21st March 2014

#nomakeupselfie for Cancer Research – 6 reasons this silly Facebook craze actually worked

By Helen Gradwell on Friday March 21, 2014

I’ve seen some stupid, stupid stuff go viral on my Facebook feed in my time.

“Omg, have you herd KFC changd ther name bcoz they r breedin mutant chikins?!”

 “Wow look at this poorly articulated post from Brad Pitt about how he brought Angelina Jolie back from depression by giving her flowers and stuff! What a dreamboat!”

“No way, Facebook is banning posts mentioning religion! The world needs to know.”

“Put your favourite childhood cartoon as your profile picture to raise awareness of child abuse! We can make it stop!”

What unites these posts is that they are in no way associated with the people, brands or charities mentioned.

And yet, stuff like this still flies round Facebook on a regular basis – and people lap it all up. So, when I saw the latest #nomakeupselfie craze for Cancer Research UK, it was immediately obvious the charity wasn’t responsible for it.

Initially, I sighed: “The gullible Facebookers are at it again.”

I agreed with irate posts from other users that many #nomakeupselfies didn’t mention how to donate to cancer charities – and were therefore ‘narcissism dressed up as charity’, as the Independent was quick to point out.

But, I was wrong.

Reports started to come in about Cancer Research UK receiving a huge surge in donations, showing these selfies were actually working. It has now been confirmed these selfies helped raise £8 million for Cancer Research UK – and counting.

But why did this user-generated Facebook craze succeed where others have failed? I reckon there are a few reasons.

1. It’s easy and makes you feel good

Taking a selfie isn’t rocket science, especially when you don’t have to spend ages making sure your makeup is perfect for it. Selfies tend to attract a lot of attention and they are quick and easy to produce. Plus, when it’s for charity, you’ve not just shown people what your face looks like, you’ve helped people.

2. Bare-faced curiosity

Have you ever wondered what your Facebook friend, who always looks immaculate in photos, looks like with no makeup? Simply nominate them in your #nomakeupselfie and they’ll feel obligated to post their bare face for all to see – because it’s for cancer!

3. The backlash

Almost immediately, #nomakeupselfies were met with derision. “Pff, these ladies just want to show off how naturally pretty they are! Cancer has nothing to do with it!” naysayers cried. There were lots of counter-posts saying things like “Look, if you want to help people with cancer just text BEAT to 70099 to donate £3! Leave your face out of it.”

Nobody wants to look like a narcissist with a makeup wipe, so the majority of selfie posters are now actually donating, and telling others how they can do the same.

4. Official endorsement

When donations to Cancer Research UK spiked unexpectedly, the charity was quick to get behind the cause. Representatives admitted they had nothing to do with #nomakeupselfie, but expressed full support for it.

In the process, the charity authenticated the craze. It was official – our naked faces were making a tangible difference! And then, the confirmation came that it really was working in a way nobody ever expected:

And the total raised is still rising rapidly.

5. There’s endless potential for parody

As is the way of the internet, it didn’t take long for parodies to pop up. Although many of them were initially sceptical, ‘the lads’ have now joined in by posting ‘makeup selfies’. There are also ‘sellotape selfies’ and a range of others which, quite frankly, aren’t really appropriate to discuss here. But they all serve to keep the craze going and keep Cancer Research at the forefront of people’s minds.

6. Wider coverage

And now, the craze has caught steam. Newspapers, social media users and this very blog are spreading word of the #nomakeupselfie even further.

Compared to just a couple of days ago, so many more people know how to donate to help beat cancer, and it’s as easy as sending a text message. And, of course, Cancer Research UK have £2 million more to help in the fight against cancer.

Now, as I’ve just blathered about it for 700+ words, it’s only fair I join in:

And yes, I did donate.


You’re welcome :)

To donate £3 to Cancer Research UK, text BEAT to 70099.