Brazilian women and their beauty secrets: from self confidence to coconut water
A lot can be understood under the title “Brazilian Beauty”: never before seen nature like endless dune landscapes with turquoise blue lagoons, or jungles in the midst of the big city. Or the most amazing fruit in all colors and shapes – bananas and mangos that have nothing, really absolutely nothing, in common with those in the supermarkets at home. And the language, Brazilian Portuguese, that itself sounds like music landing on the ear. That’s saying nothing of the beautiful Brazilian women.
I asked a few Brazilian women for their beauty tips and secrets. Before I present my favorites, here’s a thought that’s hard to express without sounding totally kitschy and cliché: alongside telling me about their favorite shampoo or waxing method, and almost without exception, the Brazilian women I spoke to all told me that the most important thing they have to say on the topic of beauty is, “we’re all beautiful.” And yes, a few times the “doesn’t matter if you’re tall or short, fat or thin” trailer came along for the ride. I experienced it for myself on the streets and beaches of Brazil – there’s no shying away from skimpy bikinis here, women show what they’ve got and feel good in their own skin. We smile at each other with mutual encouragement instead of with the suspicious eyeing up that we know only too well among women. Nowhere have I seen this collective beauty-consciousness and the joy of presenting your body with pride so clearly as in Brazil.
Of course you’ll find in this place, where actually everything counts as beautiful, any number of products that support natural beauty. Many are enriched with native fruits like mango or açaí or smell tropical, like coconut. Chemistry, however, is also used – for example in very well-loved hair straightening products. With my naturally ultra-straight hair, I didn’t try any of these out, but that left more time to sample Brazilian natural cosmetics. Here are my favorites.
It almost feels like the entire country has been dipped in the enchanting scent of palm fruit. “Água de coco” is available to buy everywhere – that’s chilled, still green, unripe coconuts that have had a hole put in them so that you can drink the delicious and refreshing water inside out with a straw. It’s not just tasty, but also pretty healthy. You won’t find it packed in an organic market as fresh as it is coming straight out of the nut. It prevents dehydration and is the perfect drink for the heat. Low-calorie, rich in vitamins and minerals, and it gives the body everything it needs while you feel fresher, sip for sip.
The meat of the coconut is also a natural beauty-maker. Dried and finely grated, it’s actually intended for making cakes and sweet dishes and is available in even the smallest stores. I’ve repurposed it as an exfoliator. Simply rub it in to lightly damp skin and rinse off in the shower. It makes your skin soft like butter, leaves it lightly shimmering, and smells wonderful.
Probably the best massage of my life was at the Ilha Verde, an enchanting small hotel (a “Pousada”, as you say in Portuguese) in Itacaré, a quiet fishing village with dreamy beaches. Of course, that mostly had to with the surroundings: a small, straw-roofed wooden temple lying in the middle of mango and banana trees and the bright, tropical flowers that lined the garden. And the masseuse, who was also my yoga teacher there and always hit exactly the right note of spirituality, had magical hands and a wonderfully calming aura. But, last but not least, it came down to the natural coconut oil that was used for the massage. The scented oil melts the moment it hits your skin, has a relaxing effect, and nourishes your skin at the same time so that your skin feels silky smooth for days. After this massage, I skipped my way through Brazil relaxed and light on my feet – and also developed a real coconut addiction.
Later in a natural cosmetics shop in Rio, I stocked up on coconut soap, oil, and capsules that contain daily portion of this precious oil. For anyone who won’t be in Brazil anytime soon, there are great coconut alternatives. For example, the nourishing body and hair oil by Hei Poa. For cleansing and exfoliating, the Rose Coco Body Polish by Herbivore Botanicals or even just pure grated coconut from the organic market. And for a delicate scent Coccobello, the Eau de Parfum by James Heeley, does nicely.
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Travel Companion aka Face Cream
Caudalié is not Brazilian, and rather very French as everyone knows, but the new moisturizing Sorbet Creme by the French pharmacy brand proved to be the perfect vacation cream for Brazil. In tropical temperatures, heat, and high humidity, you don’t want to put anything rich and cocooning on your skin. I’ve applied this light, airy formula with a fresh and subtle scent for one and a half months now before the beach in the mornings and in the evenings before bed. It goes very well with the sun (of course I apply a sun cream with SPF 50 in addition several times per day) and gives saltwater and sun stressed skin a lot of much needed moisture.
Discovery: Wonderful Soaps
On the search for local beauty products, I discovered a beautiful soap packaged in yellow-red paper in a teensy shop in Jericoacoara. “Phebo” is emblazoned in a black emblem on top. The shop assistant explained that even her parents and grandparents had used this soap and every Brazilian that I asked knew about it. So, it’s a traditional product. In Rio, I made a call on the lovely Phebo and Granado shop. The Phebo company was founded in 1930 by two Portuguese immigrant brothers and Granado, as a pharmacy brand, has recently joined forces with them, reworked their formulas and packaging design (without taking away any of its traditional character), and opened new stores. The newest one in Rio is located in a wonderful townhouse from the colonial period and is fitted with high, decorated ceilings, old Portuguese tiles, and antique apothecary furnishings. Favorites include Phebo’s lovely, colorful soaps and the Carioca (that’s what the inhabitants of Rio are called), a special edition soap by Granado that’s packaged in recycled paper printed with a quintessentially Rio view – the Cristo – that is scented with bergamot and is enriched with murumuru to moisturize.
Since these great brands still aren’t available in Germany, these beautiful and colorful soaps make especially great souvenirs from Brazil. Whoever absolutely needs to get their supplies restocked will find Le bon Marché the best port of call.
TRANSLATION: MELISSA FROST
Originally from Hamburg, Julia Alfert moved to Berlin from Paris in 2010. After completing her studies in Art History and trying out different jobs, her path led her to Harper’s Bazaar, where she worked as Fashion & Beauty Assistant until mid 2015. While she’s harboured a love for all things beauty-related for as long as she can remember, her discovery of the written word is recent. When Julia isn’t busy trying out different creams, oils, and sprays she writes and styles for an assortment of magazines and websites.