In fact, breast implants and lifts comprise the number one aesthetic treatment trend in Latin America, followed by facial treatments to reduce sun damage and discoloration, reports Mariah de Guardia, owner of the Alta Vita Spa (altavitaspa.com) in Panama City, Panama. In South American countries where the sun shines year-round and it’s always swimsuit weather, the temptation to perfect one’s bikini bod is great. For example, Rio de Janeiro boasts average winter lows of only 71° while temps in Cali float around 86° year round.
In addition to the opportunities afforded by the weather, Dr. Triana reports that the wasp-waisted ideal has been spurred on by economic growth. “The young macho male is a recent phenomenon, fueled by new opportunities and technologies that permit them to make a great deal of money,” she stated. “These ‘nouveau riche’ young men love to bring attention to themselves, and one way to accomplish this is to be surrounded by beautiful women that reflect a certain stereotype.” This stereotype seldom occurs naturally, she added.
Just the Facts
Colombia has the second largest number of plastic surgeons per capita in South America following Brazil. In Cali alone, there are five plastic surgeons for every 100,000 residents, with more than 50,000 surgeries performed each year. The most popular procedures for women are breast augmentation, liposuction and buttocks augmentation. For men, hair transplants and liposuction lead the hit parade. In spite of the demand to fulfill requests matching certain stereotypes, Dr. Triana stresses safety above all else. “A beautiful result is created by skillful attention to detail and a willingness to steer my patients toward a natural look that will serve them long after the latest body fashion has veered into another direction.”
In the U.S., surgical trends among Latinas are similar to their South American counterparts. In 2009, breast augmentation, followed by liposuction and nose-reshaping were the most commonly requested cosmetic procedures by Latinas, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Just as the year-round sun inspires the acquisition of beach perfect bods, warm temps obviously impact fashion and makeup directions. “The heat contributes to a culture of strong color choices and intense feelings, making Latins prone to a bit more expression than those in cooler climates,” stated Dr. Triana. “This intensity and love of color is reflected in beauty trends, with red lipsticks and dark eyes to complement the rich colors of fashion.”
But as North Americans are well aware, sun worshipping has its price. Facial treatments to reduce sun spots are the second most requested procedure at the Alta Vita Spa in Panama. “Everyone is freaked out about uneven complexions,” explains Ms. de Guardia, making foundation and cover up the number one purchased cosmetic product.
Brazilian Beauty Boom
The beauty category is flourishing in South America and Brazil in particular is booming, boasting the third-largest health and beauty market worldwide. The biggest segment is hair care—women reportedly wash their hair nearly every day and use up to five products. The next beauty priority is body care, followed by skin care. The keratin hair straightening treatment originated there, and is available through brands like Marcia Teixeira and Brazilian Blowout in the U.S.
In terms of cosmetic products, “Brazilian women are looking for a real, natural beauty,” stated François-Xavier Fenart, president and CEO of L’Oréal Brazil, at the WWD Summit last June. Beauty is correlated with personal hygiene and according to Mr. Fenart, men and women are obsessed with having white teeth and clean nails, and don’t leave the house if not impeccable. Brazil is the number one global market for deodorants.
And while L’Oreal’s business in Brazil is thriving, it’s still mostly a direct sell market place. The country’s own Natura, along with Avon are the direct selling leaders, marketing everything from fragrance to skin care to men’s products. Interestingly, Brazil is the number two global market for fragrance. The U.S. is number one, but given the troubled environment here, Brazil may take the lead very shortly.
Beauty Starts Within
“Beauty is in the mind,” said Miriam Fernandez Soberon, a New York-based independent beauty editor for Spanish language papers including El Especial. “Latinas like to wear lipstick, perfume and earrings. We don’t care that much about eyebrows or foundation,” she said. “White floral fragrances used to be popular in Latin America, but now young Latinas like trendy and celebrity fragrances.”
All of the above contributes to the legendary feminine allure of Latinas: “In a way, I think Latin American women are very ‘coqueta’ (flirtatious),” states model and TV personality Daisy Fuentes in a recent interview in the fall 2009 issue of Art Bodega magazine. An industry onto herself, as well as a style icon, Ms. Fuentes just launched a hair care line at Walgreens, in addition to her fragrance, cosmetics and clothing brands sold in collaboration with Kohl’s.
It’s a certain joy in life and love of family that contributes to Latina allure, Ms. Fernandez Soberon contends. “Latin American women are known for being very happy and very feminine. When you are happy, you see life in a different way,” she said. “For Latin American women, beauty starts in the mind.”