It’s good etiquette to tip at the end of each appointment, and if you have a long-standing relationship with a particular nail technician, consider offering a bonus tip at the holidays, Schweitzer adds. This tip also applies to dining etiquette at a restaurant.

How much should you tip at the nail salon?

Fifteen to 20% of the total bill is the industry standard for how much to tip a nail tech, but this can vary between countries, regions and salons, says Sharon-Frances Moore, president of Shances, a New York–based etiquette company. Not only that, but tipping amounts have changed drastically over the past two years. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, to help ease the financial strain of workers, there was an increase of people over-tipping for services in industries across the board,” says Moore. “We are now seeing an adjustment back to standard tipping, which for a nail technician, [regardless] of the service, is around 15 to 20%.”

For instance, how much do you tip for a $50 pedicure? Depending on your satisfaction, $7.50 is a standard tip, $10 is a good tip, and if your nail tech really went the extra mile, $13 is a great tip.

Jemma Wilson, a certified nail technician and the founder of Almond Nails, agrees, saying that tipping 15% of the total bill is the norm, but there are some places—like resort towns or luxury spas—where it may be higher. If you’re unsure, check out the salon’s website or give them a quick call before heading in.

Other tipping considerations at a nail salon

To avoid making etiquette mistakes, our experts offer some additional tips for tipping at nail salons:

  • Try not to tip less than $5. If you’re only getting a nail polish color swap for $20, consider rounding up the tip to $5.

  • If you’re using a coupon, discount voucher or gift card, base your tip on the normal price for the service.

  • At the holidays, give your regular nail tech a tip that is roughly the same amount as your typical salon visit. Put the cash in an envelope with a nice note.

  • If you’re a happy customer, in addition to giving your nail tech cash, consider leaving a glowing review online. This can be as meaningful and helpful to a salon as monetary tips.

Should you tip more for certain services?

Not all nail services require the same amount of work. For example, how much do you tip a nail tech for acrylics? And how much do you tip for gel nails? Those services are a lot more involved than a regular manicure. Here are a few times when you should consider tipping 25% or more, according to our experts:

  • If your nails are in particularly rough shape.

  • If you get any extras, like hand-drawn nail art or a longer hand massage.

  • If you’re getting a full set of acrylic nails, gel nails, dip nails or other “nails” built from scratch (though tip fill-ins and touch-ups can be tipped the regular rate).

  • If you ask them to replicate a complicated design you found online, like specialty fall nails, winter nails or spring nails.

How much should you tip for a pedicure?

Toes are no different than fingers when it comes to nail care. That means you should follow the same etiquette for how much to tip for a pedicure—15 to 20%—says Wilson. If you’re on a tight budget, check out these simple steps for the perfect DIY pedicure at home.

Should you tip with cash?

Whenever possible, pay in cash, handing it directly to your nail tech. This ensures that the full tip goes to the person who did the work for you, and it avoids delayed payouts by salon owners, says Moore. Should you tip the owner of a nail salon? This isn’t necessary unless the owner is the person doing the work. If you want to help the salon owner, leave a glowing review online and refer other customers to the salon.

Should you tip if you don’t like your nails?

If you’re unsatisfied with your nails for any reason, step one is to discuss it with your nail tech and give them the option to fix it, says Wilson. Once the issue is fixed to your satisfaction, pay your standard tip or even a little bit more, since they went the extra mile, she suggests. If you’re afraid to say something in the salon, you should still tip but at the lesser end of the scale, like 10%.

“With all this being said, tipping is optional,” Wilson notes, “and if a customer is really unhappy or had a really bad experience, they can forgo tipping altogether.”

You can also escalate the problem to the manager or salon owner. Follow these etiquette tips for getting the best customer service.

Sources:

  • Sharon Schweitzer, international etiquette expert and founder of Access to Culture
  • Sharon-Frances Moore, president of Shances, a New York–based business etiquette and coaching company
  • Jemma Wilson, certified nail technician and founder of Almond Nails

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Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.