Animal Testing In China: Required For Foreign Cosmetics Companies

china animal testing

It might be shocking to learn that animal testing is required by law in China for all foreign cosmetics companies. This means that all the big American and European cosmetics brands that are currently sold in China, must undergo animal testing. Some of these big brands include MAC, Clinique, and even Benefit.

Here’s everything you need to know about animal testing in China.

Why sell in China?

China is an increasingly interesting market for many American and European cosmetics brands. Last year alone, the cosmetics market in China was worth over 26 billion – and the sales are rising quickly.

This makes it very attractive for companies. 

Here are only some of the companies that are currently selling their products in China, and are not considered to be cruelty-free.

Brands That Sell In China
  • Chanel
  • Dior
  • Givenchy
  • Guerlain
  • Estee Lauder
  • MAC
  • Clinique
  • Benefit
  • Lancome
  • Shiseido
  • Calvin Klein
  • Covergirl
  • Maybelline
  • Revlon
  • Rimmel London
  • Avon
  • Mary Kay
  • Vichy
  • La Roche Posay
  • Avene
  • Caudalie
  • L’Occitane
  • Burberry
  • Garnier
  • Michael Kors
  • Dolce & Gabbana
  • Olay
  • Origins
  • L’Oreal
  • Stila
  • Tom Ford
  • OPI
  • Nivea
  • Neutrogena
  • EOS
  • Aerin

What does Chinese Law say?

Unfortunately, Chinese law requires mandatory animal testing on all cosmetics products that are manufactured outside of China. This includes:

  • Makeup
  • Perfume
  • Skincare
  • Nail Products
  • Hair Proucts
  • Hair Dye
  • Deodorant
  • Sunscreen
  • Whitening Products

On June 30th 2014, China lifted the animal testing requirement for cosmetics manufactured within the country. While this is a big and important step, it’s important to emphasize that cosmetics manufactured outside of China are still confined to the same animal testing law.

Also, even though testing on animals isn’t mandatory anymore for local products, it’s not banned. So even though there are alternative testing methods available for those products, animal testing might still be preferred.

One more condition: this new rule doesn’t apply to hair dye, deodorant, and sunscreen.


Online Shopping

The animal testing law does not apply to online shopping; it only applies to products that are physically sold in the country.

If a Chinese customer purchases cosmetics on a foreign shopping site, that product doesn’t have to be tested on animals. The only safe way to know if a company complies with the animal testing law is to be aware of what brands are physically sold in China.

Mainland China vs. Hong Kong


We use the term “mainland China” to refer to the People’s Republic of China, which does not include Hong Kong.

The animal testing law does not apply to cosmetics sold in Hong Kong. This is a very important factor to consider!

For instance, Lush sells products in Hong Kong, but not in the rest of China. This could be the case for other brands that are “sold in China”. Whenever I ask a company if its products are sold in China, I always include Hong Kong as an exception.


Also not subject to this law are products sold in Chinese airports. This is how The Body Shop tried to dodge the law, but they removed their stores from China’s airports after learning that animal testing might still be conducted even on products that already hit the shelves. It’s therefore not safe to assume that airport stores will not test on animals, and if a company sells products in Chinese airports, it can’t be considered cruelty-free.

Bottom Line

As long as China will not entirely lift its mandatory animal testing law, it’s important not to support brands that take part in animal testing in order to sell their products in China: if a company “only tests on animals when required by law”, it’s not cruelty-free!

Also, it’s equally important to support brands that refuse to partake in the suffering of animals even if that decision is detrimental to their profits. Don’t hesitate to take a look at my list of cruelty-free brands, as well as read the rest of the Cruelty-Free 101 series!

From The Cruelty-Free 101 Series:

  • SweetBliss

    I went to Sephora to purchase a lipstick, many were pricey so I specifically asked someone working there Im looking for makeup thats cruelty-free. One of them told me Sephora brand doesn’t test on animals in the US only in China but that they get their products from US. So I purchased a nude lipstick (half the price of the brand I really wanted) Now Im thinking I should return it back because I feel like Im supporting China cruelty makeup. Any thoughts??

    • Suzi

      Definitely return it in my opinion. You asked for cruelty-free makeup, and testing on animals in China is still testing on animals.

      Did you look at my Sephora list? For lipstick I’d say Bite, UD, Tarte, Too Faced, NARS.

      • SweetBliss

        thanks I returned it the next day and bought OCC (vegan too)

      • aLe cci

        Tarte was bought out by Kose. UD by L’Oréal and Nars by Shiseido which all of them test on animals.

    • Amyh Swan

      MY OPINION: If you’re buying in the US, then you’re not paying for a product tested in CHINA. Same formula, but not the same product, so you paid for a cruelty-free item. But that’s only my opinion.

      • Suzi | Cruelty-Free Kitty

        Hi Amyh! That’s definitely a valid opinion and I’ve heard other cruelty-free shoppers state the same.

      • Brianna

        … but isn’t that still supporting cruelty companies?

        • Amyh Swan

          It’s not their fault. Those are unfortunately China’s laws.

  • Suzi

    I would suggest Paula’s Choice, because a lot of their products cater to reactive skin. They also use ingredients that aren’t generally irritating, and they list all potential allergens on each product. I used to love Avene too before I switched. :)

    • Rosasusannah

      Thank you! I think I’ll try them. :)

  • Suzi

    Ridiculous statement from Avon! I don’t know how they can call themselves cruelty-free.