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Animal Testing In China: Required For Foreign Cosmetics Companies

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.

Update: You might have heard that animal testing is no longer required in China. Some brands are even claiming to sell in mainland China while remaining cruelty-free. As much as I’d like this to be true, it hasn’t happened yet. China has in fact relaxed its animal testing laws, but the fact remains that in 2019, brands that sell beauty products in China could still undergo animal testing and are therefore not cruelty-free.

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

Note: Stila no longer sells in China and is now cruelty-free. All other companies listed still sell in China as of October 2018.

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.

mac-china

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.

See Also

Mainland China vs. Hong Kong

china-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.

Airports

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:

View Comments (48)
  • 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??

  • 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. 🙂

  • Hi Katrina! I’ll check out your channel. 🙂

    I chose not to post about that development because honestly, it’s too vague to be meaningful at this point. There’s no timeline at all, not even a long-term date. I believe it was HSI who emailed me about it and they didn’t get back to me when I asked for details. Hopefully the Chinese government is actually going to take the steps though!

  • Does anyone know where essential oils fit into the testing laws in China? I’m finding some sites say it’s required as well and others say it doesn’t apply.

  • I definitely don’t consider a brand to be cruelty-free is they sell in China or test where required by law. It comes down to a choice, and there are plenty of brands who chose not to sell in China to keep their cruelty-free status.

  • Hi please could you help? I use cruelty free products but have been told that more and more shops that are in the Uk are opening up in China or have been there for a while like Tesco, Next, House of Fraser, H&M etc etc so does that mean because they actually have stores in China that there products are tested on animals or not because i shop in Tesco so if they test their products i will boycott them thanks.

  • Dear Suzi, please may I ask what is the source of this information? I live in Macau, China, for 3 years now, and is very difficult for me to find “government valid” policies regarding animal cosmetic testing in China. I know that Hong Kong is an exception, but how about Macau? Because both Lush and The Body Shop operate here, and since I cannot find what I consider valid research I am asking for your sources so I can do my part as a human being and protect the voiceless. With much admiration for your work and my kindest regards.

    • Luckily there’s no mandatory animal testing in Macau, and it’s described as an autonomous region so it has its own regulations. The best sources I have are Cruelty-Free International and Humane Society International. Thank you for your kind words and good luck to you!

        • Hello I clicked into the site and tried their links to other worldwide lush shops. The UK and HK lush shop links got directed to the bodyshop website.
          My guess is that’s a fake website. I’m not surprised as there are all kinds of fraud in China.

  • Hi, I’ve decided to go cruelty free 😀
    I have Catrice eyeshadow palette at home and it’s made in China and Catrice is cruelty free, so if a product is made in China it doesn’t have to be tested on animals?

  • I moved to Japan recently, and it is insanely difficult to find cruelty free products because the majority of companies sell their products in China. I’m sure if I lived in a big city, I would probably find an American or Canadian brand that doesn’t test on animals; however, being in a small town has made it difficult. I am about to run out of the products I brought over with me from America; so, will need to find something quick.

  • L’Oréal sent a bunch of Youtubers to their labs in France and had a whole spiel about how they haven’t tested on animals since 2014, and that the recent changes in Chinese law in December mean that L’Oréal makeup products are no longer tested on animals at all anywhere in the world. This is BS, right?

  • Which (if any) of these companies are working with China to prove there are better methods than to test on animals? How do we find out an answer to this question? I’m sure there are many companies who disagree with the law, don’t you agree?

  • I see that Chantecaille are now stocked and sold by Lane Crawford in mainland China. I know that Lane Crawford are an Hong Kong based business, who have expanded into mainland China. I also note that Chantecaille claim ‘cruelty-free’ on every page of their website (at the foot). Are they importing into Hong Kong and cross-border supplying to Lane Crawford in mainland China – thereby, I believe, bypassing the animal testing requirement, or is this another case of a premium, once cruelty-free brand BSing everyone? …

    Might you also confirm Cire Trudon are not genuinely cruelty-free?

    Many thanks for you time and help.

  • I was curious to know if online brands could still be sold to people in China without animal testing and found what I was looking for. Also, thanks for the list of what brands do sell there.

    • Hi, my daughter has recently moved to Shanghai to live and work for a year. She is vegan and always uses cruelty free products. She has taken a supply with her but not enough to last her for a year! She has asked me to send her some shower gels, shampoos etc. from the UK but I’ve been told that so can’t post liquids, gels, creams. If she orders products on-line many won’t deliver to mainland China.
      Any suggestions or advice as to what we can do – short of booking an airline ticket and taking them out there in a suitcase!! ?
      Thank you in advance…

  • I thought Stila was cf… It says so also in your search engine and yet I see it on the list below 🙁 Something has changed? That would be a shame 🙁 Also I understand, that Korea has now banned animal testing – however the China problem is still valid – will you be doing an article on K-Beauty brandsthat are CF?

  • I asked the Westin Store if their products contain any animal products or are tested on products. They replied No. I then asked if they are sold in China. The response was, “Ours are not tested and they are shipped from here.”
    So I’m thinking they are considered cruelty-free, yes?

  • What about Clarins? I don’t see them on the list, but I know that they test.. Today someone told me that they are cruelty free.. so I’m confused

  • Hi Suzi,

    Just wanted to let you know that it is worth checking if the brand is for real cruel and goes along with animal testing. There is 2 ways now to avoid animal testing when going offline (online cross-border sales doesn’t require animal testing since it is operated from HK mainly):
    1. The product is made in China – by then it is available to register without animal testing.
    2. There is a new way of registration when product enter through Shanghai or through 3-4 other ports in China. It is called “the short way”. https://www.cosmeticsdesign-asia.com/Article/2017/01/23/China-s-new-rules-on-first-import-cosmetics-products

    I hope this will be helpful. I leave this comment just because I found your article when researching the cruelty-free options of launch in Mainland China for the brand I’m working with.

    Also it is predicted among Chinese online retailers that very soon the crossborder online shopping will require product registration anyway as it was recently said by Xi Jinping that they need to do something to regulate the online trade which is in China huge! More than 20% of sales.

    Animals FTW

  • There is this brand founded in China, MARIE DALGAR, but it is claiming to be cruelty free. This brand is available on shelves in stores in CHina. It can’t be cruelty free right?

  • I live in China. I now only buy my cosmetics in Hong Kong. I’m not completely clear about one thing. If I buy a Japanese product (for example) on a Chinese shopping site like Taobao, will it be tested on animals? If there’s even the slightest chance I’ll wait for a couple of months and get it in Hong Kong. Thanks in advance

  • Hi there!! Can you confirm if Dermablend is cruelty-free? Their website claims they do not test on animals.
    Also, just curious as to how you verify your sources/information to be correct? There’s just so much different information out there it can be confusing as to which source is correct and what to believe:(

    Thanks for all your hard work on CF protects!

  • Hi Suzi,
    Thank you so much for this important and thorough work.
    There is still one thing that I don’t quit understand – I know that the chinese government are the one performing the tests, but who is paying for them? The companies themselves?

  • Hi Suzanna. Thanks so much for the list. ☺️Theres just one thing im curious. Is Palmer’s cocoa butter considered cruelty free? I know they dont test on animals but they said they only sell body lotions/butters in China and not cosmetics. From your list body lotions is not included for animal testing but palmers sell the ones that has SPF in the lotions now im so confused ? hope u can reply,, thanks a lot

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