China is the only country that requires, by law, cosmetics to be tested on animals.

The surge in cruelty-free beauty in recent times has lead to a sense of urgency with cosmetics brands who have subsequently sought to claim the coveted Leaping Bunny – the gold-standard in cruelty-free certification – stamp of approval. 

While this is a hugely welcomed cultural shift, companies who sell products in China have to obey their laws which deem it mandatory to test on animals prior to selling. China – the largest international cosmetics market – makes up almost 20% of the global market with over $3 billion in revenue.

This means that in order to be truly cruelty-free, brands have to forego a huge percentage of the beauty market. Even if they don’t test on animals themselves, in order to sell to the Chinese market, cosmetics brands must pay for their products to undergo third-party tests on animals.

However, things look to be changing with news this week that China is taking a step away from compulsory animal testing.

Chinese agency Gansu Province National Medical Products Association announced that post-market animal testing would no longer be a requirement on finished domestic or imported cosmetic products.

In the past, China’s post-market process involved mandatory tests on animals, as well as the pre-market animal tests required of all cosmetics before they hit the market. With these new changes, that second step of animal testing is removed, although pre-market regulations remain unchanged.

The Humane Society International tweeted about the news earlier this week, saying that the news was, “encouraging but not yet a guarantee that no animal testing will ever again happen post-market, and pre-market animal testing for imported cosmetics remains as before.”

According to them, these are the requirements for animal testing as they now stand:

  1. Foreign imported ordinary cosmetics – still require animal testing
  2. Domestically produced ordinary* cosmetics – animal testing no longer an absolute requirement (*makeup, fragrances, skin, hair and nail care products).
  3. Both foreign imported and domestically produced ‘special use’** cosmetics – still require animal testing (**hair dyes, perms and hair growth products, deodorants, sunscreens, skin-whitening creams, and other products that make a functional claim on the label)
  4. Domestically produced ordinary cosmetics for foreign export only – have never required animal testing
  5. Any cosmetic bought in China via a foreign e-commerce website – has never required animal testing.

So, while animal testing remains very much a part of the Chinese cosmetic market, the move is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. 

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