The Surprising Brazilian Beauty Secrets I Learned From My Roommate

Updated 07/27/19
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To be clear, no, I have not moved in with Gisele, Tom, and their kids. (Adoption papers still pending.) However, my newest roommate does have shiny and sun-bleached hair, legs for days, and impeccably flawless skin. She's Brazilian, her name is Andrea Nabinger, and though she doesn't currently walk the runways, she most definitely could—so naturally, I had to interview her.

Not only is it in my job description to play Nancy Drew when it comes to people's beauty routines (especially if they could very well be Gisele Bündchen's doppelgänger), but nothing is more exciting than an investigation into another culture. And to be honest, I had so many questions.

From her must-have makeup and skincare products to Brazil's best-kept beauty secrets, I needed to know everything. And two hours, one makeup bag, and a couple glasses of chardonnay later, I have some answers. Keep reading for a crash course lesson in Brazilian beauty.

Plastic Surgery Isn't Taboo

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In fact, far from it. It's only a few seconds into our interview, and without batting an eyelash Andrea tells me that women in Brazil "are very very worried about their appearance—giving a lot of care to their skin, body, and the idea of maintaining a youthful look." She adds that Brazil also ranks at the top of the list for plastic surgeries—especially, she says, for breast augmentation. Intrigued, I quickly tapped a search into Google and sure enough, she's completely correct. The United States (at 4,310,180 surgeries per year) comes in at number one, with Brazil sitting in a cozy second place at 2,427,535.

She also mentions that women strive to achieve and maintain a trim, youthful figure, but again, many women rely on surgical procedures and it's not as common to exercise and workout as it is in America. "In general, women don't care all that much about being healthy—they want to look good, but they want quick results and opt for treatments to help get them there quickly," she says.

Of course, there are exceptions, and it would be a disservice to make the universal assumption that every Brazilian woman gets, or for that matter wants plastic surgery. However, prior to the interview, I asked Andrea for the uncensored truth, and so far she is delivering.

In general, women don't care all that much about being healthy—they want to look good, but they want quick results and opt for treatments to help get them there quickly.

In the same vein, she shares that it's much harder to find healthy and organic foods in Brazil, and as someone who values a sustainable, all-natural diet, she really loves that about living in the United States. Obsessed with places like Beaming, Mainland Poke, and Whole Foods, she has settled into the Angeleno lifestyle quite easily, and she and I both laugh as we commiserate our many lost dollars to typical L.A. fodder like green smoothies and gluten-free cookies. 

Nail Appointments Are a Must

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In addition to hair appointments at the salon, ("everyone wants to be blonde," Andrea says with exasperation), weekly manicures and pedicures are sacredly routine, and it's actually one of the things she misses most about home. Salons are around every corner, and regardless of socioeconomic status, it's the norm to have beautiful nails—red and other vibrant shades are typically the most popular. 

"I don't know if it's the same here, but we have crazy, funny names for nail polish colors. For example, recently there was a collection of seven different reds and the name for each one was a reference to one of the seven sins. Usually, one color becomes popular, and then everyone has to have that color," she says.

Shopping Overseas Is Preferred

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Though there are plenty of pharmacies with well-known brands like Vichy, La Roche-Posay, and the trademark Brazilian brand Natura, Andrea tells me that for the most part, Brazilian women love to stock up on all of their beauty products when traveling, and hoarding favorite formulas in the duty-free isn't uncommon. Not only is there more selection abroad, product is also less expensive. In fact, as she takes me through her makeup and skincare routine (don't worry, I'll get there), she tells me that she discovered many of her must-haves in different countries all over the world. Her favorite deodorant? German. Her mascara? A UK find.

As with the selection of food, she explains with emphasis that when it comes to beauty, there is so much more variety in the U.S., and she especially appreciates the selection of organic and all-natural skincare—something that aside from a few homeopathic stores, is practically nonexistent in Brazil. Here, she loves trolling the aisles of Sephora and Whole Foods, and she also spends a good amount of time (like many beauty enthusiasts) reading and cross-checking reviews online. Her favorite: Amazon.

Though she's slowly trying to convert her entire skincare routine to all-natural, sustainable, and organic products, she's had a more difficult time parting ways with her favorite makeup brands, as she says, for the most part, she doesn't think the natural versions perform and wear as well. The worst, she says, is when a product melts off your face. When I quiz her on brands and stores she swears by, she easily exhales: "Weleda, Lush, L'Oréal, and Sephora."

Makeup Is Typically Natural

Think Gisele, Adriana, Alessandra, Isabeli, and the bronzed, sultry look of any model who has ever sported wings. According to Andrea, makeup is important to women in Brazil, but the result is never obvious. Plus, there is also a certain degree of comfort in going barefaced—blame it on their militant skincare regimens. Fun fact: She tells me that she's seen both Alessandra Ambrosia and Isabeli Fontana on numerous occasions, and every time, they've had perfectly clean complexions with zero makeup and their long hair swept easily into a bun. "Totally relaxed," she says.

Therefore, you probably won't spot dramatically shaded lips or overly flushed cheekbones. Instead, bronzed, even complexions, darkly lined lids, ink-black lashes, and maybe a swipe of highlighter for a hint of radiance.

And unsurprisingly, my discoveries in Andrea's makeup bag fit her description to a T. She tells me that she purchases most of her makeup at Sephora, except for her die-hard dedication to an oil-free L'Oréal BB Cream ($11) and the brand's iconic Voluminous Million Lashes Mascara ($9). Though the tube she hands me has slightly different packaging, I suspect it's virtually the same formula. Brows are another important step, and she relies on Benefit Gimme Brow Fiber Gel ($24) to add depth to her super-blonde arches.

Skincare Is Paramount

It's no secret that Brazilian women and girls are known for their amazing skin, and my roommate is no exception. To give you an inkling, I began the interview thinking Andrea was the same age as me (24) or even younger. The truth? She's 30. When she tells me, I absolutely refuse to believe her. Not that 30 is by any means old, but when someone six years your senior has better skin that you did circa 2011, well, it's slightly disconcerting.

So considering her even, poreless, and naturally luminous texture, it doesn't come as any surprise when I learn she's had a religious skincare routine for years. In fact, the first time she ever went to a dermatologist, she was 12. Yes, 12. And according to Andrea, that's not that weird.

"My mom always took care of her skin, so I did learn about skincare from her, but I've also been to dermatologists since I was around 12," she shares. "As a kid, I had very sensitive skin, allergies, things like that. So about twice a year, I would go to see my dermatologist, and she would formulate all of these special products that were very gentle. I think they were actually meant for a baby's skin, She'd also pick things up for me when she traveled to Europe—products for hair, face, body, vitamins, things like that."

Now, her routine is fairly straightforward and she shows me an array of organic or mostly natural products geared toward anti-aging and enriched with essential vitamins like C, E, and other hydrating agents like hyaluronic acid. Currently, she loves the Origins Plantscription Cleanser ($33), Weleda Age-Defying Serum ($30 )—she also has one from Ogee ($98) and a few from TruSkin Naturals—and a couple of cult favorite lotions and moisturizers from Lush, including Imperialis ($27) for the face and Ro's Argan Body Conditioner ($36) for the body, which, she says, is absolutely the best thing on earth.

Since she loves to spend time out in the sun (she says that tanned skin is another Brazilian beauty secret), she tries to be vigilant about applying sunscreen and uses something straightforward like Carmex or Blistex on her lips each day. And, while she doesn't do much to her hair beyond drying with a blow-dryer, she does spritz her strands with leave-in conditioner. She tells me she always has a bottle in her bag when she heads to the beach.

Curious to try out her product lineup? From sunscreen to toothpaste to highlighter, her favorites are listed below.

Benefit Cosmetics Gimme Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel $24
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Milk Makeup Highlighter $24
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OPI Classic Nail Lacquer in Big Apple Red $11
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Smashbox Always On Gel Liner $18
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Smashbox Bronze Lights in Deep Matte $34
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Gold tube of mascara on a white background.
L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Million Lashes Mascara $10
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Bottle of blue deodorant.
Fa Sport Invisible Power Anti-Perspirant $11
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Lush Imperialis: The Magic Moisturizer $27
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David's Premium Natural Toothpaste $10
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Carmex Classic Moisturizing Lip Balm $3
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Tube of BB cream on a white background.
L'Oréal Magic Skin Beautifier BB Cream Anti-Fatigue $11
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Alba Botanica Drink It Up Coconut Milk Conditioner $6
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Bottle of Weleda Awakening Serum next to product box on a white background.
Weleda Age Defying Serum $30
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André Lorent Daily Rehydrating Sunscreen: SPF 30+ $24
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Black jar with white writing on a white background.
Lush Ro's Argan Body Conditioner $36
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Olive green tube with a white label and gold lid on a white background.
Origins Plantscription Anti-Aging Cleanser $33
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Avalon Organics Clarifying Lemon Shampoo $8
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