The new black

Not especially partial to salon facials, I am a complete sucker for the DIY variety. Face masks, or rather "facial treatments", have come on considerably since the good old days when you had to choose between a mud mask that cracked when you drew breath, something slimy that needed peeling off, or a mouldy avocado.

Autumn is the ideal time to give your face a treat. Your skin is suffering as much of an identity crisis as the weather ("Am I dry? Am I oily? Hell, I'll go for both"). Tempting as it is, it's important to resist the urge to scrub away the demons. Any masks or treatments that promise to strip the top layer of skin are to be avoided. That layer of skin is there for a reason, usually to protect the layer beneath while it toughens up. You know that dream where you're standing in front of the entire school/office/bus stop naked? Well, that's how your skin feels if you go for too harsh a treatment.

There are plenty of gentle yet effective products out there that won't leave you red-faced and sore. Philosophy's The Great Mystery and The Greatest Love are two fantastic facial kits (to be left on for one and three minutes respectively), and not nearly as scary as many others out there. For more traditional treatments, I love Never A Dull Moment and Drink Up, both from Origins. The first brightens dull skin, the second leaves dry skin hydrated and peachy smooth.

And for today's alternative to the mouldy avocado, try this recipe, from Merri Myers, founder of Comfort & Joy: 1 tablespoon oatmeal, 2-3 blackberries, 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon ground almonds. Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl, mashing the blackberries with a fork as you go. Now dampen your face and massage the mixture gently into your skin, avoiding the eye area. Rinse off with warm water. The blackberries are gently refining and brightening. It works a treat - and you get to feel ridiculously smug about the fact that you made it yourself. I'm sure mashing blackberries counts as cooking.

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