FRECKLES have suffered a bad press in the past. In beauty magazines they mainly cropped up on the problem pages. But suddenly, freckles are desirable. Chanel is to launch a new beauty aid, Le Crayon Rousseur - the Faux Freckle Pencil, so that those not already endowed by nature can pepper their cheekbones and noses with sunspots.

The pencil, which will cost pounds 11, comes with detailed instructions. Chanel recommends aiming for a "trompe l'oeil" or "pointilliste" effect, to "give the face a glow of health or softly emphasise a light tan".

Emma Bannister, beauty editor at Marie Claire magazine, is charmed. "Apart from being a very fun product, designed with a sense of humour, it's in keeping with the new sheer look. Everyone is meant to look natural, and with this you can put on a layer of make-up then add the freckles, so it looks as if you aren't wearing any base."

Yes, but aren't freckles horrible things, meant to be concealed under half an inch of foundation? "It's more the quantity of freckles people have that they don't like. You wouldn't use this pencil from head to toe - you'd just add a few judiciously placed ones. People will giggle and say 'nooooo', but they'll want to try it and they'll find it works."

The pencil is one of a series of Chanel products that will appear for one season only, to boost the range's fashion profile. The last one was autumn/winter's gold eye shadow. Mmmm. The Faux Freckle Pencil is rather more practical; it can double as a lip-liner or eyebrow pencil when freckles lose their style status.

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