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Unpacking the weird world of pan porn


TextTish Weinstock

We enter the wormhole that is Reddit and hear from six pan pornographers about what panning means to them

From YouTube clips of people scratching their dandruff to those pimple popping videos that exist in the dark recesses of the web, we all have those things that make us tick. Beauty Fetish is a regular column where we uncover the weirdest beauty trends the internet has to offer and meet the people behind them.

The internet. Home to Butthurt memes and YouTube videos about slime. It’s a space that both unites and divides us, a place where we come to express our darkest desires and a place that fuels our deepest insecurities. It’s also the birthplace of r/panporn – a forum that lurks in the wormhole that is Reddit. r/panporn is the official appreciation society for people who like looking at pictures of make-up and beauty products that are almost empty. It takes its name from the phrase “hitting pan", which is what happens when you use so much blusher or eyeshadow that you begin exposing the bottom of the metallic base, otherwise known as the pan.

r/panporn has been around for just over four years. It has 32.8K followers or PanPornographers as they call themselves. Anyone is welcome. The community has six simple rules, which if you follow you’ll be granted safe passage: “1. No Personal Hygiene Products, Please!” “2. Don't be a Jerkoff.” “3. Show the Name of the Products.” “4. No Affiliate Links.” “5.Pans must be visible.” and “6. Low effort pans do not belong here. Makeup wipes? Body wash? Pads and tampons? This is not r/trash, please respect it!”

When it comes to the actual product type, the community is very flexible, some don’t even have a pan at all, for example, it could be a lipstick. They don't even have to necessarily fit the traditional definition of make-up, it could be a cleanser or a toner. Then there’s the product prices, I’ve seen photos of products worth $4 rack up more likes than things like Creme de la mer. Pan porn doesn’t discriminate.

So what’s the point? Well, when it comes to the beauty industry, the emphasis is always on the new. Buy this new product, wear that new product. Make a YouTube video about your new product haul. Acting as a refreshing rebuff, r/panporn is a place where you come to celebrate your well-loved, seen better days, last legs products. The community actually started as a thread on r/make-upaddiction, as a reaction to all the gloat and gluttony that underlies the business of beauty. It’s a safe haven for people trying avoid the consumerist fanfare of product drops and limited edition specials, a sanctuary for them to come and take stock and appreciate what they already have. It gives them a purpose, a goal and keeps them on the straight and narrow so they don't just go and splurge all their money on Fenty’s latest lip lacquer. So who are all these people? I spoke to pan porn enthusiasts to find out a bit more.

U/ashley7t, 19, Kentucky

How did you get into pan porn?
I got into pan porn because frankly, I have an addiction to make-up. I’ve wasted a lot of money buying new items rather than appreciating the ones I have. Pan porn is cathartic in a way, it helps me use what I have instead of buying new items.

Is there a downside to pan porn?
You’re not always using the most trendy product at the time. I’m focused on using up what I already have even if a new launch is calling my name. Another low is that you might be using a product you hate rather than buying a new one that you’ll adore. For example, I bought a foundation a few years ago that doesn’t match my skin tone whatsoever. Instead of tossing it, I’ve started using it as contour and mixing a little bit in to my correct color of foundation during the summer. The product isn’t right for me, but instead of wasting the money I spent I’m going to pan it and find ways to make it work.

What’s more important, hitting pan or the journey towards hitting pan?
Panporn is definitely about the journey. I pan because I want to maximize my money and truly learn the techniques to applying make-up. Beauty companies want us to believe that the newest product will do the work for you and if you buy it, you’ll be an instant expert. But it’s not true. Through panning, I use up an entire product and learn the techniques behind the product rather than being swindled into buying the trendiest product. Pan porn also lets you spend more time with a product and grow memories with it.

U/sleepylg, 19, Glasgow

How did you get into pan porn?
When I first got into make-up around 13, I was super insecure and wanted to look just like the YouTube beauty bloggers and have amazing collections like them too. So I would spend all my money on make-up, every weekend I’d go to Boots and Superdrug and all my free time was spent reading reviews and watching tutorials. Then one day something just clicked and I was like, ‘this is ridiculous like I’m never going to be able to wear this all, it’s such a waste of money and time nobody needs this much product.’ So then I looked into make-up minimalism and found the panning community who had such a refreshing view on make-up. They want to use something until it’s done and they won’t tempt you to buy new releases. Their reviews are also so much more real, like the opinion on a bronzer is so much more valid from a person who’s using it everyday than a blogger’s review, who uses it once then chucks it.

U/Saintoropablo, 19, Germany

What does it mean to be part of the pan porn community?
Being part of it is awesome, it really helped me to recover from my "addiction" of buying make-up. I also saw that it is really worth investing in more expensive products because I always bought drugstore make-up and whenever I got bored of it I would buy something new. Now I see how much use I get out of a product and I can buy more quality products with all the money I save.

What does it feel like to hit pan?
The feeling when I hit pan is just great, it shows me that I had the will power to only use this one product and also shows that I can soon use something else!

U/Vnssv, 19, Indonesia

What does pan porn mean to you?
Pan porn to me is motivation to actually use what make-up I already have and not just continuously buy. It's a reminder that make-up is meant to be loved and appreciated through use. I used to be afraid of using up my make-up, but I realised that make-up isn't just a piece of decoration, it's main purpose is to be used on your face!

What does it mean to be part of the pan porn community?
Being part of a community that talks about pan porn gives me a sense of belonging, that I'm not in this journey alone. I’ve learnt so much about make-up and myself through panning, I got to understand my personal preferences better. You really learn to get creative when you try to pan something, and it definitely improved my make-up game!


U/McToculus, 29, Los Angeles

What’s the best thing about being a part of the pan porn community?
Pan porn is all about enthusiasm for make-up. But it’s also kind of like a social club, because it’s a place to talk about make-up in a casual way, rather than pressure to show off how good at make-up you are or how pretty you are.

What’s more important hitting pan or the journey towards hitting pan?
For me it’s the journey. Most of my collection has a lot of memories attached to it. A lot of my collection was purchased a couple months before I got married (4 years ago) because I did my own make-up. So every time I crack open my Bobbi brown bronzer or my Naked2 palette it reminds me of my wedding. I open my Nars blush and think about the journey from being a complete make-up noob, to learning on YouTube, to getting married and doing my own make-up, and all the life events that have happened since then and how much things have changed (good and bad).

U/OMothmanWhereArtThou, 24, West Virginia

What does it mean to you to be a part of a community that talks about pan porn?
Being in contact with other people who are focusing on panning their products has made me more mindful of just having unused make-up sitting around. Seeing other people pan entire palettes has made me want to focus on finishing up some of mine. Feeling more motivated to pan items has led me to be more creative with my make-up, and now that I routinely finish items, I don't feel bad about buying a reasonable amount.

What happens after you hit pan?
I just admire the pan for a while before putting it in a box with my other pans. I like to keep my empties for a while and then look at them later to see if there's anything I would want to repurchase. Then I recycle the empty packaging if possible. If I have another product in mind, I try it out, but part of finishing up multiple products is that it allows me to see which products I like enough to repurchase.

U/SummoningLoki

What's the best thing about pan porn?
I'm not really into the whole pan porn thing. I just knew about the community from clicking around on Reddit. I remembered it when I finished a lip gloss off and thought the community might like a photo of it as it's pretty old and no longer being manufactured – it was from when the brand Hard Candy was still being sold in Sephora. That's pretty much why I took a picture of it in the first place, otherwise I would have just moved on to reusing the container for something else. I'm really into reusing plastic containers as much as possible as it keeps it out of landfill. For me, there is no emotional feelings associated with finishing off a product. When I do start to see the pan on the bottom, I will go buy another product.

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