Cruelty Free Cosmetics: China One Step Closer

Cruelty Free Cosmetics and China

China Just Took One Step Closer to Ending Animal Testing of Cosmetics

Exciting news just out – China has removed its legal requirement for animal testing for ‘ordinary’ cosmetics made and sold domestically. As many of you are aware, China is one of the few countries in the world where cosmetics animal testing is legally mandated. So this rule change is a really significant development. But it’s complicated too, so Wendy Higgins from Humane Society International’s Be Cruelty Free campaign helped me to understand. HSI has been working in China for more than a year to make this happen.   

cruelty free cosmetics china

Cruelty Free Cosmetics and China

“Ending animal testing for cosmetics in China is going to be a gradual process,” Wendy explains. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the baby steps of progress along the way. We’ve already seen China starting to accept some non-animal test methods, and now we have removal of animal test requirements for a certain category of cosmetics. We have a long way to go before we achieve a complete ban on cosmetics animal testing, but this milestone will form the foundation on which we’ll build that victory, so it’s really significant.” 

The rule change affects ‘ordinary cosmetics’, also known as ‘non-special use’ cosmetics and this category includes products such as colour cosmetics, perfume, shampoo and skin care. It doesn’t include ‘special use’ cosmetics such as sunscreens and skin whiteners, these are still required to be tested on animals. 

Previously, cruelty free cosmetics companies such as the Body Shop, LUSH and Paul Mitchell refused to sell in China because of the animal testing requirement. So does this mean that it’s now possible for cruelty free cosmetics companies to sell in China?

“No, not yet,” cautions Wendy. “I know it’s tempting to interpret it that way, but the reality on the ground is that it simply isn’t feasible yet. The rule change doesn’t apply at all to cosmetics imported into China from abroad, they still have to be tested on animal just like before. But even if a company manufactured inside China, in order to avoid pre-market animal testing they would have to only produce ordinary cosmetics, and only use ingredients from China’s own list of existing ingredients. And even then, the rule change doesn’t affect at all the post-market animal testing that takes place where the authorities select products from the shelves at random, often without the manufacturer’s knowledge, for additional testing.”

Cruelty Free Cosmetics and China

So cruelty free consumers looking to buy cruelty free cosmetics need to remain vigilant! In fact cruelty free cosmetics brand LUSH already released a statement confirming that they won’t be selling in China any time soon. “LUSH is very pleased to see the recent changes that the Chinese authorities have made to the testing requirements.” said Hilary Jones, LUSH ethics director. “LUSH and other cruelty-free companies are still unable to trade in China currently, as this legislation does not allow for fully non-animal tested cosmetics to come to market. We look forward to further progressive legislation in this area which will put China on par with Europe.”  

Cruelty Free Cosmetics ChinaBe Cruelty-Free China event in Dalian, China, on June 29, 2014

Cruelty Free Cosmetics and China

HSI’s Be Cruelty Free China campaign breaks it down into this handy guide: 

China cosmetics animal testing after 30 June: 

  • Foreign imported ordinary cosmetics – still require animal testing
  • Domestically produced ordinary* cosmetics – animal testing no longer an absolute requirement
  • Both foreign imported and domestically produced ‘special use’** cosmetics – still require animal testing
  • Domestically produced ordinary cosmetics for foreign export only – have never required animal testing
  • Any cosmetic bought in China via a foreign e-commerce website – has never required animal testing.

*‘Ordinary’ cosmetics include make-up, fragrances, skin, hair and nail care products. 

** ‘Special-use’ cosmetics include hair dyes, perms and hair growth products, deodorants, sunscreens, skin-whitening creams, and other products that make a functional claim on the label.

Cruelty Free Cosmetics and China

So what’s next then for the China campaign? “We’re already planning phase 2 of Be Cruelty-Free China,” says Wendy. “HSI’s team in Beijing and our Chinese animal group partners will be meeting with regulators and companies over the coming months, with the goal of seeing the rule change extended to also apply to foreign imported cosmetics. It’s already been indicated to us that this change will come, likely in the next couple of years. We estimate that up to 10,000 animals a year could be saved from cosmetics testing by this current regulatory amendment, but perhaps 100,000 animals suffer for China’s beauty industry overall so we still have work to do.”

Be Cruelty-Free China is also working on removing animal testing from China’s post-market surveillance, likely the critical last puzzle piece before companies can be truly cruelty free in China. 

Cruelty free cosmetics ChinaBe Cruelty-Free China event in Dalian, China, on June 29, 2014

To find out more and sign HSI’s Be Cruelty-Free pledge, go online at

 Disclosure: I have nothing to disclose.

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Moxie is the Editor-in-Chief at Moxie Reviews, a cruelty free only blog.
She reviews the best in hair, makeup, beauty, and sometimes pet products.

She is a proud Mom of children and dogs.

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  1. Elizabeth Williams says:

    Thanks so much for the excellent explanation. For years I assumed many companies were cruelty-free and I only recently realized how few there really are. I made a decision to buy cruelty-free brands going forward and posts like this help me stay educated.

    • Elizabeth, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I really appreciate all the help that I received from Wendy at the HSI to explain it. I’m so happy to read it was helpful to you. Thank you again!! xo

  2. edie cochetti says:

    I loved this article, and i also like to be educated on who or what country is cruelty free, so kudos to Wendy at HSI, and kudos to you Moxie for sharing the word! Yes baby steps toward our goal is a good thing! Awesome! xoxo

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