The 80/20 Rule: What It Is + Why You Should Apply It To Your Beauty Routine

Written by Paige Padgett
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Even with a strict nutritional diet, everyone needs a cheat day or a favorite cheat food. Ice cream, anyone? That’s my kryptonite. Cheating once in a while makes dieting easier and more enjoyable, and you are more likely to stick to a diet. Your beauty diet is no different. I have found that the best way to do this is to use the 80/20 rule — 80 percent of your beauty routine should be clean while 20 percent can be comprised and include your favorite things that may contain “the nasties.”

One way you can determine your 20 percent is to calculate the products you use in your daily grooming routine. If you use 10 products daily, at least eight should be chemically safe. That's a bit simplified, but it’s a good starting point. I’d rather you start greening your routine right away rather than become bogged down with the mathematical ratio.

I strive to keep my routine 100 percent chemically safe, but in reality, it’s about 90 percent chemically safe after factoring in a few things I choose to keep. Some products alone could easily measure 20 percent because they have so many toxic chemicals in them. Fragrance is one example.

I adore fragrance. It’s my ice cream sundae. It enhances my mood and lifts my spirit, evoking a kind of nostalgia that makes me feel really happy and energized. Putting all these great things aside, the reality is that the very nature of fragrance is petrochemicals. With that in mind, I am careful to use it as my 20 percent and exercise caution by spraying it on my clothes and hair, to avoid direct contact with my skin. Sometimes I spray it in the air and walk through the mist, which gives me a pleasant undertone of scent.

I understand that chemicals on clothes can leach into your body as well, and the smell of perfume can cause allergies and sinus irritation, among other things, but not to the same degree as it can if directly applied to your skin or if you inhale the perfume itself. Limiting exposure by using fragrance less or indirectly as I do is a good way to reduce your exposure to chemicals.

Only you know what you can and cannot allow for. Everyone will have different criteria and desires. I want to highlight how you can allow for chemicals and measure (to some degree) your chemical allowance. Here are three easy ways you can calculate your 20 percent toxic chemical allowance. You will find they are similar to the principles listed above for skin absorption.

1. Calculate the number of products you use daily.

Add up your daily products and allow 20 percent for your favorite must-have traditional products. If you use 10 products, eight should be clean and two can be cheat products. This is the easiest way to calculate, but it’s a very loose method to determine your 20 percent, as it doesn’t factor in the toxicity of the ingredients in each product.

2. Limit the frequency of use.

Use your highly toxic cheat products only once a month or once a week if you must. That is what I do with my favorite fragrances.

3. Be stingy with application.

Apply less of a cheat product when you do use it and apply it to a smaller area if possible.

Employ the knowledge you now have about skin absorption and transdermal delivery. Knowledge is going to be your best defense for your chemical allowance. The more you know, the easier it will be to determine how to use your 20 percent chemical allowance.

Nine No-Brainer Tips to Green Your Beauty Routine

  1. Don't feel overwhelmed: Start slowly; you don’t have to buy everything at once.
  2. Stop using disposables: Use washcloths instead of makeup wipes, use a reusable sponge, and get a real razor.
  3. Use every last drop: Use lip gloss, every fleck of eye shadow, and sharpen your pencils until they are nubs before you replace them.
  4. Use fewer products and less of them.
  5. Buy products that multitask: for example, body balms, BB creams, and multisticks.
  6. Seek out products/companies that use minimal packaging.
  7. Recycle when you can.
  8. Fix broken pressed powders.
  9. Remember, it's not all of nothing. Go at your own pace.

Adapted from The Green Beauty Rules: The Essential Guide to Toxic-Free Beauty, Green Glamour, and Glowing Skin, HCI Books, copyright 2015.

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