Are You Tipping Hairstylists All Wrong? TikTok Has Sparked A Huge Debate

A viral TikTok has people asking if tipping culture has gotten out of control.
A viral TikTok has people asking if tipping culture has gotten out of control. JulPo via Getty Images

Tipping the person who cuts your hair may seem obvious enough, but a response to a viral video this week suggests that there’s still confusion about gratuity on beauty services.

In February, Justice, a TikToker who uses the handle @antidietpilot, posted about how she decided not to tip on the $350 hair braids she recently got. The braids ― small, knotless braids with a French curl on the end ― took more than 7 hours to complete.

While Justice was happy with the results ― she called the stylist “the best braider” she’d ever had ― she had her reasons for forgoing a tip.

“She didn’t have to commute [and] she’s not paying any overhead because she works from home,” Justice explained in the video, which now has over 5.1 million views. “I think that’s a really good price. How many people are making [roughly] $40 an hour?”

Justice said she was a little nervous about how her stylist would react to her not tipping, but ultimately, she’s unapologetic about her decision.

“A lot of people say tipping is how you say thank you but to me, saying thank you is how you say thank you,” she said.

“Respecting peoples’ policies, arriving to your appointment on time… letting them take photos of their work after and telling your friends or social media followers [about them] is how you say thank you,” she added.

Not everyone agreed. Some who were in favor of tipping pointed to how long the session took.

“Not tipping on your fast food or Starbucks is fine but 7.5 HOURS? I would never not tip,” one woman said.

Most commenters seemed to agree with Justice, though. With inflation already driving up prices, many said they increasingly feel that tipping culture has gotten out of control.

“The entire cost is going to her. Tipping isn’t required,” one person wrote.

“Absolutely right,” another woman said. “People who braid [or] do makeup definitely charge their worth. Tipping culture in the U.S. is crazy sometimes.”

For better or worse, tipping remains the wild west: More than 70% of Americans believe the expectation to tip has increased in the last five years, according to a 2023 survey from the Pew Research Center, but few know what to do when a tablet with a tipping options is handed to them. Only about a third said it’s “extremely” or “very easy” to know if tipping is necessary and if so, how much to include.

Hairstylists have varying opinions

The whole conversation on “tipflation” and what’s a fair gratuity left out an important voice: The hairstylists themselves. How do they feel about tip-fatigued customers like the woman on TikTok?

“As far as the video goes, I don’t blame her,” said Collin Martin, a hair stylist in Englewood, Florida, and a hair industry educator.

He said he obviously appreciates clients who tip, but he doesn’t expect it either. He’d be screwed if he did, he said.

“To base even a portion of my income on the emotional response of another human being is… do I even have to finish the sentence?” he told HuffPost. “I have learned to never bank on it and I have been a much happier hairdresser ever since.”

Instead of relying on tips, Martin said he prefers to “just charge my worth.”

“Knowing your value is the most important part of being a hairdresser,” he added.

Given the rising costs of products and running a business, many stylists are opting to include a tip in their overall pricing structure.
Given the rising costs of products and running a business, many stylists are opting to include a tip in their overall pricing structure. Javi Sanz via Getty Images

John Mosley, a barber and men’s grooming expert in Dallas, Texas, agreed. “I don’t see anything wrong if a client decides not to tip,” he said.

Today, Mosley’s client list includes Kendrick Lamar and Eminem, but when he began working as a barber, Mosley clients weren’t always so monied. Even so, most tipped.

“In your local barber shop, clients kind of feel like they are supporting the business, and helping [the business] make up for what they might lose in lower prices,” Mosley said.

J. Clark Walker, a barber and owner at Major Studios in Salt Lake City, Utah, thought the TikToker had some valid points. Still, he had a hunch that her stylist was pretty surprised that there was no tip after seven hours on her feet. “For a top-notch service, if you can afford it, I think you should always leave a little tip,” he said.

He’s had great clients that don’t tip, some that never have, and a whole bunch that just forget. “But it’s obviously very noticeable when a client tips well,” he said. “You remember great tippers, for sure.”

Tamara Necole is a stylist who specializes in wig making and weave installations. At the high-end full-service hair salon she works at in Culver City, California, her various services run from $175 to $850.

There are no hard feelings when someone doesn’t tip but she admits she does often wonder if they’re not 100% happy with her service: “If they return, I use that as an opportunity to provide them with a better experience,” she told HuffPost.

Instead of relying on tips, some hairstylists say they “just charge [their] worth.”
Instead of relying on tips, some hairstylists say they “just charge [their] worth.” Jupiterimages via Getty Images

Not everyone was so forgiving of the TikToker and her non-tipping ways.

“I think the woman in the video is the worst type of client,” said Hamuidah Anderson, a San Diego, California-based stylist who specializes in extensions and whose services run from $85 to $675.

“She doesn’t respect people in the beauty industry, but I bet she would at a restaurant when the bill is $400,” Anderson said. “Seven hours is a long time to work on someone’s hair.”

Anderson told HuffPost she probably wouldn’t see the client after that. “I would block her. Or refer her to an amateur.”

If the gratuity is included on the bill, do you still tip?

Given the rising prices of products and running a business (namely, rent and other overhead costs), many stylists now include a tip to their service charge.

That may take some of the awkwardness out of the situation for those who worry about the “right” amount to give, but it could rub others the wrong way, said Nycole Jones, a hair stylist and the owner of Yara Luxe Hair Perfume, a high-end salon in Miami, Florida.

“Some clients may appreciate the convenience of not having to calculate a separate tip, while others may prefer the flexibility of determining their tip based on the quality of service received,” she said.

OK, but what if the hair stylist owns the business?

Some wonder: Does the amount you tip ― or even the need to tip ― depend on if the stylist is self-employed and taking all their pay home versus working at a salon that takes a cut?

“I really don’t think that should factor in,” Jones said. “Tipping is a gesture of appreciation for the service provided, regardless of the stylist’s employment status.”

Ultimately, the amount one chooses to tip should reflect their satisfaction with the service received and the expertise demonstrated by the stylist, she said

Walker, the barber in Salt Lake City, doesn’t think ownership should matter, either.

“Do people look into whether the bartender owns the bar before they decide to tip?” he said. “When in doubt, I’d say to give 20% if you can afford it.”