A campaign sweeping across various social media platforms is cashing in on selfies for charity.

It’s not clear where or when the 'no makeup selfie' trend started, but the campaign has raised millions of dollars for cancer research. Some believe the idea began as a personal message of support.

“It started in the U.K.,” says Canadian Cancer Society CEO Barbara Stead-Coyle. “It started as a grassroots movement of a young girl who posted in support of women going through the cancer journey.”

After a British actress posted her natural look, the act of sharing a selfie taken while wearing no makeup quickly went viral.

“The whole concept behind it is that perhaps, when women are going through cancer treatment, they don’t feel as beautiful as when we have full hair and makeup. So it was really a show of support and at the same time, they can donate to cancer research,” says Stead-Coyle.

Although the selfies have gone viral, not everyone is aware of the true message behind the campaign or how it works.

As a result, the campaign is suffering some backlash in North America. Some say they feel the trend has become more about vanity than charity.

“Some of the messages are about female beauty, female empowerment,” says social media expert David Spriet. “It could just be about vanity, and a lot of times the connection back to the cancer society has been lost in it all.”

But it appears some people are getting the message. The campaign has raised millions of dollars in the U.K. and the Canadian Cancer Society is seeing a spike in online donations by a whopping 240 per cent.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Marie Adsett