Updated: Jul 14, 2021
Having served in this profession from the mid 1970's
A salon owner starting in 1980, I have since worked independently and without employees so I am to this day at once, operator and owner. This means that the full weight of responsibility and cost of running a business is solely mine.
There is this perverse assumption still circulating among a few that by being the owner I am amply compensated already to receive gratuity.
On the flip side, consider this: the sort of compensation that a full time employee gets from the employer are for the most part virtually nonexistent among most hairdressers in America, I am talking about vacations, retirement account contributions, health insurance, etc.
Some are under the impression that the salon owner gets plenty well compensated by virtue of their title, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
As an owner I have a long list of expenses, too long to include here, which need to be covered every month before I see a cent to my name. As a sole operator I make sure each client is satisfied every time to return to see me.
I have always taken a long term perspective and often sacrifice some of my profitability to keep the goodwill of a client. I am very fortunate to count among my clients people who are appreciative, considerate, sensible, generous and, who compensate me appropriately, they understand the nature of the service I provide and for that I earn their full trust as well as my deep loyalty and appreciation in return.
Please understand that a self employed independent hairdresser works much harder that you think, I wear every hat in the business and if God forbid loose their job they are not entitled to unemployment compensation from the government like others do.
An article in Consumer's Report dating to November 2019 mentions one recent attempt at reform in Washington, D.C., which exemplifies how contentious this topic can be. Called Initiative 77, which would have phased out, by 2026, the sub minimum wage earned by D.C. bartenders, hairstylists, barbers, restaurant waitstaff, and other tipped workers (currently $3.89 vs. $13.25, the full minimum wage in the district).
As to how much to tip, it is fair to give 20-30% to your hairdresser and the same goes for salon owners performing the service as is the case with me who not only own but am the sole provider of the services rendered to the public.
If the owner cuts your hair, you're off the hook, right? Wrong. Turns out most salon owners welcome gratuities. "Not tipping the owner is an old tradition that's dying out," Post says. She recommends 15 to 20 percent of the fee, whether or not the stylist owns the place.
Cosmopolitan has an article on the subject worth reading: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/a29759213/how-much-to-tip-hairdresser/