Panning, PAO, and Other Makeup Quirks

In last week’s Health and Beauty post where I discussed the products I finished in March, I mentioned that I find it difficult to pan (use up) makeup. Moisturizers, soaps, shampoos, nourishing oils, serums … these are the types of products that are easy to completely finish.

But makeup products like eyeshadows, blushes, and powder highlighters? No–those contain too much physical product for me to go through them fast enough. I find it difficult to “hit pan” (reach the shiny metal container) before a product expires.

Screen Shot 2019-04-04 at 8.15.37 PMAs an FYI: Each product sold in the U.S. has a small makeup-jar looking icon that tells you how long a manufacturer believes the product should last once it has been opened (exposed to air). It’s called the period-after-opening, or PAO, symbol.

Other countries provide this type of information as well, but use different symbols. I believe the U.K. uses an egg-timer. Perhaps readers from other countries can chime in and let us know in the comments what symbol lurks on the back of their makeup, counting down the amount of time you have to use it.

How long do typical products last? It varies. As a rule of thumb, makeup sponges last one month from the first use; mascara and liquid eyeliner last three to six months; concealer, foundation, moisturizer, nail polish and lip liner last one year; blush, bronzer, eyeshadow and eyeliner last 18 months, and lipstick and lip gloss are good for 18 months to two years. Products that contain SPF usually have an expiration date stamped on the container rather than a PAO symbol.

If a product has a shelf life longer than 30 months, the FDA doesn’t require a symbol that indicates when it might expire. But I digress …

The tricky bit is the “from first use” part of this. A store can have a product on the shelf (or a person can have an unused product in his/her home) that is technically new (unopened) but several years old. Depending upon the type of product and the ingredients, a “new” product could expire in the jar or package without ever being opened.

This “timing” is a bit vague (at least in the U.S.) in regards to product labeling. But if a liquid product starts to smell funny, discolors, thickens, or separates, or a powder type of makeup is so hard that you can’t budge it from the palette or compact, it is probably expired.

Do I use products past their technical expiration date? Sometimes. It depends on the product. I would never use an expired mascara, for example, because of eye infections. Would I put on a two-year old lipstick that didn’t smell funny or look otherwise weird? Probably. But that’s me. “You do you,” as the saying goes, and make your own decisions.

Back to the main topic. I have panned a few palettes. Ones I used from Too Faced and Tarte (but not exclusively) that took about 2 years to complete spring to mind. But because I wasn’t planning on blogging about them, I didn’t take photos. 

So what product did I pan and take pictures for evidence? It was an ELF Illuminator highlighter palette.


I used this palette as a highlighter, blush, bronzer, and eye makeup for everyday looks. I am very fair, so these types of light colors suited all of my needs. The micro-glitter did not accentuate pores or dry patches on my skin. It was a wonderful palette that I would recommend to anyone who likes makeup to be multi-purpose.

Because I used it so much, and for so many things, I went through it in about a month or two. (I probably purchased it during an ELF sale for about $3 US, so it was well-worth the price.) After I hit “pan” on the colors, they started to crumble. Fairly soon after I took the photo, the powder started falling out in chunks and I tossed the palette.

Would I repurchase it? Yes. Especially if I were going on a trip and wanted to really limit the amount of makeup in my bag. This palette, a lipstick, a concealer, and I would be good to go. If I were being really extra I would include an eyebrow pencil and a mascara. Bam. Done.

I’d save the room in my bag for skincare. Lots and lots of skincare.

Back to the ELF palette–I really enjoyed it when I had it. But there are other items out there to try. It’s part of my personality that I like trying new things. Experimenting. Comparing. Looking for what some people call a “ride or die” type of a product. So I’m going to keep looking, using what I have, and trying not to purchase too much at one time. Be a conscious consumer. Because makeup expires–usually before you can use it up.

It’s a real “use it before you lose it” type of a situation.

Side note: I’ve only ever found one “must have”/”ride or die” product. Ever. And I’ve tried a lot of products over the years. Out of all of the makeup, lip balm, skincare, soaps, shampoos, and so forth, there is only one where I would say “this product is the absolute best” and be able to provide solid reasons for my choice. If you want me to discuss it, let me know in the comments below and I will feature it in a future post.

Let me know your thoughts about Project Panning, PAO, and other makeup issues. Have you found a “ride or die” product? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.

Disclaimer: This is not sponsored. I purchased all products discussed.






3 thoughts on “Panning, PAO, and Other Makeup Quirks

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