Can cosmetic brands afford to opt out of China over animal testing?

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Can cosmetic brands afford to opt out of China over animal testing?

Related tags China

While the ruling to end mandatory animal testing for most cosmetics in China came as good news on June 30 - the law only refers to domestic firms, meaning international ‘cruelty free’ brands were faced with having to go against company policy or miss out on the profitable markets.

Asia's beauty sector has become quite lucrative for Western brands, however they have been faced with the challenge of holding onto cruelty free claims while also being able to take a piece of China’s $26.3 bn cosmetics market.

Brands like Urban Decay have had to pull out of the country at the last minute, after coming under fire due to its conflicting animal testing policy.

An Urban Decay spokesperson said at the time; “While several factors were important in reaching this decision, ultimately we did not feel we could comply with current regulations in China and remain true to our core principles​.”

Companies well known for their anti-animal testing claims like The Body Shop, initially invested in stores in China’s airports, as products sold there weren’t subject to the same requirements for general sales.

However, the global giant pulled out after getting wind of news that they may be subject to post-market animal testing.

Cosmetic giants like Avon and Estee Lauder were removed from PETA’s list of cruelty-free companies, as a result of submitting to Chinese animal testing.

Expert says big brands cannot afford to miss out


Although foreign firms still have to submit their cosmetics for animal testing before selling them in China, experts say this law is just a phase in an on-going process, which will eventually include imported products and certain ‘special use’ cosmetics as well.

"There are regulations, and unless you want to skip the Chinese market, you have to comply! Small, niche companies can skip and make a claim about it, bigger companies cannot afford not to be present​," Alain Khaiat, industry veteran and President of Seers Consulting tells

Khaiat adds that while the new regulation applies to 'normal cosmetics' manufactured in China, it does not specify that the company must be Chinese.

"Many foreign companies have set up manufacturing in China and they now benefit from the new amendment. The industry needs to look at the longer term​," he tells this publication.

So, if you sell a shampoo: have it made locally; for whitening products there is no escape though," ​the regional expert concludes.

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