The second state of emergency decreed by the Portuguese government led once again to the closure of many businesses for health and safety reasons, including hairdressers and beauticians.

The personal grooming sector has suffered a decline in profits since the beginning of the second state of emergency, which began on 15 January and has been on-going for almost two months. Despite customers and professionals in a salon being required to wear a mask and folloing all health directives, as in restaurants where takeaway is allowed, the government still decided to close all cosmetic establishments.

But it turns out that how we look is one of the most important factors for self-esteem, so the closure of these establishments can increase levels of depression in some citizens. Since mandatory confinement is one of the reasons why mental health in Portugal is increasingly reaching highs, the closure of establishments that can raise the self-esteem of the Portuguese people has only made the situation worse.

A reader told The Portugal News that compulsory lockdown has led her to feel sad and experience emotional instability and when combined with her “physical appearance looking even more worn and degraded, it is quite depressing,” she said.

The same reader stated that she believes that there was no need to close the establishments in the sector, because "for the majority of the time they have always worn a mask way before any pandemic." This reinforces the idea that professionals in one way or another can comply with safety rules that the pandemic implies, as they are the same adopted for the normal functioning of the business, even including the disinfection materials.

After the first lockdown, the health authorities brought in a number of measures for salons, including the mandatory use of a mask and only two people allowed in the salon, the professional and the client. Adapting to the new rules was complicated for a barber in the Algarve who speaks of the "very difficult times" due to factors such as having only "one person inside the barbershop to enjoy the service", the purchase of "all disposable and expensive material such as gloves, masks, covers and hand sanitiser, all the hygiene that had to be reinforced among customers "and" sterilisation of all the materials."

A reader of The Portugal News, said that she feels sympathetic towards these professionals, especially considering their lack of income which is why she chooses to continue to illegally use their services “to help to cover the rent for a salon that they are not even allowed to use.” The same reader admits that she can still enjoy the services with home visits, adding that a hairdressing salon usually feels safer than a supermarket since there is no possibility of crowding and health rules are followed to the letter.

As in any other sector, beauty professionals are seeing their income slashed. One barber said that last year, despite all the constraints, he had positive results. However, the owner told The Portugal News that, contrary to what happened in the first confinement, he already calculated that the situation could be repeated, so he “had some savings for any eventuality that might arise”, with the objective of “supporting all the expenses of the barbershop.” However, as time passes the barber is unsure that the savings will be enough.

He added that the support provided by the Portuguese government is not sufficient for all the expenses that the business entails which is why he has been forced to work illegally, although only with clients he trusts and who “take all precautions, to ensure” the health of both the owner and the client without the authorities knowing, a situation which is being repeated across the country.

The barber is unable to “say for sure how long I will be able to pay the bills, but it won’t be for long.” Keeping an establishment open requires a large budget and the owner will also need money to ensure that their personal needs are met. However, he concluded that he still has some hope that in April he will be able to work again.

In Portugal, according to data from OLX, the demand for beauty services has increased since the second half of February as people seek ways to feel better about their looks at a time when looking in the mirror can be a frequent activity. A simple haircut can mean a lot not only for the client but also for the salon owner.

While restaurants are still able to operate a take away service from their door, many feel that salons that follow all health and safety rules pose little to no threat of Covid-19 transmission and should be able to operate legally for the benefit of the business owners and clients who often consider this to be an essential service.