In a market saturated with hauls and how-tos, makeup panners are also telling a different kind of story about their makeup use. “Basically when you see a pan, you are showing that you can stick to something. And as human beings, we look for indicators of how we can trust somebody. In some ways, if you are somebody who can show your pan, that’s a sign of commitment, right? There you are, you are somebody who can commit to a goal,” Gurung explains.
It’s a social endeavor: Youtube, Reddit, Instagram and Facebook help panners find each other. We tend to like people who are like us—these platforms allow panners to reinforce each other, with each “like” creating a kind of positive social pressure, one that helps the community battle the ever looming beauty industry at large.
Panners, by the way, aren’t typically your average casual beauty consumer—over and over again, I spoke to panners who identify as “makeup enthusiasts”—hobbyists who dedicate their time to thinking about or using makeup. They’re constantly aware of new releases, deep diving into research for new purchases, and exposed to brands and products tagged by their favorite beauty influencers. Turns out, the more immersed you are in the beauty world, the more gratifying panning becomes.
And now, I have a confession to make: Over the pandemic, I got into eyeshadow as a lockdown hobby. I obsessively watched beauty Youtube, scoured Instagram for inspiration, and constantly compared swatches on the makeup review blog Temptalia until my obliviousness about the beauty industry turned into a thorough understanding of brands and famous palettes. The more I researched and learned, the more my makeup wishlist grew. I went from never having owned a single eyeshadow to owning over 20 palettes in six months.
I blame it on the enthusiasm of getting into a new hobby, and my late-night, fear-fueled shopping. In any case: I had too much eyeshadow. I knew I had too much. The shopping had been fun until it wasn’t—until every new palette that arrived started to fill me with a terrible anxiety. This was around the time when I started browsing the panning subreddits, following panners on Instagram, noticing how palettes actually became more beautiful with use. The panned makeup looked well-loved, no longer a shiny objection to covet, but more like art supplies, the raw materials used to create what matters: the makeup itself. I became enamored with the look of the pans, the dips, the glamour of the usage itself.