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Why Charlotte Tilbury Was Removed From Our Cruelty-Free List

Charlotte Tilbury has been using a new loophole to be able to sell in China without testing on animals. For the past year, they have been partnering with Chinese store Little B, where they showcase their products.

The loophole?

Customers can not purchase the products in stores. Instead, they make an online, cross-border purchase while in the store, and the order will ship from outside of China.

The problem?

While Charlotte Tilbury products are not available for purchase, the stores stock inventory for testers and for use on clients. In these stores, makeup is applied to customers. In the event of a customer complaint, the Chinese authorities would be able to test Charlotte Tilbury products on animals.

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As innovative as this loophole is, and as much as I want companies to be able to sell in China without losing their cruelty-free status, it’s too early to be confident that Charlotte Tilbury products will never be tested on animals in China while they’re sold in Little B stores.

After thoughtful consideration, research, and speaking with experts on the topic, we decided that Charlotte Tilbury can no longer be officially considered cruelty-free. While Charlotte Tilbury will not be moved to the list of brands that test on animals, they’re now in the grey area.

Little B And Cross-Border Shopping In China

If you’re unfamiliar with Chinese laws, it’s important to mention that the country requires most foreign cosmetics to be tested on animals in order to be sold in stores.

China also keeps a close eye on cosmetics that are sold there, and has post-market testing practices in place, some of which are animal tests. Even though there has been a decrease in post-market tests involving animals recently, there’s still a small chance that animals could be used in post-market tests according to Humane Society International.

Because of the possibility of animal testing, beauty brands who wish to remain cruelty-free stay away from China. Instead, some choose to sell their products online only, which bypasses any possibility of animal testing. If products are shipped directly to the consumer, the Chinese authorities won’t interfere and there are no animal testing laws that affect cross-border shopping.

Cross-border shopping in China is huge, and it’s growing by 50% every year. By shopping online for foreign goods, Chinese customers avoid duties and any potential fakes or counterfeit merchandise. This makes cross-border shopping particularly attractive for luxury and high-quality goods. Like Charlotte Tilbury.

From Cross-Border Shopping To Pop-Up Store

But when it comes to makeup, there’s a big purchasing barrier when buying online. Customers can’t experience, touch, and feel the quality of the product. They can’t apply it to their own faces. They can’t choose their perfect foundation shade. For brands like Charlotte Tilbury, this means they’re leaving money on the table by selling cross-border without being in actual stores.

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How do you overcome these issues, while keeping all the advantages of cross-border shopping, and while keeping your cruelty-free status intact? The solution for Charlotte Tilbury was to partner with Little B.

Little B stores showcase Charlotte Tilbury’s entire range of products in an attractive, luxury setting. Makeup artists are giving customers makeovers, while they’re able to touch and feel every product and test out all the foundations to find their perfect match.

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Little B only stocks the necessary inventory for testers, and customers can’t purchase the products in stores. Instead, they use their phone to make an online, cross-border purchase.

But was this really a solution?

What’s The Risk Of Animal Testing?

Is it likely that these testers (or any stock of Charlotte Tilbury products carried by Little B) will be tested on animals? No. But is there a risk? After speaking with experts, we were told that there’s never zero risk. For this reason, I believe it’s most fair to move Charlotte Tilbury from the list of cruelty-free brands to the grey area.

Even if there’s a small risk of the products being tested on animals, I wouldn’t want to support a brand who takes this risk, no matter how small it is. Being cruelty-free means taking every precaution to ensure that your products will not be tested on animals. Even if that means leaving some money on the table in China.

See Also

Charlotte Tilbury was already selling to China cross-border, using cruelty-free means, but they wanted a bigger piece of the pie. They took a big risk by partnering with Little B, and I believe they chose corporate greed over ethics, knowing that their cruelty-free status would be at stake.

Silence From Charlotte Tilbury Customer Service And PR

Charlotte Tilbury partnered with Little B in from December 2018 to January 2019, and again from December 2019 to January 2020. They have flash pop-up stores that appear for the holidays, and disappear again. They have several locations in major cities, including Shanghai and Shenzhen.

This is documented information online. After contacting Charlotte Tilbury’s Customer Service department via email and social media, as well as their Public Relations contact several times, I have heard nothing back from the brand.

I tried contacting Charlotte Tilbury PR in December, and I have never received a response to either of the my emails.

If they choose to respond now after this post goes live, I’m sure they’re going to assure their customers that Charlotte Tilbury is and will always be cruelty-free, and that they only sell to China cross-border, therefore bypassing any animal testing. Hopefully they will understand where the problem lies, and where their mistake was.

After this post goes live, I’m sure that we will finally hear from Charlotte Tilbury. They will choose to take one of two paths.

1. They will ignore the problem of the risk of post-market animal testing, and claim that Charlotte Tilbury is bypassing any animal testing because they only sell cross-border. This is false, because they choose to have testers and product stock in stores.

2. They will address the problem and vow not to continue the Little B pop-up stores in the future. If this is the case, Charlotte Tilbury will be added back to the cruelty-free list.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments.

View Comments (17)
  • What options are left for Chinese residents who would like cosmetics that aren’t tested on animals? This comment is not meant to be inflammatory. How do Chinese residents support luxury brands who don’t test on animals without loopholes?

    With best regards,
    An ethical vegan who works in luxury cosmetics that don’t test on animals

    • Hi Ashly, Chinese residents can safely order luxury cosmetics online with no animal testing involved. Many brands do this and remain cruelty-free, with zero risk of animal testing.

  • Hey Suzi, can you confirm that CT has stopped partnering with Little B and completely pulled out of China? Tashina from Logical Harmony has reported that, but when I left a comment saying that it felt fishy to me how CT ignored you, Logical Harmony deleted it, or at least didn’t approve my comment. I’ve also heard from people on Reddit that Tashina had been telling people that CT is cruelty-free in private before publicly stating so, but without any kind of proof, and one of the mods at r/VeganBeauty seemed to just take this other person’s word for it . Basically this whole thing feels incredibly suspicious, and I’ve already been very suspicious of Logical Harmony as they won’t publicly reveal what questions they ask brands to prove whether or not they’re cruelty-free. Any light you could shed on the situation would be very appreciated!

  • The comments I’ve read are honestly crazy. They don’t have any products that have been or will be tested on animals because they don’t have product in China. Just because they want to reach a whole country full of people that may not get the opportunity to experience and fall in love with the brand before they buy doesn’t make them lose their cruelty free status. They are still cruelty free. It even says that it’s not likely to happen at all. There is not products that are for purchase in the country. Not to mention the fact that it’s only up for two monthA the past two years. You guys are so quick to boycott brands that did nothing wrong and it’s annoying.

    • Given that your username is CTOBSESSED, I think you might have a slight bias.

      In all seriousness, it’s about a brand opening itself up to potential animal testing, even if it’s not guaranteed. When I support cruelty-free brands, I want the peace of mind that these products aren’t being tested on bunnies in China, even if there’s a 1% chance of that. CT also tried to keep everything hush-hush, which is a bit shady.

  • I too was looking at Charlotte Tilbury to purchase an eye palette and luckily I decided to research further. On their website under FAQ’s, the question about being cruelty free, no animal testing, was answered in a deceiving manner and left me doubting. Thankfully I found your article and learned the truth! A cruelty free company should have a plain as day answer when asked about animal testing…NO, we NEVER test our ingredients or products on animals.
    I will stick with the fabulous Urban Decay Naked eye palettes ~ they are lovely and U.D. is awesome!
    Thank you for all that you do to fight this cruel practice and inform us all!

  • I’m so sorry to hear that, number of non testing brands is already so small. I’m done with CT for now. Thank you for research.

  • As always, thanks for doing the deep dive to get this information. I was just going to look at purchasing something today but always check your website for the best, up to date information. I will also send Tilbury an email just to let them know more people are interested in this situation and do not approve.

  • Hi, I was wondering what information you had on the Chinese government’s press release that they are lifting / have lifted the requirement to test on animals from January 1st 2020. I cant seem to find many people talking about this or if it actually happened. If it did, then the majority of brands, such as Nars and Charlotte Tilbury, will by default be cruelty free as they only do so when required by law.

  • I’ve also received zero response to an email asking for clarification on this. Much as I’ve liked some of her products I shall now be boycotting the brand for good as to fail to respond raises alarm bells. I don’t use products in the home where there is any chance of animal testing so I certainly won’t be risking it for cosmetics.

  • This is hard as CT are one of absolute favourite brands and one of only 7 that I buy from. I’m really sad to see this and I hope they clarify their status soon.

  • Sad to see. They were pretty much the last high-end cosmetic company that was cruelty free and it was a key selling point for them. According to the counter staff I’ve spoken to over the years, it’s something they get asked about alot. Hopefully they’ll go back to be being truly cruelty free before my The Queen lipstick runs out.

  • Thank you so much for doing the research for us and giving Charlotte Tilbury a chance to air their side. I think the fact that they ignored all of your inquiries speaks volumes. I will be staying away from Charlotte Tilbury in the future.

  • This is a shame. The number of cruelty-free luxury beauty companies is already very small, to see the list get even smaller is very sad ☹️

  • Thank you for sharing! This is so frustrating. I am consciously trying to make all my beauty products cruelty free, and have literally spent around £400 over the last few months on CT as I love the products and believed them to be cruelty free. Seems such a shame that they should all go to waste 🙁

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