Beyond Skin Deep: Cheekbone Beauty Creates Makeup with Purpose

In January of 2015, Jenn Harper had the most vivid dream of Indigenous girls wearing lip gloss That dream is what gave birth to Cheekbone Beauty, the very first Indigenous-owned and founded cosmetics company.

Harper firmly believes that a business can be both successful and have a social cause. She thinks about “streams of giving” as much as she does “streams of revenue” – maybe more. Cheekbone’s definition of success is not based on what you attain for yourself, but instead in what you give back to your community.

At the heart of all these closely held beliefs, you’ll find Indigenous learning passed down from generation to generation. Cheekbone uses concepts from Indigenous wisdom married with western science to create products, to think about how products are put into the world, and to guide how the company wants to be part of a new way of doing business.

In using the concept of a circular economy in the brand’s philosophy, Cheekbone essentially created a new segment in the beauty industry – sustainable socially conscious beauty.  

It is in keeping with this business strategy that Cheekbone Beauty came to Loyalist College for a series of sustainable innovation projects that aimed to upcycle waste products from Niagara Region wineries (grape pomace), for incorporation into novel sustainable cosmetic products.  

Cheekbone Beauty first sought to identify a method of effective extraction from winemaking waste. This first project successfully extracted bio actives from the pomace.  

For the next project, extracts were evaluated for antioxidant activity. The goal was to identify a scalable, safe, and cost-effective extraction, isolation, and characterization method(s) for the valorization of grape processing by-products (GPBs) from winemaking waste.  

The extracts have been added to a variety of media to study stability of antioxidant activity and compatibility with different cosmetic ingredients. This enables Cheekbone Beauty to obtain predictable profiles of GPB phytochemicals that can be incorporated into the formulation of sustainable cosmetic products.

This is a proud moment for Cheekbone Beauty as the results of the research allow for local waste products to add significant value and functionality to future cosmetic formulations.

This latest research was funded through the Canadian Bio-Cleantech Applied Research Network (CBARN) by the Government of Canada, which received an investment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). This project received $27,680, which will assist Loyalist College and Cheekbone Beauty in developing sustainable products for its cosmetic line.

Loyalist is proud to be one of CBARN’s founding partners. The network supports small-and medium-sized, bio/cleantech-focused companies, giving access to research and innovation services to further the development of biotechnologies in southern Ontario.

The next steps for Cheekbone Beauty include planning to fund scale-up and commercialization of the extraction process and cosmetic formulation manufacturing.

The Canadian Bio-Cleantech Applied Research Network (CBARN) is a network of colleges and universities who collaborate with small and medium sized bio-based companies.
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