The rumors about Burt’s Bees entering the Chinese market are sadly true.

Today, I received a confirmation from the company stating that they’re selling some of their cosmetics in mainland China, where animal testing is required by law.

This comes as a surprise, since Burt’s Bees has always marketed itself as an “earth-friendly” company with “sustainable” practices, and has steered clear from animal testing for the past 32 years. This is even after being purchased by Clorox in 2007.

However in the past year alone, Burt’s Bees expanded its market and can now be found in 40 countries including mainland China.


Hello Suzi,

Thank you for contacting Burt’s Bees.

We are happy to shed light on this matter for you. Currently, we are selling a limited number of our products in mainland China. The formulas for these products, classified as “non-special use cosmetics,” are currently made in our US facilities, using only ingredients listed on the Inventory of Existing Cosmetic Ingredients in China (IECIC), and then the products are packaged in China. For more information on individual ingredients, visit our guide here. Please know that we are proceeding only in the instances where we can maintain adherence to our no animal testing policy.

Again, thank you for contacting us.

Burt’s Bees Consumer Services

What Does This Mean?

There’s the possibility that Burt’s Bees will no longer be considered cruelty-free.

Here’s why:

While they’re claiming to be working really hard on using loopholes to avoid animal testing, the possibility of an American company maintaining its cruelty-free status after entering the Chinese market is very slim, to say the least.

Burt’s Bees is doing everything to avoid pre-market animal testing in China, which is wonderful and something we can applaud. Based on their e-mail, they successfully circumvented pre-market animal testing, which means that their products didn’t require to be tested on animals in order to be sold in China.

The unfortunate part is that China also requires post-market animal testing. Any cosmetics, even those that are manufactured within China and are considered “non-special-use cosmetics”, may be taken off the shelves and tested on animals.

Post-market testing is documented by Humane Society International. It’s also the reason why The Body Shop pulled out of China after they tried evading the pre-maket testing laws by only selling in Chinese airports.

A Misleading Policy?

Even after entering the Chinese market, Burt’s Bees still claims to be a cruelty-free company. The following is their official policy from their website, as of September 23, 2016:

Burt’s Bees does not test its products on animals nor do we ask others to do so on our behalf. You’ll see the Leaping Bunny seal on our packaging to reinforce our commitment. Please know we are absolutely committed to our no animal testing policy.

Is this misleading, considering the possibility of post-market animal testing?

Burt’s Bees is using the updated animal testing law of June 2014 to (supposedly) avoid pre-market testing. That change in the law made it possible for non-special-use cosmetics that are manufactured in China using safe ingredients to avoid animal testing.

Unfortunately, that law didn’t have any impact of the post-market animal testing law, which still applies to any company, Chinese or foreign. This include Burt’s bees.

Megan Fang, Chinese law expert, claimed in this article:

“Chinese authorities have indicated that they intend to increase the level of post-market testing following the 30 June policy change for domestically manufactured non-special-use cosmetics, to ensure a consistent level of consumer protection. ”

Leaping Bunny Certification

Burt’s Bees hasn’t officially lost its cruelty-free status. They’re still on Leaping Bunny’s list as well as PETA’s caring consumer list.

I e-mailed Leaping Bunny today and I’m waiting for the outcome.

Edit: Leaping Bunny has been looking into this issue and is in correspondence with Burt’s Bees about it but needs more information from them to make a determination on whether or not they will remain on their list.

I also asked Burt’s Bees for clarifications on whether or not their products might be tested on animals in China post-market, and this is the (empty) response I received:

We are happy to clarify this for you. Burt’s Bees does not test its products on animals nor do we ask others to do so on our behalf. You’ll see the Leaping Bunny seal on our packaging to reinforce our commitment.

Bottom Line

At this very moment, it’s my understanding that any products that Burt’s Bees is selling in mainland China can be pulled from the shelves and tested on animals in compliance with post-market animal testing law.

In my view, this means that Burt’s Bees is no longer a cruelty-free brand, and I’ve removed them from my list.

I’m still waiting on responses from Humane Society International, Leaping Bunny, and the company itself for more clarification.

What’s your take on Burt’s Bees’ cruelty-free status?

  • Jen

    Ugh, I’m so upset over with their decision to sell their products in China. I use lots of their products and will now be looking elsewhere. Do you have any recommendations on tear free child body wash and body lotion for sensitive kiddos? In the meantime, I’m curious to see if Leaping Bunny takes away their status.

    • I love the fragrance-free baby lotion from Shea Moisture — I use it on my own super-sensitive skin daily and have never had a reaction. I’ve not tried the corresponding wash/shampoo, but honestly, I’ve never even had a reaction to the scented Shea Moisture products I’ve used [African black soap, and raw shea butter with frankincense & myrrh].

    • Jojo Barnett

      If you’re in the US Cake Face Soaping has some great ones. https://cakefacesoaping.com/collections/baby-collection

    • Nicole

      The Honest Company is wonderful for babies.

  • Marianne (ANNMARIQ)

    I’m really upsted. This is so sad that at the end only money matters. ?

    • Marianne (ANNMARIQ)

      *upset …. Shame shame shame on me ?

  • I’ve never bought from or used Burts Bees before because of the beekeeping industry, but it’s a downright shame that they’ve become sellouts and decided to expand their business to China for $$$. It’s really disappointing, especially for those that have been loyal customers for so long.

    Stephii Mattea xx

    • Exactly, they’re very well aware of the impact animal testing would have on their customers. I can’t say they’re not trying to minimize it even when selling in China, but I don’t think it’s enough.

    • Andy Diamond

      I agree. I would never support this company either because I don’t like when bees are exploited for human profit.

  • Lisa T

    Ughhh, that is so disappointing. I use a number of Burt’s Bees products on me and my kid. It’s so frustrating to see company after company getting lured onto the Chinese market.

  • Izabel

    I’ve used BB’s tinted lip balms for years and really love them but if this is true I’ll be looking elsewhere.

  • D’oh!

  • Thanks Christine! This one really surprised me but I guess it was a matter of time. :/

  • cfgeekgirl
  • meringue

    They haven’t been cruelty free since being bought by Clorox. I don’t care what the company’s policies are, they share their money with their parent company. Same with The Body Shop.

  • I don’t use this brand but it’s such a shame ?

  • Kelly

    Disappointed. We’re supposed to be gaining ground. I feel like we have just been losing it.

  • Nicole

    Awe man! I love their tinted lip balms! Any recommendations for a replacement?

  • Potter

    Such a shame that the company would choose expanding their market for money when they’re aware that it would mean being required to test on animals. I use many Burt’s Bee’s products and was hoping someone could provide some alternative options for me. (Most importantly some new lip balm that works just as well)

  • Philip Marlowe

    I am very disappointed. We have sensitive skin and have used them in the past and even given their products as gifts a number of times. Now we won’t in the future. What a shame since the image they present is natural and earth friendly so their target customer would mostly not be in favor of this change. Now I need to find a new tinted lip balm. I am thinking of trying Pacificas any other tinted lip balm ideas for very sensitive skin? We are also switching to no carmine in the future once we learned about that recently too.

    • Conchi Foranimals

      There are many companies that have great products for sensitive skins and have an array of products to choose from like Meow Meow Tweet; Sola Skincare; Lush; Forever Living etc, there are so many. Just need to sit down one day and research the internet ???

      • Philip Marlowe

        Thank you so much for the suggestions-I really appreciate it. I am a little under the weather so it is the perfect week for me to check those companies out 🙂
        I so appreciate this article alerting all of us about what is going on as well and spreading the word.

        • Conchi Foranimals

          You’re welcome Philip and I hope you feel much better very soon!

    • Melissa

      I love Pacifica but actually don’t care for their tinted balms all that much…mostly b/c I find them to have an odd perfumery flavor that I don’t care for, & they aren’t the most moisturizing so I probably wouldn’t recommend them to you. My top recommendation would be the Hurraw balms, which are fab & do have two tinted options, though their tints are very minimal/ subtle. Others you may want to consider for more color are 100% pure, Flower Beauty (Walmart only), Honeybee Gardens (ULTA carries some online), & the All Natural Face. Wet n wild actually has some tinted balms as well though I don’t know much about them. Hope the info helps!!

      • Philip Marlowe

        Thank you so much for those really awesome helpful suggestions:) I am going to look into all of them. I really appreciate the tips on my journey striving for the most cruelty free lifestyle possible. It is so nice to know other people care so much about the same things I do. 🙂

  • This is so unfortunate! Corporate greed at its finest! It’s sad that they are expanding into a market that does not align with their “core values” just to turn a larger profit. I watched a documentary showing how the company got its start, it was truly a humble beginning. Too bad this is how it ends!! Thanks for the info Suzi!

    Much Love,
    -Stephanie Eva

  • Ande

    Hey Suzi, thanks so much for looking in to this and clarifying the situation further! I really hope that through your website and others the word gets out and people won’t be blindly buying their products anymore thinking they’re supporting a real cruelty free company. We can only hope that the backlash will be severe enough that they’ll notice it there where it hurts them most. Which apparently is no longer their hearts but their wallets.

  • lychee

    Oh no, that’s really a shame! I absolutely loved their lip balms & deep cleansing cream/scrub.

  • Vanessa

    I am so disappointed. Burts Bees was a wonderful brand. I loved so much of their products, especially their lip balm. But I will no longer support them. It’s disgusting that they would still choose to sell in China knowing their products can be tested post market. yeah they’re totally committed to being cruelty free.

  • Caroline

    Very interesting thank you. And thank you for the links towards the article about The Body Shop in China, I’ve started looking into cruelty free brands and your blog is an amazing source.

  • Teresa Wyatt

    No more BB products for this family!

  • Tuca Santos

    For me, Burt’s Bee stopped been cruelty free when they were bought by Clorox. So the fact that they sell in China or not, makes no difference to me as I haven’t bought their products since the sell out. And I’d also heard that China might change their laws on animal testing. I’d lived in China and you can find cruelty and vegan products there. You just have to now where to go to get them. 🙂

  • Conchi Foranimals

    Hey hon, excellent post! Based on everything you’ve exposed and my own research on China and animal testing THEY’RE OFF my list too! Such a shame everyone gets so greedy in the end. As large as the world is there is no need to bow before a cruel country like China for their custom. If they were really cruelty, knowing how the Chinese already mislable their products to enter our markets and are notorious for bending the law to suit them, they would never have anything to do with the Chinese market. I already boycott as much as I can the products made in China, Korea and Thailand! They are definitely not being honest here and the buck is the master unfortunately!

    • valerie

      yikes.. no need to bring in your racist ass stereotypes right? so problematic..

      • Conchi Foranimals

        Wow, ignorant much? You obviously have no idea and are being judgmental without even understanding the comment. The conversation is about the Chinese/Asian markets not all Asian people. Grow up!

  • Conchi Foranimals

    Yes that’s true!!!

  • Helen Burke

    I am very upset that BB is now selling in China but if they were truly selling out then why are they still going through all the trouble to get around pre-market testing and it is not entirely fair to blame them for the post-market testing if they are not involved nor are benefiting from it and this does give people in china the opportunity to choose products that are less cruel than others and maybe if enough people in China switch to using brands that would be considered cruelty free (if not for selling in China) there might be a policy change. I know this a highly idealistic idea but what maybe sad for us may give people in China a chance to contribute (even in a small way) to the cruelty free movement.

  • Krysten is alive

    I’m very sad about this. Just before I received this email I bought a Burts Bee’s lip balm, and I was telling my mother about how excited I was that it worked great and smelled great, etc. Do you have any recommendations for cruelty free lip balms especially ones I can find at the drug store (with scents would be nice).

    • I can put together a post on cruelty-free lip balm soon. 🙂

    • Melissa

      My favorite that is easily accessible @ the drug store is yes to coconuts. I LOVE their lip balm!! Believe it or not Lip Smackers, by Bonne Belle, are cruelty free; they aren’t the most moisturizing by any means but they do have a lot of flavors, & their SPF balms are go-tons for me as a base/primer for other lip products. Last but not least I have to recommend the Hurraw balms…they are incredible & come in a myriad of flavors, including several formulas including a night treatment, a SPF balm, & several w/ a subtle tint. You may be able to find them @ a health food type store but I’ve not been so lucky. Most people have to order online but if you purchase a handful at once it’s well worth it, & they usually add an extra one in as a bonus!! Hope the info helps:)

  • Michelle

    How do I feel? Heartbroken would be close. I have worked so hard to try and change everything I do and own to be cruelty and toxic free and I have clung to Burt’s Bees and I have loved everything I have bought. If this is true then it is a very sad day indeed and I will no longer be buying from them. Anyone know a good hand balm to replace theirs?

    • Kate Garrett

      Badger Balm! They’re leaping bunny certified, all natural, and free of animal products other than bee products. I’m surprised I’ve never seen them listed here, but they’re amazing! Best handbalm ever!

      • Michelle

        I have never heard of that but it is available in the UK and not too pricey so thank you very very much Kate!

  • So disappointing! I never purchased due to their parent company. But what shame.

  • Diane

    I had no idea. I need to do more research when I purchase products. Thanks.

  • Violettes

    I contacted Burt’s Bees myself. They say they are only selling by mail order in China, not in stores, so they aren’t subject to the animal testing law. What do you think?

    • This contradicts everything else they’ve said. Do you have screenshots?

      • Violettes

        Yes. I will contact you by email as they are in my real name and I’d rather not use that on disqus.

  • Jessica

    Thanks for this article. Saddened that they have started selling in China. I won’t be buying their products anymore..sigh. I’ve been using their face wash, lip balm, and acne spot treatment. Time for a replacement. I will also be letting them company know they lost a customer.

  • davina

    I’m really saddened by this news and thanks for sharing, it’s very upsetting to hear about a brand that I love and doesn’t test on animals, has now chosen money over cruelty free. Very disappointing. I’ll be shopping elsewhere in future.

  • It’s not really the company that sickens me, its the system that dupes foreign companies into manufacturing in their country in order to avoid animal tests and then just does them anyway. Bah!

  • Melanie

    I found this at Burt’s Bees page, you posted part of the message, here is the complete one: Burt’s Bees is currently only selling products in China via direct-to-consumer ecommerce, a channel which is exempt from Chinese animal testing regulations. Burt’s Bees does not test its products on animals nor do we ask others to do so on our behalf. You’ll see the Leaping Bunny seal and our “cruelty free” stance on our packaging to reinforce our commitment. Please know that we are absolutely committed to our no animal testing policy, and are proceeding only in the instances where we can maintain unwavering adherence to it.
    After reading it, I still think they are cruelty free.

    • I didn’t only post part of the statement. What’s in this post is everything I received, and they didn’t follow up. What you’re pasting is a statement they made AFTER their initial explanation. Initially, they never told anyone that they’re only selling online.

      I’m still highly skeptical of this whole ordeal. I’m not saying Burt’s Bees isn’t cruelty-free, but I decided to take them off my list just in case.

      • Conchi Foranimals

        Exactly Suzi, well said! There are many cruelty free brands that aren’t on the borderline and you can completely trust.

  • Waz

    I am hopeful that they will remain cruelty-free after reading this on their site. I will continue to check Leaping Bunny to try to stay updated. Unfortunately, there was no date with this post from the Burt’s Bees site.

    Thank you for reaching out to us. We appreciate and share your passion on the important issue of animal testing. Burt’s Bees is unwavering in its cruelty-free commitment, and does not test its products on animals, nor do we ask others to do so on our behalf. In early 2015, we sold four products in China as part of a limited program necessitated to ensure our business was protected in that market, where counterfeit products were falsely being sold under our name. This limited test was not driven by and did not result in profit, but involved extensive resource investment and consultation with experts in multiple fields to ensure we proceeded without any compromise to our unyielding commitment to our no animal testing policy. The formulas for these products, which were classified as “non-special use cosmetics,” used only ingredients listed on the Inventory of Existing Cosmetic Ingredients in China (IECIC), underwent a paper risk assessment of raw materials, and therefore were exempt from pre-market animal testing. Our in-market regulatory experts advise us that China has not been actively engaged in post-market animal testing since 2008, and are instead focused on specific restricted substances, which did not apply to these Burt’s Bees products. As you can see on China’s current CFDA site detailing their testing, Burt’s Bees products are not listed among those subjected to post-market testing during this limited test.

    With this test complete, Burt’s Bees is currently only selling products in China via direct-to-consumer ecommerce, a channel which is exempt from Chinese animal testing regulations (pre or post-market). Please know that we are absolutely committed to our no animal testing policy, and we are proceeding only in the instances where we can maintain strict adherence to it.

    Read more at http://www.burtsbees.com/content/at—china—retail/faqs-animalretailChina.html#ugzUMGJ2ysw46bQR.99

  • Animal Lover

    Never buying this brand again. Thanks for the info. Can you please post about neogen dermatologics please. They claim to be cruelty free. Thanks!

  • Samantha

    I heard rumors a couple months ago & asked Leaping Bunny if they would take away that certification. Back in December, they told me they checked with Burt’s Bees directly & they weren’t selling in China. Now that they have admitted to selling products there, I’m interested in what LB would tell me now. I’m a longtime Burt’s Bees customer & have many of their products. This is all very disheartening.

  • That’s just too bad – I won’t be buying from Burt’s Bees anymore.