Cheekbone imagines lip gloss made with polluted water

Who: Cheekbone Beauty, with Sid Lee for strategy and creative, and support from Sephora.

What: “#GlossedOver,” a largely social and in-store campaign based on imagined lip gloss made with lead, E.coli and mercury, designed to raise awareness and money to help combat the water crisis in Canada’s Indigenous communities.

When & Where: The campaign runs throughout June, which is Indigenous History Month in Canada. Awareness is coming largely through organic and some paid social media, along with influencer outreach and in-store activations.

Why: Cheekbone is an Indigenous-owned beauty brand which, aside from selling beauty products, is deeply committed to helping Indigenous communities. Despite the Federal Government’s promise to end all water advisories in First Nations by last March, 15% of Canada’s First Nations communities are currently under a drinking water advisory according to Water First, a charity working to end the problem.

“It’s time to stop glossing over this issue,” said Cheekbone Beauty founder and CEO Jenn Harper in a release. “Everyone should have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s why #GlossedOver is so important: You wouldn’t put a contaminated gloss on your lips, so why should anyone put contaminated water to theirs?”

How: Sid Lee imagined lip glosses infused with the polluted water that’s common in First Nations communities. They made a few dozen of the contaminated lip gloss kits. “Each one features the three different lip glosses—Luscious Lead, Mercury Shimmer, and E. Coli Kiss—and are being sent to a handful of beauty influencers. Due to obvious concerns, they will not be made available in store or put in the hands of the public,” said Peter Sreckovic, a copywriter at Sid Lee.

But the social advertising and branding for the polluted cosmetics looks and feels like typical beauty advertising. A voiceover asks if they were made with water containing lead, E. Coli and Mercury, “Would you put it to your lips? Some people don’t have a choice. It’s time to stop glossing over this issue.”

“This campaign is mainly a social one,” said Sreckovic. “Social media is the perfect vehicle to spark conversation, especially when it comes to social issues such as this one.”

Sephora, which has been working with Cheekbone since last year, will also donate all proceeds from the sale of Cheekbone products to Water First. “As a purpose led organization, we have a responsibility to enable change and are humbled to support both Cheekbone’s Beauty’s brand journey, and the impactful work of Water First and the communities they support,” said Debbie McDowell, Sephora’s director, communications and social impact.

David Brown