Cassandra McClure, Beauty Expert
Credit: Cassandra McClure
Cassandra McClure has been obsessed with makeup since she was a kid but wasn´t allowed to wear it until she was about 13 years old. As a result, she kept it in her backpack on her way to school, where she would put it on and take it off before she got home to hide it from her father, who wasn´t amused about her love for beauty and makeup at the time. Her mom, on the other hand, was the one who inspired her.
Cassandra, tell us more about your background and your first experience in the beauty industry.
My initial experience in the industry came from working at a party store and assisting my mother in her event planning business, where she would rent out equipment for weddings. When she began attending all these bridal shows, I once went with her and got an insight into the industry. Along with all these equipment suppliers, there were also various hair and cosmetics vendors, so I suggested that we offer some makeovers to draw more customers to our booth. Promoting an event company can be quite dull, and renting equipment isn't always the sexiest thing in the business. Brides love to talk about their dresses, flowers, photography, and, of course, beauty. So that´s what we did, and I secured my first bride. I believe I was just 16 at the time.
When I turned 18, I moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in beauty school in Hollywood. I was also hired as an extra on several TV shows and worked as a makeup artist and model on the sets of music videos. It was a lot of fun to learn what Hollywood was all about. From there, I launched a mobile beauty business, which I ran for about 10 years, from 18 to 25, before I became the first stylist to ever travel with the PGA (Professional Golfers Association of America) on the European tour. I got to travel to 36 countries, which was a pretty amazing experience that I feel very grateful to have. I also began posting updates about what I was doing on social media, initially on MySpace and later on Instagram. Over the years, I evolved as a model and artist and collaborated with some really amazing publications and photographers while appearing on the covers of many magazines.
When I moved back to the States, I opened a salon in Seattle. One of the models I was working with introduced me to my now-husband; we went on a blind date, and the rest is history, as they say. We eventually moved to the Bay Area about seven years ago. I´ve always loved California. In fact, a lot of destination weddings are happening here, so it just made sense to grow my own bridal business here. During my first year, we did over 100 weddings all over the country, and I had a team of 10 artists working with me.
How did you get into the clean beauty sector?
One day, after I came home from a gig, I went to the doctor because I didn´t feel well. I did all this allergy testing, and it turned out that I was allergic to literally everything—to dust, pollen, and pets, among other things. Not knowing that I was a makeup artist, I was told by the doctor to get a HEPA filter, get rid of my dog, get new bed sheets, and literally change my whole lifestyle. And then, I randomly went to an event where I met a woman who recently had breast cancer and was advocating for clean beauty. I had been doing makeup for 15 years now, and I had never heard about clean beauty. While she explained everything, she also talked about the fragrances being used in all these products and how much damage they can do to the skin. It sounded like this was, in fact, one of the things that triggered my allergies. When I got home, I looked at all these products I had in my kit and was shocked at how many of them included fragrance in the ingredients. It was my shampoo, my dish soap, my body wash, my air fresheners, and my candles. It was in everything. So I decided to do a big detox, and just 22 hours later, I could already see a difference in my body. I could hear better and breathe better. The rash I had on my back just vanished. I had no idea that I was poisoning myself for such a long time.
At some point, my husband asked me if I would consider re-thinking my career in beauty, because if all these products would make me sick, would it really be worth it? But instead of dropping everything, I started to research everything I could about clean beauty, changed my approach, and started the Clean Beauty Podcast.
It sounds like you found your approach to the industry based on your personal experience. What feedback did you get from others?
I talked to everyone in the industry who was an expert and wanted to talk to me, and it was so inspiring to hear all these stories. A lot of them had similar stories. They were cancer survivors, or they had an autoimmune disease, like I found out I had as well. I became really passionate about it and was excited to be a voice in the industry. It became my mission to advocate for clean production in the industry. I called out brands that weren´t doing the right thing, but I was also highlighting the ones that did a great job. And it really worked. My following grew exponentially, and I gained recognition.
Did you still work as a makeup artist at that time?
I was in the discovery phase and eventually took a break as a makeup artist for a while. People were relying on me to tell them what I knew about clean beauty. They asked me about clean deodorant options, what products I used for clean hair care, and what products were in my personal and professional makeup kit. So I decided to give podcasting my all for about a year. At one point, I started to host the clean beauty retreat with Greg and Joanne, the founders of Innersense Organic Beauty, and Fiona, the founder of Frilliance, based on feedback and many requests I got from my audience. It was a sold-out retreat in Carmel that even ended up getting featured in Forbes, which showed me that I was on the right path. It was like a dream.
Credit: Cassandra McClure
How did you manage to get the media attention and being featured in publications like Forbes?
It was a genuine interest from an editor who reached out to me and wanted to share my story. It was obviously a huge deal for me and my business because all of the brands that participated in the retreat got featured in Forbes too. To this day, they´re still my partners.
I also launched a product, the lash binder, which is a professional lash applicator that helps you put on lashes without any metal or pointy tweezers. It´s super sanitary, and you can use it thousands of times, so it´s super sustainable. Shark Tank even called me and wanted me to come on the show to pitch my concept, but I didn´t end up going because I just started the development with the money from a Kickstarter campaign and didn´t have any sales yet. The whole product idea was in the beginning stages, and I didn´t even know if it would even work or if people would even care.
Since you worked with so many brands to advocate for clean beauty, did you feel pressure to come up with your own product or was it just a natural development as a business owner to present something of your own?
When I started to grow on social media, everyone was asking me if I had my own brand, a YouTube channel, and a product. So, to be honest, I came up with a product to be able to say, Yes, I do. But the whole process was really fun, and I learned everything from designing a website, a logo, getting trademarked, patenting, designing, going back and forth with the manufacturer, distribution, and so much more. But most importantly, it really opened my eyes and made me realize what all these other founders are going through in their journey. It´s a whole new conversation for me because now I can talk to them in depth about their product and understand the whole process. I wasn´t just a makeup artist anymore. I sort of became a consultant, an advisor, and a strategist.
As an influencer, I could talk to brands about why their social strategy wasn´t hitting and give them my opinion on the appearance of their brand, their product or their market. But now, experiencing everything from a business owners´ perspective, I was able to work with brands a lot closer on different strategies and host events for them. It was very important to me to align with their values, and keep the relationships tight.
How did Covid impact your business?
When COVID hit, I hosted monthly events at the time, and we were the first conference to go digital. Industry experts came on my panel, and we streamed live for free for the whole world to see. It was incredible. We had 50 hours of content, and anyone in the beauty industry could go and learn from professionals and try products. And that´s also how the clean beauty kit came to be.
The Clean Beauty Kit is a lifestyle PR box that we launched in 2020 because we heard about all these beauty brands that were struggling during the lockdown. They couldn´t get their products made because their suppliers were out of the country. So we figured they could send us the products they had in stock, and we would send them to our attendees at the summit. But, unfortunately, I didn´t think the whole thing through. A lot of attendees unboxed them online once they received the products in the mail, which left me in shock because I literally just stuffed the products in mailers and sent them out. There was no aesthetic to it or unboxing experience—just ugly mailers with my address on them. I had to fix that, and my husband came up with the idea to create a beautiful box and call it the Clean Beauty Kit.
Every single product in the kit is from a female-owned business, all made in the United States. I was so sick of all these brands coming from China and lying about what was in their ingredients, making me literally sick. Instead, I really wanted to support my neighbors and everyone else who was struggling, especially in California. We now feature 10 to 15 brands every month and sell anywhere from 50 to 100 kits every month. We were even voted as the top subscription box, founded by a professional. I´ve vetted these products; I use them myself, and they´re in my vanity. It wasn´t just makeup; it was skincare, self-care, baths, bodies, sexual wellness, deodorant, perfume—everything you can think of in terms of clean beauty. And we have so many success stories, where I was working with these founders, helping them get noticed in the industry and grow as brands.
Credit: Modern Day Wife
Things in the industry really have started to shift and change. And I´m so proud of powerhouses like Chanel for creating a clean line, Garnier Fructis, and other big brand names for really starting to shift. And we know that because consumers are demanding and asking for it. Some of them are creating these sub-brands that you wouldn´t even know who they are owned by. It´s not only about makeup and skincare. It´s about what you´re breathing and how you´re living. What ingredients are in your husband´s deodorant? What are you breathing in through your air fresheners? Are you filtering your drinking water or your water in the shower? What is in your cleaning products that you´re putting on your floors that you´re walking barefoot on? It´s everything, not just makeup.
Clean beauty has opened up a world for me where I´m taking a closer look at my environment and lifestyle. I´m buying organic sheets and sustainable fashion, and I have more plants in my house. I´m more conscious of my plastic consumption and recycling. It´s also really fun to explore these different perspectives, like shopping at secondhand stores.
So, right now, I´m looking forward to a couple of amazing events that are happening before the end of the year. I´m currently working with Modern Day Wife, and we´re starting to plan out our 2024 event series. I´m a panel moderator for the beauty panel for each of our events. We have an event coming up on December 1st at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills, which is just amazing. And then we´re up in Vancouver, which will be my first time in Canada, on December 14th at the Paradox Hotel. I will also be moderating a Sustainable Beauty Panel at the W Hotel in San Francisco on October 7th with Juice Beauty, Crunchi, Innersense Organic Beauty, and Same Skincare; on October 19th, I will be at Foundermade L.A.; and from November 13th–15th, in Santa Barbara, for the Glossy Beauty x Wellness Summit. I´m also working with KCM, a Connect Marketing Agency, for a celebrity gifting holiday showroom in November with Keebos (a phone case brand I´m obsessed with) and Piper Blue Organic Makeup. I´m just so honored and excited about what the future holds for these events.
You have a lot a lot of hats on, given that you also have a small child and a husband. How do you even balance all those things?
Well, I worked up until my due date. And then two weeks after I had her, I was in San Francisco at a launch event for the conscious beauty collective shop. I just love being around women in the community. This is what fills me up. My daughter is now 16 months old, and she loves makeup already. Knowing that it´s all clean, I´m not worried at all; she can put her hands in it. I include her in my daily schedule as a working mom; it´s not like I put her in a corner. But I also try to work around her schedule, nap times, etc. I also have a nanny who helps me at times. Then, of course, I also make time for my husband and for my friends. My husband is actually a big inspiration and supporter. He also had a startup that I watched grow from scratch. Like I said, he actually came up with the lash finder idea, and he helped me name and design the Clean Beauty Kit. He just sold his company to Amazon for the Ring Car Camera, which he designed. I was really inspired by him, which is why I was really passionate about wanting to have a product. So we´re the perfect pair—he's in tech and I´m in beauty.
I believe in writing down your dreams, and I believe in manifesting your destiny. And just work really hard at what you want, because no one else will. No one would have thought that I would grow in my career like I did, coming from such a small town. I really had to push to get everything in this life. I didn´t have the connections; I built them, and I nourish them. At the end of the day, everything is really just a matter of balance. I guess when you want it, you make time for it. I´m just passionate about what I do, and I believe what goes around comes around. And it clearly does.
Inspired Magazine © 2023 All rights reserved.