In the Kit
inside cassandra garcia makeup kit

Kate McKinnon’s Makeup Artist Has a Mascara Hack for Voluminous Lashes

Cassandra Garcia let us raid her New York beauty closet and kit.

By: Hannah Baxter
Photography: Alec Kugler

We like to consider ourselves among the most afflicted beauty addicts around here, but every once in a while we meet someone who lives and breathes makeup and skin care on a whole other level. A beauty junkie in the best sense. As soon as we stepped inside makeup artist Cassandra Garcia’s Manhattan apartment and spotted her walk-in closet stacked to the brim with products (and a few CHANEL bags for good measure), we knew we had officially entered beauty wonderland. “I think it’s so important to use other cosmetics so you know what’s out there or what’s good or what you love more,” she explains as we stare blissfully into the depths of her beauty closet. “It’s fun to experiment.”

The bubbly San Diego native first made a name for herself in the industry by assisting makeup legend Bobbi Brown (whose products she still swears by), and now works with celebrities like Gabourey Sidibe, Jenna Lyons, and Kate Upton for red carpet events and editorials. She’s also close friends with many of the powerhouse women on SNL like Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, the latter of whom asked Garcia to do her makeup for her recent nuptials. “She has beautiful freckles,” she explains of her friend’s bridal look. “We just made her look like a flushed, blushing bride. I did a heathery soft purple on her eyes. I love using colors that enhance the eye color. It’s kind of a secret way to enhance the natural beauty that you already have.”

Lucky for us, Garcia was full of helpful tips and tricks for getting the most out of your makeup, especially drugstore buys, of which she is a fan. “I love mascaras [and] lip glosses from drugstores,” she says, snagging a few recent additions from her kit for us to try. “The way they’re all displayed is so fun! It’s not a huge investment—you can still play around. Especially with bright lip colors. And drugstore lashes, they’re my favorite.” We explain how applying lashes is the one makeup step we’ve still yet to master. “A technique I learned to create this beautiful lash where you can’t see the base is doing individuals of all different sizes. More is more. I love the KISS ones. I always start by matching the size of your natural lashes and then go from there. It’s such a beautiful, personal touch.” Given that her clients always look stunning on the red carpet, rest assured that we’ll be trying this technique at home ASAP.

Check out what other products she swears by for the perfect matte lip, how she prevents under-eye concealer from creasing, and the one makeup trend she still hasn’t embraced.


“I first became interested in makeup in sixth grade. My mom got me these two Maybelline palettes—one was blue and one was purple. She would only let me do my eyes, [and] I became an expert. Then I started branching out into really random MAC colors, the craziest ones like Electric Eel and oranges and pinks. I would somehow make them work. When you’re young, you’re attracted [to] these bright colors, and then you kind of scale back and see what you like.”

“I thought I was going to be a child psychologist! Which actually helps with my job now because I deal with all different kinds of personalities. I needed a part-time job in college, so my friend actually suggested that I get a job at Nordstrom. I started as a gift wrapper, but I really either wanted to work for MAC or Bobbi Brown.”

“I came out [to New York] one fashion week [and] met Bobbi behind the scenes of the Tory Burch show. It was my dream come true. I moved here a month later and started working the day after I got here. I didn’t know a single person, but I stayed [and] freelanced around the city. I worked seven days a week, and finally Bobbi took notice of me. I was assisting, and she really liked me and kind of took me under her wing and taught me everything.”

“One of my biggest moments was when I did Gabourey Sidibe’s [makeup]. Bobbi actually introduced us when she was nominated for a Golden Globe and Bobbi did her makeup. We got to know each other, and then I started doing her for press. Now she’s one of my best friends. She’s like family! When she was hosting SNL, her manager called me and was like ‘OK! Gaby’s hosting SNL! Do you want to do her makeup for it?’ I remember standing in my room being like, ‘Oh my god! This is happening!’”

“One of my goals was to work with SNL. I didn’t want to work for the show because I knew those makeup artists are so talented and do crazy stuff. They’re amazing, I can’t do that. But I do [makeup for] them outside [of the show] when they play themselves and are glamorous. It’s kind of cool to see the transition into their normal selves. And we get along so well.”

“I love the GQ cover where Kate looks so glamorous. I love Aidy’s The Cut story. And I loved Gaby for Nylon. We did this bold sparkly eye. Colors pop so beautifully on her.”

“I love a good red lip on the red carpet. It just has to flow with the jewelry and the look. It’s always something different, which is so fun. And then for TV [press], it’s the same. It’s a little bit easier because it’s in the moment. And it depends on what you’re wearing, versus [with] press it’s about longevity. Like are the lashes going to bug her?”

Bobbi Brown’s Highlighting Powder I really love. It’s a shimmery sheer highlighter that really helps the face. [My] makeup artist friend, Yadim, years ago when he was assisting Pat [McGrath], brought me this highlighter stick called ‘Chic and Shine,’ and ever since he gave me that it’s been my favorite. It’s the Madina one. It’s truly the best because it’s a dry formula almost. You can’t replicate it.”

“[This closet space] was a true dream come true. Normally I have [products] in a box. I never had space to put things where I needed them, and I’m such a visual person that I forget I have things. When we were cleaning up the boxes, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I have all these lashes!’ I was always into visual merchandising, whether I was working at a [beauty] counter, so I loved arranging them. It was nice that my boyfriend Nick let me do this and take over a closet, but I think he secretly likes it, too. It was his idea to put the carpet in there.”

“I always start off with a hydrating spray, whether it’s a toner [or] primer. I’ve been into either the La Mer one or the Bobbi Brown one. I carry Evian water in my bag, too. So I always cleanse the face with a little bit of that using cotton pads. I’m really into oils lately, surprisingly. It depends on the skin type of course, but [especially] on skin that has a little dehydration. I always start [by] feeling the skin, because you can really see where someone is dehydrated. It’s still summer [weather], and a lot of people get sunburnt and patchiness on the cheeks. So I put a little oil where you need it, and then I let it sit.”

“I usually use Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Creme, but lately I’ve been using the La Mer The Lifting Eye Serum because it’s almost like a glaze instead of like a cream. When concealers crease a little more, especially in this hot weather, try using an eye serum. It’s thinner, and it almost coats through and gives [your skin] a primer. Massage into the under-eye, and go with concealer on top. I really love that. It just stays.”

“I love lip balms. I’ve been playing with the Rodin one. It gives this kind of pink tint that I love. I always hydrate [the lips] and let it sit for a while. My personal favorite is the Bobbi Brown one, because it really coats the lips. I keep it in my purse, next to my bed, everywhere. Aquaphor is great to put around the face if I get a little chapped anywhere. The LORAC one is nice and basic. I use those three the most, especially with matte lips coming back again. The worst thing is when you have a dry lipstick with dry lips and you can see the texture or you’re just in pain.”

“I do love a highlighter. I think that’s going to stick around for a very long time. I think that’s come out of a trend. One trend I haven’t picked up is the lilac highlighter where you see blue sparkle. It’s hard to see blue against the skin, but I love to see it on the eye. The blue sparkle reflects the light, and it still looks beautiful. But I think you can have fun with anything and just adjust to your own skin type or tone or age, anything. There’s always a way of bringing it into your life.”

“[The Anastasia Brow Palette] I really like! I love her cool colors. I love using powders on brows because it gives me full definition without it being overly done. Pencils are great, but I don’t normally go for them myself. But for consumers it’s great, especially if your brows tend to fall. Recently I found [out] I love brow gel. I love Bobbi’s, I love the Glossier one, and the Troy Suratt one. It’s a pomade, which is really nice. I brush them on and then press the brows down so they stay.”

“One of my favorite concealers is that Clé de Peau that everyone loves. It’s a little bit of an investment, but it’s amazing because a little goes a long way. Mascaras I love to try on. I always carry Bobbi’s Smokey Eye Mascara. I loved the Estée Edit, but it got discontinued. [L’Oréal] Voluminous I always have in my kit. I love to try all the drugstore brands.”

“I like to open mascaras and let the air in. Once you get to the middle of a mascara, that’s the sweet spot for me. It’s slightly dry, so it gives you more volume, but it’s still black and stays intact. Sometimes when I get brand-new ones, I’ll open it, pump it a couple times, and put it away for a little bit. Because sometimes when you get new ones, they’re very slick and silky [and they get everywhere].”

“I’m pretty OK about checking [my kit], but I always carry a ‘just in case’ bag [with] a little bit of foundation and concealer, the things I need [so] I can get away with making a look. I’ve seen some makeup artists lose their stuff [while traveling], and it’s just terrifying. Every time I check it in, I’m like, ‘This is a risk!’”

“Those [Bobbi Brown] eyeshadow palettes have been my tried-and-true, and when they discontinued the circles [palette], I took them all. I hoard things that have been discontinued if they can stay without being expired. Like if I haven’t touched the powders, I feel OK with it. Shadows, I always have that BBU palette, which is really great because you have your concealers and foundation in them. Powders as well.”

“I love contouring. We’ve been doing it for so long, and now everyone’s doing it, which is nice. I love it to look natural, [so] I hate when I walk down the street and see that line. I’m super inspired by sunsets or the ocean when all the colors blend together and you don’t see lines. So I try to keep that a part of my makeup. You don’t see stark lines in my work; you always see a soft contour. It’s very California—laid-back and chill.”

“I don’t [believe in primer]. Don’t get me wrong, for some people it might work really well. Primer for me would be more for shine control. A lot are white, so they cast a grey [tint]. But if you need a primer for your T-zone, [use it.] I think moisturizer works really well [for that]. I haven’t found a setting spray that I truly love, but during press or [in the] middle of the day, I love to spray a hydrating spray to refresh the makeup. It just feels good and lifts your spirits. Sometimes I’m like ‘Who needs a spray?’ [for] me, the hairdresser, everyone. It’s more like an aromatic uplift.”

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