We Asked Actual Nail Techs How Much You Should Tip Them—Here's What They Said

Manicure with neutral polish and Goyard-patterned accent nail


One thing we know for sure is nail artists are essential to making us look and feel our best. Walking into a nail salon or one-on-one appointment means we're prepared to pay the talented nail tech for our booked service. But once the service is all wrapped up, what are the best practices for tipping?

We know that there are some tipping percentage guidelines, but we wanted to get the full details straight from experts in the industry, so we tapped nail entrepreneurs Lawren Lee and Jin Soon Choi to get the details on what to consider when tipping. Ahead, our experts share how much to tip a nail tech, what to consider when tipping, and how to communicate if you aren't satisfied with a service.

Meet the Expert

  • Lawren Lee is the owner of Brooklyn nail salon The Laq Lab, which offers services as well as its own line of polishes.
  • Jin Soon Choi is an editorial manicurist and the founder of her eponymous brand JinSoon, which offers a full range of products as well as nail spa services.

Should You Tip Your Nail Tech?

The short answer: absolutely. But let's get into the long answer. Like you, we've saved hundreds of photos of nail design ideas to inspire our next nail appointment, many of which require a lot of time and attention to detail. "It’s a huge misconception that doing nails is easy. It’s not," Lee tells Byrdie.

She's not wrong. Have you ever tried to paint your own nails? It takes a steady hand, patience, and skill. And Lee says that in a world full of technology, the art of nail services has new hurdles: "Nail techs often have to do them while clients are on their phones, working on their laptops, and constantly moving, amongst other things."

For this reason, she's passionate about creating an environment where nail techs are paid fairly, and tipping, she says, is essential to this. "It’s important to tip nail techs because it’s already an industry that is undervalued and underpaid," Lee tells us. "When we opened The Laq Lab, one of our biggest goals was to make sure that our nail techs not only received a high hourly rate but also a commission on nail art services."

How Much Should You Tip Your Nail Tech?

Lee suggests the standard tip should always be 20%. But if you feel your nail tech deserves more, you should tip more. She also shares: Cash is king. So what should you consider when tipping your go-to nail tech?

Lee says customer service, expertise, education, and environment should be on your list, while Choi adds another factor: quality of work. "The biggest consideration when tipping should be the quality of the work, regardless of the time spent, because some clients want to luxuriate and others prefer to get the job done expediently," she tells us.

What to Do If You're Unhappy with the Service

Expressing your dissatisfaction with any service is tough. No one enjoys conflict. However, speaking up is the only way to get your desired result. "Sometimes clients are scared to express when they dislike something, and they end up with nails that they don’t like," Lee shares. But she advises that speaking up immediately is the best practice. "The moment you are not happy, you should let the nail tech know and be clear about your concerns [and] give them an opportunity to fix it."

Additionally, Choi says setting expectations before the service begins is also helpful. "It's best to make clear upfront the nature of the work you would like (think: how short your nails should be, what shape, if you are pressed for time, etc.). And if you're still unsatisfied after you've spoken up, she says to be honest about why you're not tipping after your service. "If you are unhappy with the work and you don't want to tip, it's best to explain why, so the technician can improve their work."

The Final Takeaway

Nail techs work hard to create looks that we love, so they should be compensated accordingly. Because of this, tipping is a nonnegotiable, especially in this economy. If you find yourself not wanting to tip because you're unhappy with your nails, having a conversation with your nail tech is the best way to create a path to leaving the salon happy.

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