Why I won’t be uploading a No Makeup Selfie in the name of Cancer

This is something that I have debated posting for some time. It is not meant to be an attack on those who have uploaded these photos, but rather my own personal view on the matter. I hope that you will all understand this. Here are three links to three Cancer charities I am particularly passionate about.




Love and light Jess xxx


no makeup selfie collage

I have a tendency of whiling away my hours on Facebook in place of studying, and the past week or so has been no different. During one particularly crippling episode of procrastination in which I was avoiding writing a 1000 word essay on sperm (And I’m studying psychology. Go figure) I began to notice an influx of seflies that my friend’s had uploaded. This is nothing unusual; we are a generation fuelled by the superfluous and aesthetically self indulgent. However, in place of the carefully drawn eyebrows, pursed lips and Xpro filters was a sea of bare faces. More unusually, they were paired with the caption #cancerawareness.

Forgive my ignorance, but I was more than slightly baffled as to what Cancer had to do with uploading a photo of a no makeup, no filter selfie.

Cancer is an ethical and emotional minefield at the best of times, and I am no different to the rest of society in my desperation for a cure. It is the untouchable disease, and with good reason. I am not unique in having been devastated by the disease, and I would be loathe to find someone who has not been touched in some way by its insidious nature.

But I will not be uploading a make up free selfie in the name of ‘Cancer Awareness’.

lippman novak
Laura Lippman taking a No Makeup Selfie with a photo of Kim Novak

Although some details remain hazy, the trend became viral after actress Kim Novak was widely criticised online after appearing in public with a disconcerting level of plastic surgery contorting her face into a perpetual state of ambiguity. Such was the level of criticism that she received, author Laura Lippman tweeted a bare faced photo in support of Novak. As things tend to do these days, the photo began to circulate across the internet, and it was at one point paired with the captions #cancerawareness and #breastcancerawareness. The photos were accompanied with the mobile number for the organisation Cancer Research UK, to which direct donations could be made. And the money began pouring in.

Since the trend went viral, more than three million dollars has been raised for the organisation, funds which will directly go towards the research into numerous types of Cancer, and potentially develop new treatments for the disease. The hope, of course, is to one day fund a cure.

So far, so good right? No one in their right mind can begin to argue with the notion of funding Cancer research, even if the connection between a no makeup selfie and Cancer is a loose one at best.

However, soon the trend spread wider and faster than before. As it found increased popularity, so too did it lose initial intent and meaning. Soon people stopped sharing the number for the UK Cancer Organisation and stopped making donations accordingly. The loss of a donation was quickly filled by the place of something much more about vanity than it was about Cancer.

models selfies

Taylor Swift and International models taking selfies backstage at Victoria’s Secret. 

I enjoy uploading a selfie as much as the next 21 year old Australian woman. I have no qualms in confessing that it strokes the ego to witness a ‘like’ on the screen next to your face, despite your own reservations about your bone structure.

 However, the idea that the face of a young woman without makeup online has the potential to become such a novelty that it can become a viral trend is immensely disheartening. The incidence of Eating Disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorders are continually rising, and as someone who has battled both throughout her adolescence, I can appreciate the pain caused by an influx of airbrushed images better than most. But when we cannot even share a photo of ourselves looking less than perfect without it becoming a viral trend is a devastating reflection of the society that we have become.

The success of this trend says much more about our obsession with image than it does about Cancer.

The initial loose connection between selfie and Neoplasms could once be ignored, but with donations out of the picture, this became much more difficult to do. The hashtag #cancerawareness soon developed a sense of irony. Just as you would struggle to find an individual in the Western World who did not wish for a cure for Cancer, so too would you struggle to find someone who wasn’t aware of Cancer. Is there anyone who simply is not aware of Cancer in the Western World? Most likely not. Was I any more aware of Cancer having read a hashtag, than having not? And more importantly, what role did a no makeup selfie now play in the bigger, and newly developed picture.

cancer selfie
An unknown woman with Cancer taking a true Cancer Awareness selfie. 

A small number of my closest friends just happen to have Cancer, such is the nature of friendship when your social life exists within the grounds of a hospital. It is a disease with an increasing propensity for the young, and an increasing aggression with each relapse. I have witnessed them lose their hair, eyelashes, eyebrows. Feeding tubes take places in their nostrils, their cheekbones are lost to fluid retention and the classic Prednisolone moon face. They lose limbs, pieces of brain matter, nodes and slices of organ. But they undergo it all, and will endure any loss, so as to try and avoid an even greater and irreversible loss. They will endure it all, in the hopes of getting to grow up. Sometimes they get to, and sometimes they don’t.

 And I fail to see how witnessing photos of young women on Facebook with hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, free of oxygen cannulas and moon faces will make them feel any better.

I doubt that they feel any more aware about Cancer, and I doubt that they are echoing the sentiments of bravery and courage in the comments section of Facebook and Instagram.

I am not opposed to the raising of funds for research and support programs made available to people with Cancer; the more funds raised the better. Each year I personally donate a few hundred dollars to Cancer organisations which are close to my heart, and to the hearts of my friends who have fought, and continue to fight Cancer every single day. I will continue to upload such photos on my own personal social media use; I do not consider a photo of my bare bone structure to be a novelty. More importantly, I will continue donate funds to various Cancer charities, support my friends battling the disease and make relevant literature available to my friend’s in order to increase awareness. It is not much, but it is what I can do.

Most of all;  Just like everybody else,  I do not need a no makeup selfie in order to achieve any of this.


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