Foreign Cosmetics in China: Animal Testing Required

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My law firm represents a number of all natural organic cosmetic and skin care companies that operate internationally — we have what I believe to be the first and only law firm Health and Wellness Law Practice Group in the world. We also have a long history of siding with animals on legal matters. See Rough Seas: Ex-Kirkland Lawyer Talks About Japanese Whaling Row and this Time Magazine Quote of the Day.

All of these company-clients’ products are also “cruelty free” because they are never tested on animals. Many of these companies rightly see China as an excellent market for their products. Some of these companies have been contacted by Chinese companies interested in distributing their natural organic cosmetics in China.

There is one big problem with exporting such cosmetics to China: they are not legal there.

Though China just last month removed its animal testing requirement for most domestically produced cosmetics (under certain circumstances), imported cosmetics and skin care products still require animal testing. Makeup, perfume, general skin care, hair care, nail care product, hair coloring, perming, hair products, deodorant, sunscreen, whitening products, all still require animal testing if made anywhere other than in China. Word has gone out about the end of the animal testing requirement in China and many American companies do not realize that end does not really apply to them.

There is though one interesting exception to China’s foreign company animal testing requirement: cosmetics and skin care products purchased on foreign e-commerce sites for shipment to China do not require animal testing.

China’s animal testing requirement means our clients must choose between (1) not shipping their products (in large quantities) to China, (2) conducting animal testing on their products in China so as to secure government approval for their sale in China, or (3) re-branding their products for China and conducting animal testing on them. The first choice means little to no money from China. The second choice would damage the company’s reputation and sales outside China. The third choice may allow the company to avoid damage to its reputation, or not.

So far, all have chosen not to sell their products in China — rather than subject them to animal testing — hoping China will eventually allow foreign cosmetics and skin care products to be sold without need for animal testing. Good for them!

UPDATE: Quartz Magazine just came out with an interesting article (quoting me) on this issue: How cosmetics companies are diluting their cruelty-free claims to sell in China.