How to Beach Like a Brazilian

By Shannon Sims


Beaching in Brazil is serious business. Take some notes from the pros. 

You may have noticed it last summer on American beaches: Women are showing more and more cheek. Blame the Brazilians. With nearly 5,000 miles of coast, Brazilians have perfected beaching. So it’s no surprise that beach trends in Brazil have a habit of catching on in the U.S. But beyond the bum, American beachgoers have much to learn from the folks who mastered the bikini. Here are their tips for what you’ll need for this summer. 

A Canga

Heavy, ever-damp towels are so not the look. In Brazil, the towel substitute is called a canga: a colorful piece of viscose fabric that accommodates two bums in the sand and dries in a snap. A magical thing, it packs up small, works as a shawl or bedsheet … and it can even be twisted into a dress. However, it’s actually just a cheap swath made in Asia, marked up to $10. For vendors like Maria da Cruz, 42, who runs a small stand in the city of Olinda, selling cangas in the summer is “always guaranteed profit.” Even with the markup, they’re a versatile investment for many summers.

Brazilian beachgoers have reached the zenith of leisure.

Carrot Everything

They eat it in salads and drink it in smoothies, and then once on the beach they rub it on their bodies: The carrot is the humble vegetable every Brazilian bronze-body loves. Here a secret: The carrot seed’s natural oil — an extract available in small bottles in any pharmacy — helps to get that deep tan. Although it contains no sun protection, Brazilians swear by its nutritive properties; they believe the beta-carotene lends itself to the ideal summer skin color. “Women here think it’s beautiful to be on the beach shining with oil,” says Monaliza Morete, a 32-year-old true Brazilian beach girl from Rio. And like Brazilian bikinis, the trend is catching on elsewhere: You’ll find carrot “tanning accelerators” in the U.K. and Australia, and in the U.S., sunscreen brands are incorporating veggie power.  

A Headrest

Lying around with your head in the sand? So uncivilized. A solution out of Brazil: a lightweight, padded headrest. Although it looks a lot like a beach chair for a hamster, Brazilians are using them on the beaches of Ipanema this summer. For now, finding one in the U.S. can be tough, but some enterprising souls make homemade versions, available on craft websites like Etsy, and there’s a version in Australia.

But truth be told, folks like Morete believe that perhaps the best part of Brazilian beach culture isn’t the cangas or the oils; it’s the fact that Brazilian beachgoers have reached the zenith of leisure. They raise a hand for a snack; they applaud the setting sun. Brazilian beaches make you feel like Beyoncé on a Tuesday. And though in the U.S. the closest version to that is a rolling cooler you packed yourself, at least with a canga, some carrot oil and a headrest in tow, you too can get that Brazilian beach feeling — without having to show any cheek.