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It’s a story as old as time: one partner loves beauty and the other … loves his partner very much! But every now and then the stars align for romance and routine, and you end up with a pair where both halves are beauty experts in their own right. This is exactly what happened to Allison and Cass: the former is a longtime editor and founder of her own skin care line, Mara. And the latter is a celebrity colorist whose clients include Natalie Portman, Kylie Jenner, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. ITG caught up with the soon-to-be married couple at their LA home, where beauty is both work and leisure. This is what they had to say:
Allison McNamara, Founder of Mara Beauty: We got engaged on August 5th, 2019 and the plan was that after my cleansing oil started we would start planning. Then I kind of did the media tour and we had all of these activations … so our goal was March. We started talking about venues and then the whole world closed.
Cassondra Kaeding, Celebrity Colorist: Before I met Allison, I didn’t think I was going to date anyone else in the beauty business. I had an appointment with another hairdresser and …
Allison: She literally sat next to you!
Cass: Yes, we were one chair apart in the drawing room. We’re friendly now, but I just thought, “I’ll probably never do this again.” When I met Allison, I was working on the third Hunger Games movie, and she was a TV presenter.
Allison: My goal was really to get E! News, but I feel like I was five years late – when I was seasoned enough, nobody was doing these shows anymore. Anyway, at the time I was hosting that show on TV Guide and all three of us hosts were blonde. The producers tossed out that it was time when one of us wanted to try a new color. So my colorist started dyeing it auburn.
Cass: It was very soft.
Allison: Almost more brown than red.
Cass: One of my coworkers asked to bring a friend and customer to my birthday party. That collaborator was Allison’s colorist, and that’s how we met.
Allison: I remember it was 2014 because that year we got Billie.
Cass: How do you remember when we met? The dog’s birthday? So sad. After we dated for a while, she said, “Why don’t you do my hair color?” I knew you would be a difficult customer, but in the end I had no choice.
Allison: We dyed it red so wrongly – it looked really cool, but it was a lot more alive than what we are now.
Cass: And everyone loved it so we had to keep it. I made a monster!
Allison: I love doing beauty stuff on Cass. Cass actually wanted to wear her hairpin straight for this shoot, which is not my favorite way she wears it –
Cass: I put on makeup so I couldn’t move, and the next thing I know is that the curling iron is plugged in and Allison is swirling my hair around.
Allison: It’s the Sultra wand. It is wonderful. When we do our nails together, Cass always gets that shade of blue. Who gets blue nails every time?
Cass: You know, when I get something lighter in color, the hair color always ruins it. This is 168 from OPI, and it’s a gel.
Allison: We also love to make masks together. I take the masks, of course. I like the True Botanicals Moisture Mask for her because I know she likes moisture, and the Detoxifying Mask for me. I love the Tata Harper Clarifying and Resurfacing masks – I think they are some of the best masks out there. There is a Sonya Dakar that I put on [Cass] also a lot. It’s the rose gold mask.
Cass: Oh yeah. I had a few facials with her and that was fun because she talks a lot while treating you. I actually thought it made my skin look wonderful. She gave me a few things, but most of my routine is Mara.
Allison: That’s the right answer, honey!
Cass: Allison says I don’t use it, but I do. I wouldn’t be surprised if she went to the bathroom to measure it. Still, I use the Mara cleanser and facial oil. I actually have some in the salon so I can sit more at lunchtime. I wash my hair every morning. We don’t say yes, but I like that clean feeling and because I don’t dye my hair it’s not very dry. I have a few shades of gray –
Allison: A few?! Girl you got more than a couple
Cass: Whatever! They are not super fat and some are hidden. But as soon as it gets super firm I’ll dye it.
Allison: I mean, or you could do it now.
Cass: There are so few! While I don’t dye my hair, it tends to turn brassy color just in the sun. Brownlights is this progressive shampoo and conditioner that hit the market earlier this year. Over time, it cuts the brass and gives my hair a golden tone that I prefer. There are many similar products on the market, but Brownlights was actually the best. I spray a little leave-in conditioner and use a mask from this Japanese brand called Inphenom once a month.
Allison: I have psoriasis and it’s hard because a lot of psoriasis shampoos will strip the color and many color safe shampoos have a scent that is irritating to them. Virtue’s Recovery Shampoo is probably my favorite, although I am currently using this one from Derma-E, which was specially developed for people with psoriasis and really soothes my scalp. I wash my hair every few days which I can because you are correcting the color. I always ask you to go to the Salon de Cass.
Cass: It’s been an interesting roller coaster ride for us in the hair industry, but what was really great was that I was able to set up a salon in our back yard.
Allison: We have a long tandem driveway, and my pseudo-office is actually right above the driveway. I hear ‘Cass? Cass? ‘maybe three times a day – it’s their customers, lost.
Cass: In the beginning I sent out all of these paint kits because if you got caught visiting house it was a two year license ban and a really heavy fine. It just wasn’t worth it. I did Kylie’s paint with these parts in front right after we finally got the OK to make house calls. Of course, I get a test every time before I go into someone’s house.
Allison: When I wash my face in the morning, I like the Mara cleanser on damp skin or the Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser on dry skin. The Tata is a gentle physical peeling and is ideal for those days when you just …
Cass: Get the dirt off.
Allison: Yes. Then I go in with a vitamin C. I love Drunk Elephant’s, but I usually use the Mara Vitamin C because I like a very silky dryness, and I think ours does that well. After that I use Universal Face Oil and then SPF. There’s a Biossance SPF that I really like, and I also like the Elf of Venus drops. I think the component clogs easily, which is kind of frustrating, but that’s my ideal consistency for SPF.
Cass: Sometimes when Allison gets a little sun, her freckles come out. She gets a mustache with tiny freckles – it’s so funny.
Allison: I hate it. It’s not melasma – I know a lot of women have melasma. I’m getting freckles right now.
Cass: And you have freckles on your lips.
Allison: Lipstick is probably my favorite makeup item. I’ve written so many stories that go, “This is the best lipstick for you based on your hair color,” but I don’t subscribe to any of these. I like Kosa’s Thrillest, I love Charlotte Tilbury in Pillowtalk which isn’t a super light shade, but I think it’s great. I wear Ilia’s rosette all the time and then Nars Heatwave, which I love. For glossy prints, I like Tower 28’s Fire because it doesn’t contain white. And for a very light colored wash, I like the Saie gloss colors – all shades look the same to me, so I just reach for whatever. But who can wear makeup with these masks?
Cass: I’ve seen a couple of people take their masks off and it’s like … um, you have something right there.
Allison: When I was wearing makeup, I liked the Ilia Skin Tint in the lightest shade and either the Ilia Concealer or the RMS Concealer that I’ve been using for five years. I love the Tower 28 Dew Balm – I think it’s kind of awesome. I like a naked whip to be honest, but for brows I like Saie Beauty’s new Brow Butter or Boy Brow. Oh, and I use Just For Men Beard Dye to color my eyebrows. I won’t even let Cass do it.
Cass: I think Allison does a pretty good job with her makeup. It’s always very clean, soft, and shiny. I never have to say, “Oh my god Allison, take this off.” The only time I didn’t like your makeup was when you were on TV – you had a cake face.
Allison: You are so simple that you are still using makeup that I gave you too long ago.
Cass: I keep buying the Nars Sheer Glow Foundation over and over again. The woman there did a really good job matching my color. Before, everything I used was always too orange or too yellow. Sometimes I mix in a few drops of oil because my skin gets very dry.
Allison: She’s not drinking enough water!
Cass: I deal with so many chemicals, and it’s hot, it’s cold … I feel like I’m just around so many things that I need an extra layer of protection.
Allison: Actually, we talk about it a lot – I think the clean beauty room comes to a point where it puts people to shame. Beauty should be fun at the end of the day. I love Nars lipsticks, I love Charlotte Tilbury … you can use a clean beauty routine or eat all organic or exercise a lot, but maybe you can get your traditional hair color too. Life is all about balance.
Cass: For the record I tried to use clean hair color and it just … either doesn’t cover it well or a different color comes out. Customers say, “How do I get this out now?” And it takes a while.
Allison: The truth is, I don’t meditate for 10 minutes and then I read a book and then a journal – I panic, read the news, drink coffee. It is easy to be tough on yourself, especially in a healthy life, but life is too short to rule everything that way.
– as ITG said
Allison McNamara and Cassondra Kaeding, photographed by Felisha Tolentino on September 6, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.