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Cruelty-Free Beauty Brands Are Finding Ways to Get Around China’s Animal-Testing Policies

In China, animal testing is required by law for all cosmetic products sold in the country.

This fact is definitely not fun, but it’s the current law. What this means is that any foreign brand that is currently sold there must undergo animal testing. Since China is an extremely lucrative market for many international cosmetic brands, many of them have opted to abide by these guidelines to sell their products. The list includes brands like Clinique, MAC, and Benefit. The good news is that some cruelty-free brands have found novel loopholes to sell their products in China without going against their brand philosophies.

Since the animal testing requirement does not extend to e-commerce purchases, brands like 100% Pure, Urban Decay, and Ceramiracle are focusing on their digital strategies. For instance, Ceramiracle sells its products through shopping events and pop-up stores and customers make purchases by scanning a WeChat QR code. The products are stored in a warehouse in Hangzhou near Shanghai which is a free-trade zone. As sales grow, the brand hopes to start selling its wares through an e-commerce portal.

According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, e-commerce is on the rise, totaling $1.2 trillion in 2017. As per a KPMG report published in 2015, 45 percent of Chinese consumers prefer e-commerce sites when buying luxury items.

E-commerce platforms like the Alibaba Group’s Taobao Global have launched programs to help cruelty-free international brands sell their products in the country. 100% Pure sells its products through Alibaba Group’s Tmall Global, a portal that’s positioned itself as the “gateway to China” for larger international players. Brands like The Ordinary and Miranda Kerr’s Kora Organics are also sold through Tmall Global.

Modern Chinese beauty-product consumers are increasingly seeking foreign brands. A report from Morgan Stanley brought to light the fact that sales of domestic cosmetics have actually been on the decline since 2014. There is a marked rise in the number of people who buy skincare and makeup items online or when they travel abroad. Urban Decay has tapped into this niche by selling their products at duty-free shops. The brand also uses a Chinese-language travel retail site to get around animal-testing requirements.

There is a glimmer of hope for other cruelty-free brands that currently cannot sell in China. At the end of 2017, the China Food and Drug Administration launched a non-animal testing lab called the Institute for In Vitro Sciences. The goal is to come up with cruelty-free methods of cosmetic testing. But for now, companies will need to continue finding creative ways to get around China’s animal-testing policies and we hope many more do.


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