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Holiday Tips and Hairstylists

Should you tip your stylist? What about the manicurist? The waxer?

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Holiday Tips and Hairstylists Photographer's Choice RF for Getty

When it comes to the holidays, who gets a tip and who doesn't can be confusing. In some parts of the country (like New York City, where I live) holiday cash tips are the norm for doormen, nannies, stylists and personal trainers. But in the South, a personal or homemade gift is sometimes preferred.

Giving a holiday tip shows your appreciation to people who provide a service to you on a regular basis throughout the year. But what about tipping your hairstylist? Your manicurist? The doctor who puts Botox in your crow's feet 3 times a year?

Who to tip and how much is debatable. Here, we run down the basic rules for holiday tipping beauty professionals.

Who to Tip and Who Not to

During the holidays, it's appropriate to give an extra holiday tip to anyone who beautifies you on a regular basis. This includes your regular hairstylist, waxer, manicurist, eyebrow specialist, massage therapist, facialist and personal trainer. No need to tip the doctor who does your cosmetic filler or Botox.

If you only see someone a couple times a year, you're off the hook, there's no need to tip. Tips are reserved as a thank you to those with whom you have an actual relationship and who beautify you 6 times a year or more.

You can give the tip or gift during your December or early January visit. If you don't schedule a visit during the holidays, you might consider dropping off a small gift of thanks, but you aren't obligated.

How Much to Tip

So how much to tip these pros? If you search online for holiday tips, you'll get a variety of conflicting answers. The Emily Post Institute recommends you give a gift or tip up to the cost of one visit to hairstylists and beauty professionals. This advice has been repeated over and over in media and it has always confounded me because if I were to tip everyone up to the cost of a service I'd be spending $1000 on holidays tips alone. My hair costs $500 for cut and color each visit. There's no way I am expected to tip that. I don't spend that much on my husband!

My advice is to ignore the "up to the cost of a service" etiquette advice. One should only tip up to the cost of one visit if one does not tip regularly throughout the year. Maybe Beyonce, who has a style posse, doesn't tip throughout the year, but who doesn't tip their hairstylist, waxer or manicurist on every visit?

Still, the advice online regarding holiday tips is conflicting. Etiquette expert Peter Post tells the New York Times a holiday tip of $25 to $50 is fine for hairdressers you tip throughout the year, while Bonnie Bonadeo, director of education for the Professional Beauty Association, tells O, the Oprah Magazine, an extra 5 percent on top of your normal tip is the average gift across the board.

My rule of thumb is this: If you tip regularly throughout the year, an extra 5-10 percent on top of your normal 15-20% tip is appropriate. Put the tip in a holiday card with a personalized note and you're good to go.

If you don't tip throughout the year (who tips their personal trainer?), give them a tip or a gift that's equivalent up to the cost of one service. This same advice pertains to the people outside of your beautification rituals: your dog walker, your nanny and your doorman.

Cash or Gifts?

Depending on where you live, cash or an actual gift may be the preferred holiday thank you. In my research, I've found cash is usually preferred in larger cities. But in smaller towns, use the protocol of your area. A gift card, a nice bottle of sparkling wine or something homemade might suffice. If tips are not the norm in your area, a bag of homemade cookies will score you some big points for the next year.

Rule of Thumb: Go With Your Gut When it Comes to Tipping

Because the rules are so conflicting, I recommend you go with your gut when it comes to holiday tipping. Some examples:

  • If you have a holiday party and your stylist stays late for you, or allows a last-minute appointment, this is a great opportunity to give extra. After all, they are going out of their way for you.
  • If you get regular weekly blow-outs with the same person, then you might consider tipping the cost of a service in December. Why? They service you dozens of times a year and you can therefore afford the extra. Give the cash in a card with a handwritten note.
  • I get my nails done at the same place but with different people every time. So when it comes to the holidays, I don't tip extra. Instead, I tip extra year-round because nail services in NYC are super cheap and I feel $4 on a $20 pedicure is not enough. And I don't want to hand one person a big tip when she may work on me only a couple times a year.
  • I tip extra year-round to my waxer, Lena. The service is cheap so I always give her a 30% tip because I feel 20% isn't enough for the service she provides. I don't give extra during the holidays but I might give her a card with a nice note and her 30% tip if I see her in December.
  • My friend Molly has a personal relationship with her manicurist. She tries new colors and nail applications all the time. Since she has a relationship with her manicurist, she could give her manicurist a bit extra during the holidays.

Do the Rules Change in a Poor Economy?

One should never feel uncomfortable or obligated to give a holiday tip, especially if they are hurting in a poor economy. Before you decide who to tip and how much, you should determine if you can even afford to tip and how much you're willing to spend.

People in the service industry will tell you that tips are never expected but always appreciated. If you can't afford a holiday tip or a gift, a card with a handwritten note should mean a lot to someone. In this economy, just having a regular customer to count on is a gift in itself.

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