A pressurised work schedule and a disapproving partner can contribute to the Nineties woman's feeling that she has simply no time to smear on something that takes longer to wash off than it does to dry. Besides, face masks are embarrassing: mention "Magic Mud" and immediately she visualises a cracked face with cucumber slices or tea bags for eyes.
Ruth Winston, beauty controller at Harvey Nichols, says: "People do need to use face masks and generally do not use them enough." She thinks there may be another reason for women's dislike of them: "Face masks used to be astringent and drain the skin, removing its goodness as well."
Shrewd marketing is challenging that attitude. There is renewed interest in the face mask at both the beauty salon and home. "We have noticed more people asking for facial treatmentin the past year," says Donna Dickinson, director of Future Beauty salon (0171-610 3134). The salon's latest invention, Collagen 90, which gives a painless, moisturising face-lift - is particularly popular. And they are not all used by teenagers who take Just Seventeen's skin-care tips seriously. "Mainly we get professional women who are feeling the stress at work," Dickinson says. Even Neal's Yard Remedies, that New Age-ish herbalist label, believes in face masks. "I put it on twice a week," an assistant told me, "and I don't hide when I'm wearing it."
Those women who balk at the idea of putty on their faces still need convincing, however. Yet advances have been made, and the new concoctions can give all the deep cleansing benefits without making you look like an Arcimboldo painting. Hydration is the key. Masks now have the bonus of adding moisture as well as detoxifying your skin. They have become light and gentle enough to use as protection against city grime.
Lancaster's Oxygen Mask, (pounds 24) virtually vanishes into the skin after five minutes, while Aveda's Intensive Hydrating Mask, also pounds 24, appears as a clear mist to spray on the face. Even the high street choice, No7, offers a positive action three-minute Energising Mask, (pounds 8.50), which doubles as a radiance-giving moisturiser. Now that is something even a boyfriend would appreciaten
Melissa MostynReuse content