The Instagram Makeup Artist Who Says Beauty Is Always Political


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“Hi luv! My name’s Matt Bernstein (@mattxiv). I live in New York City, where I’m coming up on my last year of college. Over the past year or so, I’ve been building an incredible, diverse, and curious audience on Instagram. There, I use beauty and makeup as a medium to discuss socio political issues I think we should be talking about more, like gender fluidity, intersectional privilege, and violence. Beauty is political—it always has been—which is why those words have been in my bio since I started. Makeup and nails have always been at the core of how I present my queerness to the world. They’re accessories I use to tell others that not only am I 'different,' but also that I know who I am. I’m minimal yet over-the-top, chic but tacky, and unapologetically queer.

When I started getting into beauty and was watching a lot of tutorials, I always heard makeup artists talking about ‘good daytime looks’ or ‘smoky eyes for a night out,’ and I was put off by that. Like, what is this day-to-night business and where does a rainbow glitter eye fall into that? When I was a senior in high school, I went to a drugstore near my house and bought one red eyeshadow for $4 or something, opened it in my car, and tried to do a red smoky eye with my fingers in the rearview mirror. It looked, well... it was something. But it made me feel so good. I think I gravitated to that red shadow because I’m a believer in doing what makes you feel good before worrying about what’s deemed appropriate.

As far as skincare goes, I'm hooked on the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser because it doesn’t smell soapy—can’t stand that. I usually follow with the Fresh Rose Face Cream and the Uma Ultimate Brightening Face Oil. That was sent to me, and it’s quite pricey, so I need to figure out what I’ll do when I run out. I always, always finish with some sort of SPF. Lately I’ve been using the Tula Daily Sunscreen, which has a cute little sheen to it.

For foundation, I’m an outspoken advocate of The Ordinary Serum Foundation. It’s like $7, has the most beautiful medium coverage, and never breaks me out. My favorite bronzer is the tried-and-true Hoola from Benefit. I really want to get into this pink blush-y contour moment, but I haven’t figured out how to make it look good on me yet—in the meantime, I’m very into the Hourglass Ambient Lighting blushes. Everything Hourglass puts out is so beautiful. I’ve been using the Nyx Micro Brow Pencil on my brows, and then I use Glossier Boy Brow (in either Brown or Clear depending on the look) on top. I also kind of want to get my brows microbladed. I’ve always thought it was kind of unnecessary, but I fill in my brows so frequently that I might just bite the bullet and go for it.

For eyeshadow—the main event—my favorite brands are Anastasia Beverly Hills and Colourpop. I usually use the Colourpop She’s a Rainbow palette for my rainbow looks, and sometimes dip into the James Charles Morphe palette. But for neutral looks, the Anastasia Jackie Aina collaboration is my go-to. I almost always use House of Lashes Iconic lashes. This may be a little specific, but when it comes to false lashes, always use a TINY bit of black eyeliner. Even if you don’t want it to show up in the final look. No matter how close you get the lash band to your lash line, you will always be able to see the separation if there’s nothing to blend them together. I usually take a very fine brush and smudge a little black eyeshadow really close to my lashes so the lash band has somewhere to sit. I’d never get lash extensions. No negativity to people who do, but I'd go crazy as soon as the first lash falls out. I’d rather put on false lashes every day.

Because I like to change up my nails so often, I’ve never gotten acrylics—I try to go with methods that are minimally damaging to my natural nails. When I was getting my nails done pre-COVID, I always got Aprés Gel Extensions. They’re basically nail extensions that soak off like soft gel polish. But for people who are maintaining and painting on their natural nails, my best advice would be cuticle oil. Every day. I use CND Solar Oil, which is what they use at my regular salon. It keeps my nails so healthy.

One of the frustrating parts of having your work tied to social media is that the line between work and leisure is very obscure. I’m still learning to identify those moments where I just need to go into another room and chill out. So my best tip to relax would be: Turn. Everything. Off.”

—as told to ITG

Photos via the author