Tips on Tipping for Summer Beauty Treatments

With Memorial Day is behind us and summer in full swing, the demand for summer beauty treatments--pedicures, bikini waxes, spray tans--sky rockets. Many of these services involve a technician--usually a virtual stranger--getting all up in your personal space. So how much do you tip? And what happens when you're not happy with the service you received? Is it OK to totally stiff someone who just spent 20 minutes getting intimately acquainted with your bikini line? We investigate.
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With Memorial Day is behind us and summer in full swing, the demand for summer beauty treatments--pedicures, bikini waxes, spray tans--sky rockets. Many of these services involve a technician--usually a virtual stranger--getting all up in your personal space. So how much do you tip? And what happens when you're not happy with the service you received? Is it OK to totally stiff someone who just spent 20 minutes getting intimately acquainted with your bikini line? We investigate.
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With Memorial Day behind us and summer in full swing, the demand for summer beauty treatments--pedicures, bikini waxes, spray tans--sky rockets.

Many of these services involve a technician--usually a virtual stranger--getting all up in your personal space. So how much do you tip? And what happens when you're not happy with the service you received? Is it OK to totally stiff someone who just spent 20 minutes getting intimately acquainted with your bikini line? Awkward.

A few general guidelines before we break it down for you by service:

• Think of a beauty service the same way you think of restaurant service. If you weren't happy, it's totally OK to tip less, but make sure you have the right expectations going in (more on that in a sec).

• Don't slink out of a bad service and write a nasty review on Yelp. Proprietors want to know what went wrong so it doesn't happen again, and it will often mean a comped or hugely discounted service for you, as well as incentives to come back to the salon. Owners want you to be happy--unanimously, all the professionals I spoke to want to know when they effed up.

With that in mind, here's what some beauty professionals said about how to manage your expectations when you come in for a service so you know what kind of outcome to realistically expect, and when it is absolutely OK--and even encouraged--to tip less. Read on for some tipping guidelines for spray tanning, waxing, nail services, and hair services.

Photo: @chrissy_teigen Instagram

Photo: @chrissy_teigen Instagram

Spray Tanning:

This is one of the newer services out there, and Natalie Cupid, the manager and senior technician at Sundara in New York City, said that some clients don't realize it's a "tippable" service. Well, it is, and techs really appreciate it when you do.

Standard Tip: Generally 20%. Cupid said that on a $68 tab, techs usually get $10 to $20.

Managing Your Expectations:

• You're going to have to get pretty naked for this service, a la Chrissy Teigen. BUT...if you're really uncomfortable with that, the tech should definitely accommodate your needs.

• If you have skin like Nicole Kidman, you are not going to come out looking like Kim Kardashian. Cupid said people always bring in pictures of celebs (fun side note: Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Alba are the most popular) but it's actually better to bring in a picture of yourself at your glowy best, so they can give you the right color for your skin tone.

• If you have a peeling sunburn, covering it with an airbrush tan will make you look like you have the most horrifying skin disease ever.

• Spray tanning cannot totally fix tan lines. Ditto cellulite. It can blend and minimize but, "We're not surgeons!" Cupid said.

These Things Are Not OK:

• The tech doesn't have a thorough consultation with you prior to whipping out the sprayer.

• Your hands and feet are too dark--it's a dead giveaway that you have a bottle tan, according to Katherine Goldman of the California-based Stript salons. They should be lighter than your arms and legs.

• You have to tell her she missed a spot.

Grey Area:

What about if you're just not happy with the color? Talk to the tech and the managers. Chances are they will give you another service gratis and do their best to "fix" the color if they can. Speak up, instead of just stomping out in all your orange glory.

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Waxing:

So I recently had a bikini wax that I swear was four hours long--it was excruciating. Plus every time the tech ripped away some wax, she would say to me, "Ooh, good girl!" as if to a toddler. And the end result was crooked. Needless to say, I did not tip. Ramon Padilla, the general manager of Strip Ministry of Waxing in New York City, supports me. "When you're getting waxed, you’re in a very vulnerable position," he said. "You have to be comfortable."

Standard Tip: Generally 15-20%. Estheticians at Strip usually get a $10-15 tip on a $65 Brazilian wax tab. Managing Your Expectations:

• Waxing hurts, but it should not be unbearable. Do as much as you can to minimize it beforehand. Take Advil, and ask the salon if they have a numbing spray. (Stript's Katherine Goldman offers it at her salons--it's becoming more common at wax-only salons.)

• If you want a Brazilian, you're going to have to go spread eagle. There's no way around it.

These Things Are Not OK:

• An esthetician not giving you 100% of her attention. Mostly because this can lead to...

• ...wax dripping somewhere it shouldn't. Never OK.

• Double dipping. This is when a therapist uses a stick on you that's been previously used on another client. It happens!

• The therapist doesn't wear gloves.

Grey Area:

While a therapist always appreciates a tip, it's best to leave it in the envelope at the front desk. "Sometimes, especially when guys come in and get waxed, they leave the money on the bed on the dirty towel," Padilla said. "Your naked butt’s just been right there!"

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Nail Services:

Leah and I have both recently had experiences where a nail tech has left us with bloody stumps post mani/pedi. Expected or unacceptable? Jin Soon Choi, fashion's favorite manicurist, weighed in.

Standard Tip: "Right now 20% is the norm, because when you get a manicure, 15% is not a lot because the price [of the manicure is so low]," Choi said. (Manicures are probably the only thing in NYC that are cheap.)

Managing Your Expectations:

• If a salon looks less than sanitary, ask about it. Ask what kind of sterilizing equipment they use. Choi said autoclaves (which are hospital grade) are the best for metal instruments, and pumice stones have to be sterilized in a special liquid bath. Barbicide (you know, that blue liquid that your hair stylist keeps combs in) isn't effective for sterilization.

• Choi pointed out that in NYC especially, there are a lot of immigrants working in nail salons. Don't assume someone is giving you attitude--it might just be a language barrier or an issue with their accent. That being said, there should be someone in the salon who can understand what you want.

These Things Are Not OK:

• Bleeding. Yes, it sometimes happens, especially if your cuticle is dry and ragged, but in general, if a tech draws blood, they're being too aggressive with the nippers.

• Burning your hands under the UV lights during a gel service (this happened to me recently). The maximum amount of time your hands should spend under the UV lights for a continuous stretch is two minutes. Bonus points if they offer you white gloves (as Choi does at her salons) or sunscreen.

• When you see a nail file has already been used--you can see the telltale white marks on it from a mile away. They can't be sterilized, so every client should get a fresh one.

• If a tool falls on the floor, and the tech picks it up and re-uses it.

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Hair Services:

Hair seems to be the most emotional for women, and the guidelines are definitely more vague. Hair stylist Chris Lospalluto gave us some advice for how to navigate tipping at the hair salon.

Standard Tip: Generally 15-20% but because of the loyalty that people have for hair stylists, many regulars will tip their stylists much higher. Lospalluto reports that tipping 100% isn't uncommon. But never feel pressured to go that high!

Managing Your Expectations:

• Especially with a stylist you haven't been to before, it's really important to discuss what you want. Lospalluto says that if the convo goes longer than four or five minutes, though, it should raise a red flag--you're not getting onto the same page quickly enough.

These Things Are Not OK:

• Thinking the stylist "butchered" your hair.

• A bad shampoo bowl experience--getting splashed on or water too hot/too cold.

• You get the wrong color. (Seems obvious, but I've known people to walk around with color they hated. This is fixable!)

• Lospalluto recommends going by your emotional state afterward--if you're really stressed out, that isn't a good sign.

Grey Area:

A lot of people get pissed off and stiff the stylist when they have to wait too long or there's a delay in the appointment. Many times it's not the stylist's fault--bring your beef to the front desk and ask for a manager. Chances are they'll comp you a service.