Why Sol de Janeiro's celebration of Brazilian beauty has won over Sephora shoppers.

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Camila Pierotti/ Sol de Janeiro
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Along with bikinis, coffee, and samba, Sol de Janeiro has become one of Brazil's greatest exports. Founded in 2015, the best-selling Brazil-inspired luxury body care brand was born out of a connection Brazilian native Camila Pierotti made with American expats Heela Yang and Marc Capra. The trio bonded over their experiences living in the country and its unique approach to beauty.

"Brazil has such a wide range of beautiful people. If you go to the beach, there's people of all different sizes, ages, and colors having fun together, so there isn't so much of a desire to look a certain way," says Pierotti.

The brand's body care, haircare, and fragrance products are essentially a Rio beach bottled up. Each formula incorporates fruit and plant butters native to the country, while the packaging is bright and sunny, with shades of yellow, coral, and turquoise.

Ahead, Pierotti shares what makes Brazilian beauty so special that the world wants a little piece of the beach in their showers, and of course, the origin story of the brand's famous Bum Bum Cream (pronounced "boom-boom" in Portuguese).

What inspired the Sol de Janeiro brand?

My experience leaving Brazil to come to the US was the actual first step in creating the brand. When you leave your world and points of reference for an entirely new one, you pick up on the nuances of both places. I would wear my teeny tiny bikini and feel more confident about my body than some of my American friends who were taller, skinnier, and blonder. This made me realize that Brazil's approach to beauty is really special and unique. Years later, I connected with the other co-founders Heela Yang and Marc Capra over our experiences living in Brazil and that's how the brand came to life. 

What makes Brazil's approach to beauty so special?

So many things make Brazil's approach to beauty special. It has a hot, humid climate, and places like Rio have a very strong beach culture. For those reasons, you're wearing bikinis and flip flops and not many layers. We're a lot more comfortable in our own skin because it's always exposed, and because of that, we don't have a lot of downtime to care for our skin — it always has to be ready. Then you factor in how we're always hugging and touching because we're a very affectionate culture. Brazilian beauty has to be easy because you need to just do a little bit everyday instead of spending three hours to get ready before a party, for example.

Brazil has such a wide range of beautiful people. If you go to the beach, there's people of all different sizes, ages, and colors having fun together, so there isn't so much of a desire to look a certain way. As a brand we take this very seriously: we're not here to tell you what to look like, but to create the best products to care for your body, whatever that means to you. 

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What is the origin story of the now cult-favorite Brazilian Bum Bum Cream?

We knew our mission statement before we had an idea of what products we were going to launch with. When it became clear we were going to focus on taking care of the body, we thought, "What's Brazilians' favorite body part?" It's their bum bum. Obviously this cream isn't just for the bum bum, but to us, the bum bum represents the curves of your body and that's what we love. We knew the jar had to be beautiful and impactful and we wanted it to be yellow with a rounded bottom and chunky cap. That's when all of the naysayers started coming in and telling us people would think the brand is for summer only or a sunscreen line. We also put a lot of fragrance in it and were told it was too much for a body cream. We stuck to our gut and disrupted what was usually done and it worked out. 

The brand has also become known for its scents. Why is fragrance so important to the brand?

We knew fragrance was going to be a very important part of our brand because along with having beautiful, soft skin, Brazilians love to smell good. We actually have a word for it, "cheirosa." There's no equivalent English translation, but it means to smell amazing. People will actually go up to you and tell you, "You're cheirosa" in Brazil. That's why we've named all of our scents "Cheirosa" and numbered them. I think you always want to smell good because of the hot, humid climate and passionate culture. We didn't know the scent of the Bum Bum Cream was going to become so popular, but we started getting all of these messages about it. So we developed it as a fine fragrance separate from the cream because we wanted people to be able to wear it as a perfume. It stands out because it's sophisticated but there's still an element of yumminess and deliciousness to it. Now we make sure all of our scents have a gourmand element to it and can also be worn on its own as a fine fragrance.   

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Brazilian Bum Bum Cream

$45; sephora.com

Not just for your bum bum, the quick-absorbing body cream deeply nourishes skin from head to toe, plus adds a touch of shimmer. 

Best Sol de Janeiro Products
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Brazilian Kiss Cupuaçu Lip Butter

$18; sephora.com

Don't let the name "lip balm" fool you, Pierotti says this moisturizing product also makes a great cuticle treatment and can be used to tame flyaways. 

Best Sol de Janeiro Products
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Bum Bum Body Scrub

$42; sephora.com

Pierotti recommends adding the Bum Bum Body Scrub to your shower if you love the original cream. The body exfoliator doubles as moisturizer, so it's ideal for those hectic mornings when you need to streamline your in-shower routine. 

Best Sol de Janeiro Products
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Coco Cabana Moisturizing Moisturizing Body Cream-Cleanser

$25; sephora.com

This lathering sultfate-free body wash cleanses skin without stripping it, thanks to a blend of moisturizing ingredients like coco sugar, coconut oil, and cupuaçu butter. 

Best Sol de Janeiro Products
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Brazilian Joia Refreshing Dry Shampoo

$24; sephora.com

On top of cleansing hair and boosting volume, Sol de Janeiro's dry shampoo smells ridiculously good because it shares the same gourmand scent as the Bum Bum Cream. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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