Whenever she has a “crazy idea” for a new beauty product, Bruna Tavares says she has to tap into her powers of persuasion. Having over ten years of experience in the Brazilian beauty industry and almost three million followers on Instagram gives her more credibility than most, but investors in her home country can still be cautious.
When Tavares launched her BT Velvet liquid matte eyeshadow in 2019, backers of the namesake brand were sceptical. “They didn’t think customers would adapt to it because the texture was so different from what customers were used to, [but] ultimately my investors believed in me.” The product sold out in 24 hours and continues to be a bestseller, she adds.
With a strong domestic foothold anchored by 3,000 points of sale and pharmacy giant Farmaervas as a manufacturing partner, the 35-year-old entrepreneur is ready for her “spicy” Brazilian brand to go global. Having secured a deal with Sephora in Brazil, Tavares’ ambition is to be stocked by the retailer’s US, Mexico and European stores by next year.
Brazil has a track record for producing beauty behemoths like Natura & Co. and Grupo Boticario, while providing fertile ground for international conglomerates such as L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble and Estée Lauder Companies to either open R&D centres or set up hubs for manufacturing and distribution.
But now, a new generation of so-called B-beauty brands — Bruna Tavares, Simple Organic and Hela Beauty among others — are riding a wave of clean beauty, bombastic influencer culture and the enduring appeal of “brand Brazil”, to ready themselves for the next phase of business. For those with serious export potential, that means making overtures to partners abroad.
The Global Appeal of B-Beauty
Brazil’s scale, dynamism and reputation as a centre of beauty innovation means the sheer number of brands and products that emerge from the country is likely to be greater than others. Though it has been one of the hardest hit by Covid-19, Brazil’s economy returned to pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of this year, surprising analysts. Less surprising, perhaps, is the fact that the Brazilian beauty sector demonstrated signs of resilience throughout the crisis.
The fourth-largest in the world, Brazil’s beauty and personal care market grew 4.7 percent between 2019 and 2020, according to Euromonitor International. Currently estimated to be worth $24.67 billion, it is set to rise by 6.2 percent next year. By 2022 Brazil will account for almost 42 percent of the broader $62.44 billion Latin American beauty market and 4.7 percent of the $552.21 billion global market.
Several intangible factors help Brazilian brands gain a certain cachet in the global context. Thanks to the country’s tropical climate and lively beach culture among other things, Brazilians are known internationally for placing special importance on beauty, hygiene and the appearance of their bodies.
It’s no coincidence that bum lifts, keratin hair treatments and waxes branded as “Brazilian” have become popular around the world. Brazil ranks as one of the highest among countries for the number of surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
All this has helped strengthen the association between Brazil and aesthetics in the minds of international consumers, suggesting that skincare and cosmetic brands from the country also stand to benefit.
“We’ve had this thing with beauty for a long time. In general, Brazilians like to take care of their body and discover products that could help in that way,” said Luanda Vieira, beauty and wellness editor of Vogue Brazil.
Home to the world’s largest rainforest, Brazil is seen as a wellspring of pure, natural and exotic ingredients that are increasingly in the spotlight for their ostensible beautification properties. Plants native to the country such as acai, ucuuba, castanha and murumuru have made their way into beauty products.
“We have a bossa [nova quality] to our products, especially in skincare,” said Helena Bordon, fashion entrepreneur and co-founder of Hela Beauty. “We use lots of raw, natural ingredients that are very specific to Brazil; they add an extra something to the product.”
Though many of the natural ingredients found in the Amazon have been used by indigenous peoples for centuries if not millennia, Antonio Luiz Seabra was one of the first to promote them in a modern cosmetics brand when he founded Natura in São Paulo in 1969. Over the years, the company’s efforts in sustainable innovation and product development leveraging Brazil’s biodiversity led it to become, in 2014, the first, and largest, publicly traded company to attain B Corp certification.
Though the brand had been growing internationally since its first foray outside of Brazil in 1982, its acquisitions of Aesop, The Body Shop and Avon boosted Natura’s global standing over the past decade. Today, Natura & Co, which comprises all four brands in the namesake group, stands as Brazil’s — and Latin America’s — largest cosmetics multinational with operations in 110 countries including France, where it opened a boutique in the Marais district of Paris.
Staking a Claim in Clean Beauty
As the number of global consumers prioritising natural, vegan and sustainably sourced beauty products continues to grow, Brazilian brands that helped pioneer the so-called clean beauty movement at home find themselves looking for opportunities abroad.
“At the beginning, Brazil represented a huge opportunity for us,” said Patricia Lima, founder of Simple Organic. “The clean beauty market was so new that we felt that there was a lot of room for innovation.”
The brand has grown swiftly since its launch in 2017. Lima reports that 2020 was their best year yet, as turnover rose by 300 percent year-over-year. The brand was recently acquired by a major player, Hypera Pharma, a backing which she is now planning to use to go international “with the same power that we have in Brazil.”
Vieira notes that the acquisition is “a turning point for the industry,” as pharmacies are key to validating brands in the eyes of Brazilians. “The arrival of a clean beauty brand to a pharmacy is a sign that Brazilians’ behaviour is changing.”
Many other Brazilian skincare brands have launched in recent years: Creamy, Elemento Mineral, Quintal Dermocosmeticos by vegan beauty brand Feito Cosmeticos, Sallve Almanati and Care Natural Beauty, to name a few.
According to a report by research firm Kline, the natural segment of the Brazilian beauty industry grew 10 percent in 2020, on par with 2019 levels.
We use lots of raw, natural ingredients that are very specific to Brazil; they add an extra something to the product.
Local retailers also took advantage of the rising tide to diversify their categories. Dominique Oliver, founder of the direct-to-consumer retailer Amaro, identified 2020 as the right time to expand into beauty and wellness after launching with fashion eight years earlier.
Oliver recounts that around 60 percent of the beauty brands sold by Amaro have at least one or two labels associated with clean beauty. “We see a more purpose-driven, progressive consumer, and a lot more importance is being placed on that.” Though Oliver believes it’s still a small part of Brazil’s overall market, “it’s going in that direction.”
The Bombastic Influencer Boost
“Makeup is instant gratification; you put on lipstick or an eyeshadow, and you instantly feel beautiful. But skincare is a long-term commitment,” said São Paulo-based founder of beauty site Belezinha.com.vc, Vania Goy.
Goy believes that “the isolation period made skincare truly connected to self-care” and that the local industry was quick to seize the moment to connect with consumers on that basis. Data from Euromonitor confirms that Brazil’s skincare segment grew 13.6 percent in 2020, a rate that is more than twice that of the wider Latin America region (6.4 percent), and far higher than the figure worldwide (0.0 percent).
Local influencer marketing helped accelerate that growth. “With the economic crisis, the influencer market took on a whole new dimension,” explains Brazilian journalist Jorge Grimberg.
Mirroring what happened in other markets around the world, several prominent influencers in Brazil started their own beauty businesses before or during the pandemic. Last year, Julia Petit launched skincare brand Sallve in collaboration with Marcia Netto and Daniel Wjuniski, focusing on the skincare concerns of a younger customer base, pitched at more affordable price points.
Other Brazilian influencers — some hailing from the fashion industry — are aiming for prestige positioning, like US-based Camila Coelho, who this year launched her beauty line Elaluz, which is sold through Net-A-Porter and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Back in Brazil, influencer Helena Bordon and dermatologist Alessandra Fraga, created Hela Beauty, a premium skincare brand containing what they call “high concentrations of natural active principles”. After debuting in Sephora Brazil in December 2020, Bordon said she hopes to expand to Europe and the US after gaining more traction locally.
For her part, Camila Coutinho, creator of the well-known blog Garotas Estupidas, decided to focus on Brazil’s prolific haircare market with customised products she branded GE Beauty.
Beauty journalist and founder of the blog Dia de Beauté, Vic Ceridono, believes that many of these brands exemplify the shift in priorities among consumers who have become more interested in how products are made and communicated. “They want to feel like they are part of the conversation,” she said.
Ceridono adds that, in the past, beauty players like Natura, for example, “didn’t have to promote [values] that had always been at the heart of the brand … but this has changed.”
Diversity’s Role in Future Exports
In recent years, several brands founded by Brazilians abroad have been banking on Brazilian-ness to set themselves apart or create brand equity.
Costa Brazil, the beauty company founded by Calvin Klein’s former creative director Francisco Costa, was acquired by biotech firm Amyris earlier this year. Also in New York, a trio of founders made their brand Sol de Janeiro internationally famous thanks to its best-selling Bum Bum cream, a moisturiser for a part of the body synonymous with Brazilian beauty ideals: the bottom.
Launched in 2015 by Korean-American Heela Yang, Marc Capra and Brazilian-born Camila Pierotti, Sol de Janeiro “was built around the body inclusivity we experienced while living in Brazil, and we have reflected Brazilian diversity and all body types from the beginning,” said Yang.
Diversity and inclusion will play an increasingly important role for the next wave of Brazilian beauty businesses. In addition to prioritising sustainability, Vieira believes that “big players will [also] need to find ways to offer more customisation options for consumers” in order to stay in the game.
She cites Brazilian brands in the hair care market like Meu Q or Just for You that have developed customisable products catering to the many hair types and textures in the ethnically diverse country. “Why would I want to have the model’s hair when I can buy a product that will give me the best version of my own hair? That’s the gamechanger. It’s the same for makeup,” Vieira said.
Grimberg, however, said there is still a long way for Brazilian companies to go as the recent progress made by some players to create more inclusive marketing campaigns is just surface-level change. “We don’t know how diverse they are from the inside out.”
Rita Carreira, a Black Brazilian curve model who has appeared on the cover of Vogue Brazil, agrees. “Unfortunately, brands here want to talk about diversity, engage in a discourse that is ours but the people behind the scenes and making decisions are not diverse,” said Carreira, adding that there have traditionally been fewer Black beauty and fashion brand founders in Brazil than there are in other countries like the US.
Why would I want to have the model’s hair when I can buy a product that will give me the best version of my own hair?
Industry experts suggest that there is a largely untapped opportunity for authentic Brazilian beauty brands with diverse founders and product ranges to export to international markets across Africa, the Middle East and India. Given future demographic forecasts, these regions may be just as attractive long-term as exporting to North America and Europe in the shorter term.
Brazilian cosmetics and personal care products are currently exported to 174 countries. For the first time in a decade, Brazil posted a trade surplus of $23.4 million in 2020 in the personal hygiene, perfumery and cosmetics (HPPC) sector. According to data from ComexStat and Brazil’s Ministry of the Economy, this is due to a 1.9 percent rise in exports from the previous year totalling $609.3 million.
It is important to note, however, that the surplus was the result of exceptional circumstances brought on by the pandemic, according to the Brazilian Association of the Personal Hygiene, Perfume and Cosmetics Industry (ABIHPEC), including a slowdown in imports and the depreciation of the Brazilian real.
Multi-brand Retailers Provide International Launchpad
Arguably, Natura remains Brazil’s most famous beauty export but O Boticario, founded by Bolivian-Brazilian Miguel Krigsner in 1977 in Curitiba, Brazil also has global ambitions. Its parent company Grupo Boticario already has offices in Portugal for Europe and Colombia for Spanish-speaking Latin American markets. In all, the group operates in 15 countries including Middle Eastern markets.
Breno Cavour, head of international business at Grupo Boticario, explains that while Brazil currently constitutes 95 percent of O Boticario’s market, the firm now “has the resources, cash and structure to accelerate international expansion.”
Meanwhile, the 150-year-old pharmacy Granado, with its eponymous brand and perfumery Phebo, has been in Paris since 2013. In the hair care segment, Embelleze, which is as old as Natura, is one of the largest beauty companies exporting internationally and Cadiveu, founded in 1993, exports hair straightening keratin products to 85 countries.
When Sephora entered Brazil in 2012, it became an outlet for upmarket and specialist local players to sit alongside global brands. Though its arrival provided a valuable showcase for domestic players, it compelled local brands to up their game and global brands to better adapt to the Brazilian consumer who, in turn, became increasingly sophisticated and demanding in the process.
“There was a huge shift; it opened a whole universe of brands for Brazilian consumers,” said Ceridono.
The shifting landscape motivated Boticario to open Beauty Box in 2012, a multi-brand physical retail chain, to compete with Sephora. And in 2019, the group acquired Beleza Na Web, one of the biggest e-commerce multi-brand beauty players in the country. Online giants like Epoca Cosmeticos, owned by Brazilian retail behemoth Magazine Luiza, are also evolving fast.
As Brazil’s beauty industry continues to grow in size and influence, it is likely that these and other multi-brand retailers will become increasingly attractive places for international players to scout and sign local brands. Even if they don’t end up becoming the next big thing in Europe or the US, B-Beauty brands can be used effectively to diversify a European or American retailer’s merchandise mix or as a way to differentiate themselves from competitors.
For her part, Bruna Tavares is feeling cautiously optimistic. If she succeeds in leveraging Sephora Brazil as a launchpad to propel her brand into the retailer’s stores abroad, she hopes it “will bring top sellers that contribute to the international market as a whole, and further highlight the message of Brazilian beauty.”
But like many in this new generation of beauty entrepreneurs, she said she will only do that on her own terms. Asking her to compromise her brand identity to create a global business is a non-starter.