THERE IS just one word you need to be up with the latest skin- care trends: natural. The more fruit and veg that manufacturers can stuff into a pot, the better.

Perhaps the ultimate is Lush, whose beauty treatments are so natural that some of them have to be kept on ice to stop them going off. "We use the actual fruit and vegetable which means they retain their enzymic qualities and are far more powerful," explains Lush's arts and science co-ordinator, Helen Ambrosen.

If it sounds rather revolting to slap banana, tomato, oil and egg on your face then ask yourself why a white creamy chemical is better. You wouldn't trust your moisturiser enough to eat it would you? And if it is merely a question of whipping up a few ingredients, why not do it yourself? That's the advice of Diane Irons, author of The World Best Kept Beauty Secrets - insider tips from super-models. She gives recipes for all skin needs. We tested them and - because this is a gender-conscious column - we did it entirely on men. For the sake of their dignity, let us call them dry Man A and greasy Man B.

We cleansed man A with a crushed tomato (make sure you have plenty of towels). He wanted a mask to counteract heavy smile lines which he felt aged him. Diane Irons claims that for a firming treatment, nothing beats a mashed banana and honey. "Ageing movie stars have been known to put it in the cups of their bras to make their breasts perky," she says, adding that the bra should be sturdy.

It is important to warm the mask mixture in your hands first. Man A tried to be brave. "It feels like I have a lot of snot sticking to the side of my face," he said eloquently. The verdict? He loved the way his skin felt afterwards - very soft - but was not convinced, despite assurances, that his lines looked any lighter. "If I looked worse than this before then I'm very worried," he said. (The men were learning that female truism that only when you start scrutinising your face do you realise how bad it really is.)

Man B began with a peach and brandy cleanser. He enjoyed this - so much he tried to lick it off. Helen Ambrosen agrees that peach is a winner - "good for drawing out impurities". Then an oatmeal mask - "miraculous for exfoliating and softening," according to Ambrosen - was applied to his open-pored blackhead-ridden nose. He liked it at first but became bored and itchy during the 20-minute waiting period.

We were all astonished by the result. This simple mask really was as effective as face masks I've paid for in salons. "I enjoyed it," said Man A afterwards. "It was like playing in a sand pit." The comic potential of rubbing goo over each other did not pass us by either; it has to be better for your stress levels than a woman in a white coat in a beauty parlour scraping off the top layer of your skin with acids while forcing Enya in your ears.

If you're feeling brave, you could try these at home.

1. Banana Firming Mask. Crush a ripe banana with just enough honey to make it pulpy. Massage into face for 20 minutes.

2. Tomato Antiseptic mask. Good astringent for spots and grease. Crush ripe tomatoes and apply.

3. Exfoliating oatmeal mask. Combine fine oatmeal, a few drops of almond oil and milk. Massage into trouble-ridden areas like the nose and chin where it will scrub gently.

4. Peach & brandy. Crush peaches (tinned or fresh) and add brandy. Cleansing, softening and it smells nice.

Others to try: eggs are emollient, lemon juice closes pores, avocado makes a good moisturising mask.

Lush face packs cost pounds 4.15 (enough for three treatments) Diane Irons "Beauty Secrets" is published by Vermillion priced pounds 6.99.

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