China Opens the Door to Almost All Imported Cruelty-Free Cosmetics
March 18, 2021

China no longer demands animal testing on unregistered materials from imported cosmetic products as of May 1, 2021, according to a new set of provisions released by China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA, the Chinese FDA) this March 4th.

“We fully consider and adopt the claims from international enterprises that animal testing results cannot be provided due to national and regional bans,” a note on NMPA’s website mentions, “and we accept conditionally alternative toxicological test data.” This change of regulation has opened up the possibility for a string of international cruelty-free brands to enter the Chinese market on a full scale.


The Change Did Not Happen Overnight!

This policy change on animal testing had been a long time coming with small progress made one step at a time. Historically, the Chinese Government had a firm stand on animal testing for cosmetics products. In 2014, the stance started to loosen as the government ruled that domestic cosmetic products for non-special use did not have to undergo compulsory animal testing.

In 2019, China introduced the first imported cruelty-free cosmetics brand – British brand Bulldog, to Shanghai’s Watsons stores. In order to keep the Leaping Bunny Certificate (the world’s most trusted cruelty-free certification), Bulldog manufactured the formula in the UK and filled the products in Shanghai’s Fengxian Manufacturing Zone. Later that year, a string of overseas cruelty-free brands such as Fenty Beauty, Drunk Elephant and The Body Shop entered the market via cross-border E-commerce platforms.

This year in January, France became the first European Union country to issue a certificate of conformity enabling exporting cosmetics to China without mandatory animal testing.


Push Factors

Several push factors behind the momumental progress China has made so far on exempting animal animal testing includes:

1. Overseas cruelty-free products and campaigns heightened the awareness of Chinese consumers about the specific issue, and this pressured its government to quicken its policy shift.  

2. Advancement in technologies allowed the government to have alternative testing methods other than animal tests, which in many cases provide more accurate results than the later.  

3. The exemption can be seen as an effort from the government to eliminate the differentiation of regulations between domestic cosmetics and imported ones, reflecting the non-discrimination principle of the WTO as well as in the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement concluded last December.

Exemption Not Without Conditions’

According to the new regulations, international brands will now be exempt from mandatory animal testing if: 

1. They provide relevant quality certifications from their country-of-origin.

2. Their products are not aimed at children or babies.

3. Their products do not contain any raw materials not included in China’s approved raw materials list.

4. The applicant, the China representative and the producer of the products are not required to be further supervised by governmental authorities for various reasons.

Market experts predict that as more and more international cruelty-free brands will be able to enter the Chinese market on a full scale, competition will intensify and domestic cosmetics brands will need to put more efforts in innovation, product development and sustainable growth.

About Aventura

Aventura is a China focused E-commerce & Brand Accelerator. Aventura offers holistic solutions to launch, manage and grow businesses in China, drawing upon competences across marketing, sales, e-commerce, and logistics. Founded in 2011, the Group works with a wide range of international consumer brands, start-ups and investors. Aventura is headquartered in Shanghai, with additional offices in Hong Kong and Stockholm.


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