London - When a young mother posted a picture of herself online without make-up she hoped she could raise £50 (about R1 000) for charity.

But without knowing it, Fiona Cunningham had started a craze that has so far raised more than £8-million for Cancer Research.

Two million women across the world have followed her lead, including celebrities such as Kirsty Allsopp, Jemima Khan and Holly Willoughby.

Miss Cunningham, 18, was inspired to raise money after her fiancé’s grandmother died of breast cancer and several members of her family were affected by the disease.

She came up with the idea of a bare-faced selfie after reading about the actress and cancer survivor Kim Novak being mocked for appearing at the Oscars without make-up.

“Women shouldn’t have to feel as though they have to wear make-up to look beautiful,” Miss Cunningham said. “There are far more important things in life, so I thought I’d try and make that point.”

The part-time criminology student from Stoke-on-Trent, who has a one-year-old son, Jenson, set up a Facebook group hoping a few friends might join it.

“But the next morning, I checked my phone, and more than 20 000 people had liked it. I was stunned,” she said. Just over a week after the page – No make up selfies for cancer awareness – was set up on March 18, more than 250 000 have liked it, and she has received more than 10 000 direct messages supporting the campaign.

Within the first 48 hours alone, Cancer Research reported that it had received donations of more than £1-million. It has since become one of the charity’s most successful fund-raising efforts.

Miss Cunningham said: “I was in complete shock when I realised how far the campaign had reached.” She has had to recruit 12 friends to help her manage the Facebook page.

She said: “I’m studying and trying to look after my little boy, so it’s difficult to fit it all in. I’ve also dyed my hair pink, and I’m planning to get a breast cancer awareness tattoo – which has raised £900. I was worried whether I would be able to get to £50.”

Her fiancé, Carl Cook, 26, a manager at a mobile phone company, said: “I’m so proud of Fiona. Neither of us thought that we’d raise so much money in a million years.”

Cancer Research UK said it had been surprised by the “unprecedented” increase in donations in response to the unofficial campaign. It said the money would allow it to carry out ten new clinical trials into the disease. - Daily Mail