Right now, for the first time in over 2.5 years, I'm not actively trying to use up any make-up. In 2014 and 2015, I participated in two year-long Projects Make A Dent, and then since July 2015, I did three back-to-back Project Pans, completely finishing or at least getting very good use out of some older products in my stash. My initial plan for 2016 was to do three 4-month seasonal Projects 10 Pan, and I managed to complete two - but as you know, with the arrival of our baby, I decided against doing that third Project, reasoning that I wouldn't have much time or mental energy to wear any make-up.
And you know what, I'm really, REALLY glad that I don't have any panning challenges going on anymore. Even if it wasn't for my imminent new mama lifestyle, I think I would have probably copped out of that final Project Pan for 2016 anyway. I've been thinking a lot about this for the past two months of desperately trying to finish as much as I could from my last Project Pan, and I came to the conclusion that at this stage, I really need to take a step back and reevaluate my reasons for doing these challenges in the first place, and whether they still apply to what I want to gain out of my make-up collection and make-up hobby in general.
If I'm being completely honest with myself, my main reason for panning make-up is to use up as much as I can from older and/or unloved products, and thus be able to remove them from my collection without feeling the guilt of 'good products going to waste'. That's it. Yeah yeah, I could also say that I love rediscovering old favorites, or experimenting with combining, layering and repurposing my products, but at the end of the day - no, I just want to get them out of my stash. Not because they're bad products; I've thankfully learnt my lesson and never include product hates in my Projects anymore - but for some reason or another, I know they're nearing their time and I just want to give them that last chance. Or, uhm, more like multiple months of daily wear number of chances. They may be old favorites I've abandoned at some point and no longer remember why; they may be products I've worn only a handful of times and don't know very well; they may be products I already have functional dupes/ back-ups of already in my stash. Either way, I just know I don't really need them anymore, and want them gone.
So if I want them gone so bad, why wouldn't I just declutter them, or in case or really old products, pitch them straight in the trash? Well, uhm, because like I said above - I mostly like, or at least used to like these products, and getting rid of them straight away triggers a lot of guilty feelings. And then it does happen on occasion that I just didn't know the product very well, and including it in a Project Pan makes me realize how much I actually enjoy it. But I don't think guilt trips are such fantastic motivation to make yourself use a certain product for months at a time. And in my two and a half years of panning, I've realized there's a lot of downsides to my method.
Unfortunately, I believe most project panners fall into the phenomenon of absolutely hating at least some of their chosen products at some point in their Project Pans. Obviously sometimes, a product just turns out to be a complete dud, but even in the case of the good ones, forcing yourself to use them day in and day out can quickly turn a favorite into 'I just can't look at you anymore'. You may have included your Holy Grail red lipstick in your challenge, but do you really now want to wear it a couple times a week? What if it turns out you're not into red lips at the moment? This is something I've privately dubbed 'abusing your make-up products'. You'd rather wear a My Lips But Better shade, but you've made the committment, so you reach for the red anyway. What used to be a cherished shade for special occasions becomes a high maintenance make-up statement you're dreading to wear on a casual Tuesday.
What I'm trying to point out is that whatever product selection you pull out for a given Project, those products become the driving force of your make-up style and application for the duration of the Project. Here are examples of some conundrums I've personally come across during my challenges: I like contour and bronzer SOMETIMES for certain looks, but I absolutely don't want to wear them every day with everything. I really like shimmery cream eyeshadows, but no, I don't want to wear shimmer on my eyes every day for months. I enjoy wearing a bold lip, but I'd rather decide spontaneously when and which shade exactly as opposed to making myself wear a deep berry at least twice a week. When I make myself wear these products as if on a schedule, I lose the joy of wearing precisely what I want at the time. That makes me feel frustrated, and unhappy with my make-up, or even itching to buy more products for my collection just to feel inspired again - even though I may already have things in my stash I could use to achieve my desired look.
Some of you may say that what I'm describing here can be easily avoided if I just allowed myself to rotate my chosen products with other things in my stash when I feel like switching my looks. However, based on my individual experience, I can't do that at all if I'm hoping to finish my Project Pan products in a reasonable amount of time. And by reasonable, I don't mean a short amount of time at all - in fact, I'm absolutely incapable of using up anything within a couple months. Examples of my personal panning 'times': 3-4 months for a creamy pencil eyeliner. 4 months for a lipstick or lip gloss when rotated with two other lip products. At least 12 months for a pressed face powder and foundation. Closer to 2 years - or more - for a concealer. Probably about 2 years for a bronzer or a blush, used exclusively. Don't even want to think how long for an eyeshadow palette - here's my progress on the small-ish Nude'Tude, used for 8 months straight. See what I mean? If I was also wearing other make-up while trying to finish items from my Project Pans, I would probably need to spend over a year doing just one little challenge.
And ultimately, what for? Just to proudly display my empty make-up containers for all the Internet to see? To feel a little less guilty about having a crap ton of stuff in my collection that will never be used up completely? What am I trying to prove to myself? Maybe the time has come for me to finally accept that most of my make-up will expire before I'm able to finish it. Is that such a bad thing? Is it so terribly wasteful to pass on, or toss an eyeshadow before I scrape the last bits out the pan? Can't I just enjoy it for as long as I want and then simply move on?
I've realized that I don't want to force myself to use anything in my stash at the expense of completely abandoning other perfectly good products that I'm naturally more inclined to wear at the time. While in theory, it makes sense to get good use of older or less used products first instead of constantly reaching for the same selection of current favorites, in practice you're just making yourself miserable by preventing yourself from using what you're inspired by at the time. Make-up should be fun, right? Then why go to all these lengths to make it seem like a chore?
Now, I feel the need to point out the obvious and say that this is just MY (current) experience. I do feel a great sense of achievement in finishing make-up products and I think it's a lot of fun to share my make-up empties here on the blog or on Instagram. However, that fleeting satisfaction from seeing a large amount of pan in my powder doesn't outweight the fact that I'd probably much rather be using something else and just remove the damn thing from my sight. Your experience may be different though; make-up is extremely personal and I can see a whole number of reasons why panning may work much better for other people. So you do you - I'm just trying to explain why it no longer works for me. You know, all in the spirit of friendly discussion :)
This is also not to say I'll never finish another make-up product in my life - I AM hoping to use up things in my collection, but I'd just much rather not put any deadline on myself to do so. I'd rather it happen organically and spontaneously, just by me wearing what I feel like at any given time. I now want to get to know every single product in my stash, not just a select handful. I'm hoping that by having a better grasp on everything I own, I will not only become more creative and satisfied with my looks, but maybe also be able to further downsize my make-up stash (uhm, we'll see about that). In terms of an actual 'game plan', I'm planning to utilize the 'make-up basket' system from now on - basically rotate my products every couple weeks or so to make full use of my stash. I don't want to be super strict about it though - if I feel like using something else and have the exact picture in my mind of the product/look I'm aiming for, I'll just reach for that instead. If after a couple months, I notice there are certain products I'm actively avoiding in the rotation, then that's a good indicator that they should hit the road. We shall see how that works out - let me know if you sometimes want to see my make-up baskets in the form of a blog post!
How do you feel about Project Pans and using up make-up in general? Is this a system that works great for you or you can't even imagine making yourself reach for a specific dozen of products for a few months? I'd love to hear your thoughts!