Chanel White and Lisa Goodman-Helfand both suffer from scleroderma

What would it take for you to post a picture of yourself au natural? No makeup. No photo filters.

Highland Park teacher, wife and mother Lisa Goodman-Helfand had never stepped out of the house without makeup, so it would seem that she’d be the last person who would post a bare-faced photo of herself on Facebook. The reason behind her selfie was much more courageous than you might imagine. Goodman-Helfand has scleroderma, a debilitating, chronic connective tissue disease that causes hardening of the skin and alters its appearance. Scleroderma is not necessarily genetic, nor contagious, and people aren’t not born with it.

According to the Scleroderma Foundation, “it’s estimated that about 300,000 Americans have scleroderma. The symptoms of scleroderma vary greatly for each person, and the effects of scleroderma can range from very mild to life threatening.”

Since the age of 10, Goodman-Helfand’s self-esteem, body image and sense of self-worth have been negatively impacted by her scleroderma. But, she finally took to Facebook to make a courageous statement about beauty and how our society values people.

Better-You_Health_Scleroderma2-JennyMuslin

“After 30 years of going to great lengths to conceal my face, I put it out there to illustrate how much more there is to people than what we see,” she says.

Next to her selfie, she posted a picture of a 23-year-old woman named Chanel White, who also has scleroderma, to show how the disease affects patients differently. Although White is smiling and appears healthy in the photo, in reality she is battling major organ failure from the disease. The post of the side-by-side photos got over 600 Facebook shares, but Goodman-Helfand wanted to bring even more awareness to the issue, so she placed an ad on Facebook.

“The entire purpose of my ad was to reach a broader community and share the notion that we shouldn’t judge others by deceptive appearances,” she wrote on her blog. “I wanted to depict the value in shedding preconceived notions about those who deviate from what we deem normal.”

What happened next shocked Goodman-Helfand. Facebook rejected the post and sent her the following letter:

Your ad wasnt approved because it includes before and after images, or other images showing unexpected or unlikely results. Its also recommended that you avoid focusing on specific body parts, because these images typically receive high negative feedback. 

Goodman-Helfand was devastated. Posting the picture had taken extreme bravery. It was clear that Facebook administrators didn’t understand the reasoning behind her post. A Yahoo! reporter heard about Goodman-Helfand’s dilemma and contacted her for an interview. Once the article featuring Goodman-Helfand went live on Yahoo!, Facebook apologized and said she could run her ad. Unfortunately, Lisa has continued to meet rejection from the Facebook Ad team when attempting to boost similar posts with the same image. The incident has garnered attention from numerous media outlets, and brought an abundance of traffic to Goodman-Helfand’s blog. People from all over the world have chimed in on the issue.

Recently, you may have noticed some of your friends posting their own makeup-free selfies on social media. This is because the Facebook incident prompted Goodman-Helfand to create a campaign called Face Off for Scleroderma to raise awareness and funding for the disease, help redefine what it means to be beautiful, prevent our reflections from dictating our self-esteem, and to start a conversation about how we can maintain personalization in a digital world.


Want to help Goodman-Helfand and the many people living with scleroderma? Post your own no-makeup selfie on social media and cut and paste the following text with your picture.

#sclerodermaselfies I’m going bare for scleroderma in honor of the more than 400,000 patients who suffer from this rare disease. I nominate (tag a friend), (tag a friend) and (tag a friend) to take their face off for scleroderma and keep the chain going by nominating three more friends. Go to www.comfortableinmythickskin.com to make a donation (optional), learn more about the campaign, and the bare face that started it all.

Everyone is encouraged to participate, including men and children. “We want to show that ALL faces have a place on Facebook,” says Goodman-Helfand.

You can read more about Goodman-Helfand’s inspirational story on her blog, Comfortable In My Thick Skin or in her book, “Does This Hospital Gown Come With Sequins?” She is donating a portion of proceeds from book sales to the Scleroderma Foundation and Scleroderma Research Foundation.


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