China CBD ban: Retailers ‘encouraged’ to pull products off shelves as regulators formally ban use in cosmetics

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Retailers in China are being advised to pull any cannabis-based cosmetics off the shelves. [Getty Images]
Retailers in China are being advised to pull any cannabis-based cosmetics off the shelves. [Getty Images]

Related tags China Regulations CBD beauty

Retailers in China are being advised to pull any cannabis-based cosmetics off the shelves after China’s drug regulator formally banned the use of cannabis compounds in cosmetics.

The National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) recently published the finalised list of prohibited ingredients for cosmetics.

Among the 24 newly prohibited ingredients were cannabidiol (CBD), cannabis sativa fruit, cannabis sativa seed oil and cannabis sativa leaf extract. This formalises a draft proposed in March​ to ban cannabis-based cosmetics in China.

The NMPA stated that cosmetic companies were not allowed to produce or import products containing prohibited ingredients stipulated in the new inventories from May 28.

While cosmetics with cannabis that have been produced or imported before May 28, 2021, can continue to be sold in China for now, retailers are recommended to take them off shelves.

“China NMPA will issue transitional measures granting a deadline for their sales. However, retailers are encouraged to pull CBD cosmetics off the shelves,” ​said Hedy He, regulatory analyst, Chemlinked.

End of the road?

This crackdown on cannabis cosmetics deals a huge blow to the emerging market for CBD beauty.

In the past three years, more and more beauty products with cannabis ingredients like CBD have emerged in China.

According to NMPA, there were only 18 CBD cosmetics filed before 2019. This increased to 413 and 1783 in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

He told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ that this increase also resulted in growing distrust of CBD cosmetics among the authorities.

“At the beginning of 2021, Quanzhou Customs seized three bottles of CBD essential oils containing THC in imported products suspected of drug smuggling, which further undermined the trust of the regulatory authorities in CBD cosmetics.”

She elaborated that the government was also concerned that the promotion of cannabis cosmetics may adversely affect youth anti-drug education.

“If CBD is legally added to cosmetics and becomes a daily product, it will also cause people to relax their vigilance against drug cannabis. Taking into account product and social safety issues, CBD was explicitly prohibited from being used in cosmetics.”

Furthermore, authorities are concerned over the reliability of testing methods to ensure THC concentration in hemp are less than 0.3%.

“This means that there are great hidden dangers in every link from production to transportation of CBD cosmetics. With the entry of more brands, if not strictly controlled, raw materials that may become drugs may circulate in the Chinese market, which brings serious risks to drug control.”

CosmeticsDesign-Asiapreviously reported​, that these regulations may also signal that China is starting to work towards stricter regulations of cannabis cosmetics.

Despite this, He said the ban will not have a large impact on the cosmetics industry as a whole

“Although the concept of CBD cosmetics is very hot, CBD cosmetics still belong to a niche category in the Chinese market and are still in infancy. In the Chinese cosmetics market, which is close to 500 billion yuan, the share of CBD cosmetics should be less than 1%. Most Chinese cosmetics companies still hold a conservative attitude towards CBD cosmetics.”

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