Cassandra Kehren is a make-up artist and vagabond, currently working and traveling in India. Her work is frequently featured in magazines and TV, and she recently landed gigs for the covers of Rolling Stone India and Better Homes and Gardens. We recently had the chance to pick her brain about the exploding beauty industry in Bollywood.
What brought you to India?
Last year I made a decision that I definitely wanted to leave my hometown of Toronto to try a new city. Something about India has always had an allure because of my interest in yoga and ayurveda. India is just so big and diverse with so much to see; I knew I had to devote some time to being here. And then of course, being an artist and career woman, I yearned to satisfy some of my many goals with some new and exciting influences and challenges.
Does the Indian beauty/entertainment business differ from North America’s?
It doesn’t differ much at all anymore. Worlds are colliding and all the trends we are exposed to in Western and other countries are being adopted here as well. It’s beautiful to see women interpret trends based on their own unique tastes, and there’s nothing different about that here. And this is still my favorite thing about working with women, helping them find the perfect look based on their style and whatever mood they woke up with that day! After all, it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind about what version of herself she wants to project on any given day.
One thing that definitely holds true, no matter what, is that no one on earth looks as good in red as an Indian woman does — any and every shade, whether it’s worn on the lips, cheeks, or eyes! And of course, most Indian women wouldn’t dare leave home without a careful swipe of karjal on their eyes.
The most important tool any make-up artist should have is her/his ability to be adjustable. No two women are the same, and that remains the same in Bollywood and every other city in the world. Indian women come in all shades and skin types, so I’m always sure to carry a good range of foundation shades and finishes. Working with brands on campaigns and editorials has been especially fun in India because you never really know what you’re going to get.
One of the adjustments I made to my kit was adding more and more luxury brands; Indians do tend to have a taste for the finer things in life. But that has always been my goal and a natural progression to maturing as an artist.
I’m curious if the climate demands a different type of skincare regime.
I would say the best and most important thing anyone can do for their skin, especially in a hot and polluted climate like Bombay, is to keep it clean and hydrated. One way to do this is to wash with a gentle cleanser of your choice (depending on your skin’s needs) day and night, followed by a face mist and your favorite beauty oil.
And the other trick, and I literally swear by this and get all my clients hooked on it, is frequent face misting. You can do this with either a mineral water (like Avene Thermal Spring Water) or a distilled flower water such as rose or lavender. I like to take rose water and add a few drops of tea tree essential oil (nature’s antibacterial miracle) or peppermint essential oil (for a cooling effect, and it’s also cleansing), and orange or bergamont essential oils for an aroma that will instantly lift your spirits.
All of these are great for keeping the skin clean, as minerals have cleansing properties and soothe the face from skin conditions and the effects of pollution, as well as refresh make-up throughout that day so you always have a radiant glowing effect (because who doesn’t want to glow all day?). Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s good quality; source as naturally, ethically, and organically as possible. And of course, drink lots and lots of water! Best hydration for your skin comes from the inside. Water also helps to keep you clean and promotes healthy digestion.
You’re also a health nut and supplement your diet. Anything you’re taking that you feel like you wouldn’t have before you made the move?
Inner wellness might be the biggest part of my life and beauty routine. I don’t supplement too much; diet is your greatest tool to healing. I eat a 90% vegan diet (the other 10% is all for pizza, I just can’t kick my addiction). A wholesome plant-based diet reduces inflammation, slows down the aging process, and reduces your chances of getting cancer and other disease, so I eat as many fresh fruits and veggies as I can, focusing on a lot of dark, leafy greens and a wide variety of seasonal produce. I love to get a lot of my nutrients from fresh, homemade juices and smoothies. According to Ayurveda, the sooner you consume a fruit or vegetable from the vine, the more Prana it contains — Prana meaning “Life Force” in Sanskrit.
A lot of people get Vitamin D deficiencies here, especially during monsoon season, and because pollution blocks the sun rays. I try to have a dose of that per week, as it is also really great for your skin and energy levels. India is of course rich with so many native miracle healing plants, one of which I take on a daily or bi-daily basis in tablet form: neem. Neem is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and protects the skin, boosts the immune system, promotes healthy hair, and treats gastric conditions, among lots of other great things. (The last quality being pretty important, as it is common to catch stomach bugs.) Fun Fact: Neem can also be diluted with water and used as a safe weekly pesticide for your garden! I love these types of connections; nature is so magical. And the other staple is turmeric, in and on everything, including my coffee!
Cassandra’s 5 must haves:
Avene Thermal Spring Water. Perfect for setting and removing make-up, soothing sensitive skin, and staying hydrated.
Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Gel Mask — I always buy the biggest size because I never want to be stuck without it.
Kevin Murphy Doo.Over Dry Shampoo — aside from being useful after waking up late and realising you don’t have time to wash your hair, this is amazing for finishing hair by adding lots of fun volume.
Bonus: My homemade, all-natural Aloe and Turmeric Face Hydrating Mask — Combining fresh gel from my aloe plant at home with a dash of turmeric heals my skin from so many irritants. It’s amazing.