Camila Coelho is best known for creating beauty looks on YouTube and for her equally glamorous life on Instagram, which sees her jetting from her home base in Los Angeles to fashion weeks in Paris and Milan and holidays in her native Brazil. But in quarantine she gave it all up – at least for a little while.
“I have to tell you the truth,” Coelho says through laughter. “In the beginning of quarantine, I was like messy hair, no makeup – I felt so free,” she said, noting that after a few weeks she was ready for a routine again. “I needed motivation, and a schedule, so it felt good to put an outfit on and some light makeup to kind of feel like I have a routine even if it is from home.”
It makes perfect sense that when the 32-year-old launched her own beauty brand in August, she focused on bringing only the essentials to her massive following (over eight million on Instagram and another four million subscribers on her English and Portuguese speaking YouTube channels).
Elaluz, which means “She is light” in Portuguese, started as an idea that Coelho dreamed up after creating her YouTube tutorials and eponymous lifestyle blog in 2010. But she officially began building the brand two years ago, with a belief in creating “products that work for you but that are also good for you.”
For Coelho, that meant concentrating on natural ingredients (often from Brazil) housed in sustainable packaging – something that helped make Elaluz an EWG verified and cruelty-free Leaping Bunny certified brand. Coelho also narrowed down Elaluz’s products to those that she uses herself, starting with her lip treatment, 24K Lip Therapy, and the two-in-one Lip And Cheek Stain.
“We started with lips because that’s a standout category to me ever since I was a little girl,” Coelho says, noting that in her first passport photo at age six, she proudly sported a red lipstick that her grandmother had given her. “All of my main childhood photos, I was wearing bold lipstick – it’s a very Latina thing, lipstick, so it was part of my story as well.”
Two skincare products – the All Day Beauty Water face mist and Beauty Oil – followed Coelho’s lip launches on September 8th, but Elaluz’s ethos remains the same. “I believe that everyone of us, we are born with this beautiful light shining inside of us,” Coelho said of the inspiration behind the name.
“If you don’t love yourself when you look in the mirror, if you don’t love who you are, you can put the most expensive makeup on, the most expensive outfit on, and you’re still going to look at yourself and feel like something is missing. It starts from within,” she said, noting that her own journey towards self-acceptance included opening up about her struggle with epilepsy.
Though she was diagnosed with the neurological disorder at age nine, Coelho only recently shared her condition with her following. Calling it “the best thing that I did,” Coelho said that talking about her illness also led her to the Epilepsy Foundation of America, where she now serves as an ambassador and board member.
Ahead, Coelho shares more details about how she turned social media into entrepreneurship, developing her beauty brand and why sharing her epilepsy diagnosis turned out to be her best decision yet.
Her social media start
After graduating from high school, Coelho took a job selling makeup at the Dior counter in a department store, ultimately deciding to pursue a career as a makeup artist.
“I hated the retail hours, but one thing that I loved about that job was my connection with other women,” Coelho recalled. “It proved to me how transformative and empowering beauty is.”
By 2010, Coelho was working as a makeup artist when she decided to share her expertise on YouTube with the goal of helping her family and friends. “I saw Kandee Johnson do it, who was one of the first girls to upload a tutorial, and so I started on YouTube as a hobby. Back then, I had no idea that it could become something one day, let alone my job – it never crossed my mind,” she stressed.
As engagement on her YouTube channel increased, Coelho did some research on blogging at the suggestion of her growing following. “When you’re doing video, it’s not an everyday thing, so I started writing Monday to Friday – not just beauty but also fashion and things I liked,” Coelho explained. Within 12 days of publishing her first blog post, Coelho received more than 150,000 unique visitors, something she said inspired her to continue spending her free time creating videos and writing blog entries.
“Today, everyone knows that you can build a career out of social media, but back then, I remember getting my first box of makeup at home from NYX cosmetics and I was so excited. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m getting free makeup just by putting these videos up.’ I don’t take any of it for granted because there was very little expectation,” she explained.
With a natural business sense, Coelho used her experiences traveling and working with brands as stepping stones to creating Elaluz. “After putting my videos out there and working with so many amazing beauty brands, I started to dream about having my own line. I would say to myself, ‘One day, I’m going to have my own beauty brand,’” she said. In addition to having countless products sent to her to test out, Coelho teamed up with Lancôme on a lipstick line in 2018.
Following her instincts, she began building her brand around the same time. “I’ve tested everything that’s on the market pretty much, but I find myself – especially traveling so much and being on the go – going back to the essential products,” she explained of her decision to be more selective when it comes to what she launches.
“It’s overwhelming to see a bunch of products and you don’t even know what to buy,” Coelho said of why she decided to stick to a handful of products (currently, Elaluz is comprised of four). “Before our 24K Lip Therapy, I had two lip balms – one for overnight and another during the day because the overnight formulas are always heavier and stickier,” Coelho explained.
“You can wear this lip balm as a treatment overnight, but it’s comfortable for you to wear during the day, too. It has a ton of Brazilian ingredients in it, rich oils like buriti oil and papaya extract,” she elaborated on how they achieved the perfect formula. “I wanted Brazilian ingredients to be very present in my products, so I will be exploring a lot of products and ingredients going forward.”
Elaluz’s Lip And Cheek Stain is another multitasking product. “I compare it to the white T-shirt in your wardrobe,” Coelho said. “It’s that product you’re going to wear by itself when you just want a natural face and a flush to your lips and your cheeks. But it’s also a great base for your makeup. So even when I’m wearing lipstick or lip liner on top, I have that on my lips and on my cheeks under my blush.”
It was equally important for her formulas to be as clean as possible and packaged sustainably without compromising on luxury. “With skincare, I’ve learned from my dermatologist to use products that will work as medicine for your skin and not just cosmetics, so I wanted the brand to be clean,” Coelho said, admitting, “But when you say that, it can be many things.”
The brand is already EWG verified, meaning the products are free from toxic and potentially harmful chemicals like parabens, formaldehyde and animal-derived ingredients. But that didn’t come without its own set of challenges, often resulting in a longer development process.
“With our beauty water, I needed it to be very refreshing since it’s a product you’re going to put on your face all day. But I didn’t want to use synthetic fragrances, so it took us a while to find a natural oil that could bring that specific scent to our product,” Coelho said.
“Each time we finalize a product it’s like winning an award because there is so much work that was behind creating each one of them,” she added. “The beauty oil, for example, is one of the skincare products I’m most excited about. I’ve been using it for the past six months, and I’ve gone through three bottles already.”
Breaking from the influencer mold
Of course, as social media changes, Coelho has adapted right along with it, although she says she no longer feels pressured to keep up with. “A few years ago, I would have said that I felt pressured a lot of times,” she admitted. “But today, I know what I want, and even though social media is a huge part of my job, it’s not just about social media,” said Coelho, who also has a clothing line with Revolve.
Being authentic with her following matters, too. “It started bothering me that social media was so perfect. You look at everyone and you think, ‘Oh my gosh, you have a perfect life,’” she said, adding, “I was even showing a perfect life with traveling the world and not sharing any of my vulnerabilities.”
After sharing some of her day-to-day struggles and insecurities, Coelho eventually decided to post about her epilepsy diagnosis, which she has been living with since she was 9-years-old. “I struggled with it when I was a teenager, and there was a moment in my life that I didn’t accept my condition and I felt different,” said Coelho who explained that she eventually ended up in the hospital when she stopped taking her medication without telling her doctor or family.
“When I was in the hospital, my mom said, ‘Camila, you are a lucky girl. You take one medication every night, and it controls your seizures. There are people who have seizures every single day even taking medicine, and there are people who are fighting for their lives every single day.’ What my mom told me then and having a real conversation with her knowing that I was struggling, it transformed me,” Coelho recalled. “I realized that everyone in this world has a different journey and a different challenge.”
Because her epilepsy was controlled, she never felt the need to discuss it, until earlier this year. “Now going into thinking of pregnancy and building a family, that’s when it started worrying me again. And being more mature, that’s also when I started thinking, ’Should I share this with my following? Would I help other people if I share it?’” Coelho said.
“It was definitely scary even thinking about it, and it took me two years to be able to talk about it. But it was the best thing that I did because it was liberating just letting it out, and hearing other peoples’ stories helped me – I even asked myself why I didn’t do it a while back,” Coelho explained. “I feel so strong that I’ve shared it and everyone knows about it.”
Discussing her diagnosis also resulted in the Epilepsy Foundation of America reaching out to Coelho. Though she first started as an ambassador for the nonprofit, Coelho’s role has expanded to board member, too. “I wanted to be involved and use my platform to help them out in different ways and try to educate people,” she said.
“It’s really exciting to know that I am using my platform to do something that’s so good and that will be so good for others. The Epilepsy Foundation is saving lives every single day with the work that they do, and I admire them so much,” said Coelho. “It is very important for the world to see that no one is alone; we’re all together in this. Everyone has a different struggle, and there is no such thing as a perfect life or perfection.”