What is Cher doing being photographed slobbing around in a hoodie with her hair in disarray and her face slathered with gunk? Is she setting a new fashion trend? Is the lumpy green face mask this season’s must-have fashion accessory, or is it merely a novel way of disguising an unsightly pimple - the West Coast woman’s equivalent of the chador?

Either way, given the amount of money Cher has spent sculpting her admittedly gorgeous face, it seems an awful shame to cover up her surgeon’s handiwork and walk around looking like a dag with a bad hair day. Or horrors - perhaps this is her face and the other one is still in a jar back at the shop - and she left without remembering to put it back on.

Or perhaps it’s only the truly beautiful amongst us who have the confidence to go out looking a mess, secure in the knowledge that underneath the gloop is the face that launched a thousand slips - albeit of the plastic surgeon’s knife.

But Cher, whether surgically enhanced or not, still looks fantastic at 55 - and since she has no qualms at admitting she has had everything nipped, tucked, toned and pumped full of silicone, even going to the lengths of having some ribs removed, why should she balk at being seen in public in a face mask? Part of her popularity stems from the fact that she has never been one to pretend that beauty comes easily or naturally. It takes work. It takes collagen. And after the plastic surgeon has done his bionic best, it still takes liposomes, Retinol, AHAs, sun block and lots and lots of moisturiser.

Most stars would not be seen dead without their make up - and even then, some of them have probably already booked Victor Lunghi or Trish McEvoy to come in to do the embalming. They would rather chew their own arm off that walk about with a torn nail. An ordinary woman would no more walk out of the beauty parlour looking a fright than they would voluntarily strip naked at customs. In the past - even being seen in the street sporting the Hilda Ogden - headscarf and rollers look, was the social kiss of death. It was common. It was betrayal. It was a breach of the code of naturally curly hair.

Admittedly, a friend of mine who runs a successful business has no problem dealing with clients while her legs are coated in wax and she’s painting her toe nails. She and her partner run a Scarlet 2, a successful transatlantic head hunting consultancy - mostly from the hairdresser’s. Because the bulk of their business is done on the phone, my friend makes conference calls while she’s lying on the sunbed. She closes deals during her pedicure and discusses contracts while she’s having a bikini wax, where comments such as ‘ouch! you’re killing me’, only make her sound like a really tough negotiator.

For most of us, the pursuit of beauty is a hidden one. No-one wants the world to know they’ve had our blackheads popped, their pores steamed or that their eyebrows, if left unzapped with a laser, would meet in the middle like the fingers in Michaelangelo’s ‘Creation’. No one knows your secrets like a beautician, hairdresser or cosmetic dentist. It’s as intimate as sex, but in the beauty parlour you never need to get on top. The beautician is the one who kisses, you just hold out the cheeks. You can’t get much more up close and personal than a bikini wax.

Not for nothing are they called beauty therapists. To them you will confess neuroses that you wouldn’t even tell your best friends and they know what is real, imagined and implied. You also spend a lot of time there. Good grooming and great skin is time-consuming - Nigella Lawson the Times Beauty Columnist once said that she spent more time with her manicurist who she saw for two hours once a fortnight, than she did with most of her friends, and God knows - she could do with giving her hair a brush at least as often. But part of Nigella’s charm, she feels, is that she isn’t too thin, or too put together. She may be a kitchen goddess - but she’s also real, like the rest of us.

But big name stars usually can’t afford to let the face mask slip. Courtney Thorne-Smith quit her role in Ally McBeal last year because she got fed up with the constant pressure to be thin, polished and put together. We expect our stars to maintain air-brushed perfection - god forbid we should see them in their sweats looking normal.

But there are women with the same high standards. I have friends who put their lipstick on in the morning before they even wash their face. And then they have a fag. I know girls who put their lipstick on in darkened cinemas in case, you never know - Brad Pitt leaps out of the screen and asks to be introduced. I even have a friend who reapplies her lipstick between courses when we’re having lunch - God forbid, the chicken might see her without her slap. What’s more worrying is that these women can do it by tough and memory alone - they don’t even need to whip out a mirror.

Personally, I have problems is anyone sees me in my slippers, but maybe we should all just throw caution and Clairol to the winds and follow Cher’s example. Leave out your teeth, stop the dyeing and the dieting - Slap on the gunge, the grunge and go girl.

But don’t forget your lipstick.