Changes Ahead: China’s Journey to Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

China is the world’s second largest economy, surpassed only by the U.S. and accounting for more than a 15% share of the world’s total economic activity. With a growing consumer base and soaring personal economy, it’s no wonder businesses want to do all they can to compete in the Chinese marketplace.
At the same time, though, doing business in China can come at a big cost – especially for companies producing cosmetics and personal care products. In the European Union, the U.S., and other areas across the world, countries are turning away from cruel and outdated animal testing in favor of humane, cruelty-free in vitro testing methods that provide results that are just as reliable and just as accurate – but which don’t involve animal suffering. But in China, the move to embrace non-animal testing methods has been slow. And companies that want to compete in China need to adopt animal testing practices, even if they don’t use them in other markets around the globe. Recently, though, the Chinese government has begun showing indications that it may be willing to forego animal testing – at least for some products and under certain conditions.

Winds of change

Although China has long required animal testing of cosmetics products, in 2014 it made a major step forward by allowing Chinese cosmetics manufacturers to forego animal testing. That means brands with a physical presence in China can market their products without animal testing. However, the law only affects new non-special use cosmetics, and does not include any product that makes specific claims, like anti-aging or whitening products, for example. Additionally, manufacturers who sell products to Chinese consumers using specific online platforms may avoid the animal-testing requirement since those products are only sent to the country after the order is placed. Brands like Lush, 100% Pure and others are able to sell in this way without the need to perform any sort of animal testing.
In March 2019, China expanded on its efforts by stating that post-market animal testing for domestic products and finished imports would no longer be required. Then in January, the Chinese government announced imported products would be subjected to the same regulations as domestic products, signaling a long-awaited shift that should mean a more open marketplace for cosmetics manufacturers that do not use animal testing. More details about the new regulations are expected later this spring.
While a few domestic brands have begun selling their products in China, the word is still out on how well those brands are being accepted by consumers. And for the time being, products manufactured outside of China are still subject to the old animal testing requirements and regulations. From China’s perspective, restricting the regulation to a few companies allows it to measure the results, control expansion of non-animal testing and bring pressure on international companies that hope to do business in its borders. How the new regulations will affect international manufacturers remains to be seen, but most industry leaders believe it will take some time – perhaps a year or more – before any changes go into widespread effect.

Get ready for a cruelty-free marketplace

Regardless of what moves China makes, the global marketplace is becoming increasingly cruelty-free. With the entire EU banning the sale of new animal-tested cosmetics and personal care products and many U.S. states following suit, it’s clear that companies that want to stay competitive need to adopt alternative testing methods that demonstrate their commitment to a kinder world. Consumer demand for products that use cruelty-free testing is soaring, leaving some companies scrambling.
At InVitro International, we help companies of all sizes meet the growing consumer demand with state-of-the-art in vitro tests aimed at providing the most reliable results at a fraction of the cost of animal testing. Plus, we offer off-site testing for companies that prefer to focus their efforts on R&D, leaving the testing to our highly-trained experts. To learn more about InVitro International’s test methods as well as our testing services, contact us at 800-246-8487 or use our online form to get in touch today.