Fact Check

In Visible Ink

Published Jul 13, 2015

FACT CHECK:   Did a Florida teenager permanently stain her face with a Sharpie marker while participating in the #DontJudgeChallenge?

Claim:   A Florida teenager permanently stained her face black with a Sharpie marker while undertaking the #DontJudgeChallenge.


Example:     [Collected via e-mail, July 2015]

An article on TMZ is titled "#DontJudgeChallenge Goes Terribly Wrong Leaving Florida Teen’s Face Permanently Black!"

This seems like a hoax to me. We've all gotten Sharpie on our hands accidentally, it washed off eventually. I would think the treatment would be a chemical peel at worst, not a skin graft.

The racial implications of this article are another level on which this story is completely bizarre. I hope you're able to look into it!

Origins:    On 9 July 2015 the web site TMZToday published an article titled "#DontJudgeChallenge Goes Terribly Wrong Leaving Florida Teen's Face Permanently Black," which reported that:

Internet trending #DontJudgeChallenge goes terribly wrong for teenage Farrah Marshall of Pinellas Park, Florida when the teen attempting to do the YouTube challenge. The challenge calls for participants to mark their faces with “ugly markings” using make up or markers designed for the skin.

The teen used a Sharpie permanent black marker and colored her entire face pitch-black. When the teen tried to wash the marker off of her face, the color would not fade. The teen then dialed 911 and was rushed to Northside Hospital. According to Marshall’s mother, Sarah, she will have to undergo skin graft surgery, removing skin from her back and buttocks to replace the skin on her face.

This report was just another fake news account, however. The social media challenge known as the "Don't Judge Challenge" was a selfie fad that became popular (primarily on Instagram) in July 2015, but the photograph appended to the article referenced here clearly predated the social media trend, as it had appeared online as far back as 2012 (and was shared on a funny image aggregator in early 2013).

Many readers mistook the site TMZToday for the very popular gossip blog TMZ. However, TMZToday appears to be yet another fake news site attempting to get around Facebook's crackdown on fake news by spoofing the domains of real news outlets (such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC).

A disclaimer found at the bottom of all TMZToday pages (which is very similar in wording to the one used on the pages of the Huzlers fake news site) explains:

Tmztoday.com is a combination of real shocking news and satire news. Please note that articles written on this site are for entertainment and satirical purposes only.

Last updated:      16 July 2015

Originally published:     13 July 2015

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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