China Takes First Step Towards Ending Animal Testing

China Takes First Step Towards Ending Animal Testing

Today China enacted the first steps to reduce animal testing. This is not a ban on animal testing, but the start of potential changes to the animal testing laws in China. Previously it was required by law that all cosmetics sold in China be tested on animals.

The new regulations state that ordinary cosmetics produced and sold in China will no longer be required to be tested on animals. This change will affect only pre-market items, meaning before they are delivered onto store shelves or to consumers as a finished product.

What exactly does this mean? 

The first thing to understand is what ordinary cosmetics are. These items are also called non-special use. As defined by the Chemical Inspection Regulatory Service (CIRS), ordinary cosmetics include general hair care, nail care, cosmetics, perfumes and skin care. Under this change, only ordinary cosmetics that are manufactured and sold only in China will be allowed to use alternatives to animal testing.

Non-ordinary cosmetics will still be required to be tested on animals. This applies to items that are manufactured and sold only in China, as well as those sold in other markets. Non-ordinary items, also called special use, are products that claim to have a functional use on the label. This includes hair growth, hair dye, hair removal, hair perms, fitness, deodorizing, sun block, skin-whitening, and skin pigmentation.  A glance through many skin care, hair care, and cosmetic bags around the globe will likely reveal many items and brands making these claims.

To learn more about what these definitions mean and how they could impact brands with this change, please read China’s Cosmetic Definitions – How could they affect animal testing laws?

Another great article for background is Updates on China’s Potential Change in Animal Testing Laws.

Brands producing ordinary cosmetics will now have the option to use non-animal test methods that are deemed valid by the European Union. They can, if they like, still submit products to the Chinese government for animal testing. If a brand produces some non-ordinary cosmetics, these items will still be required to be tested on animals.

This change will not affect international brands. Brands who sell their products outside of China will still have to agree to mandatory animal testing of their products. This means that many major cosmetics companies, such as L’Oreal, Revlon, Coty, Estee Lauder, MAC, and more will not have a change in their animal testing stance.

At the same time as they are simplifying these pre-market testing requirements, post-marketing animal testing requirements are being increased. Because of this, many brands who sell in China will still be required to submit their products to regulatory animal testing. This also means that ordinary cosmetics may still be tested on animals by the Chinese government.

This will have no affect on brands who currently manufacture items in China but export all of the items and do not sell their products there. These brands have not had to submit to animal testing and will not have to submit their products to animal testing in the future.

This will also not affect online retailers who ship in finished and packaged goods into China from a foreign source. These items are currently not required to be tested on animals, and they will not be required to be tested on animals with this change.

The chances in China are still a great step forward. It’s important to keep pushing for more change!


  1. Hi Tashina,

    Thank you for your research! I have a question though.
    Do you know what this means for companies that produce ordinary cosmetics only, manufacture their products in China, but also export them to other countries?

    I got a reply from one brand that they sell in China, but aren’t required to do animal testing because they’re also manufactured there. However they’re sold in other countries as well.

    I would appreciate any insight on the topic. Chinese law is super confusing.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Sorry for the late reply here. I must have missed this comment. Only brands who manufacture some ordinary cosmetics and sell them only in China are able to avoid animal testing. If they sell their products in other markets outside of China, they are not able to bypass testing.

  2. So is it true that items imported (like L’Oreal) and sold on shelves in China are required to be animal tested, but the same items sold online don’t require animal testing?? That is so strange to me! Everything should only be sold online then!

  3. Hi Tashina,
    I was wondering if you could clarify something for me. One brand I contacted with questions responded that their products and ingredients are never tested on animals either by them or by third party and that they make sure that their suppliers have the same policy. They didn’t mention the “except when required by law”. However when asked about China, this is what they said: “We do ship to China and China no longer requires animal testing on cosmetics.”

    Could you help me figure out what that means for that brand? Am I right in assuming that cosmetics shipped to China but not sold there at a physical retailer do not need to be tested? Or is the brand lying to me? I will clarify if they have any physical retailers/distributors in China, but I’m still unclear about the laws when shipping from an online store.

    I’ll appreciate if you can help with any information that you have on the topic!

    Thank you for your time!

  4. It might be a step in the right direction but it still sounds like China doesn’t really trust alternative testing methods despite the large majority of other countries who use these methods. Plus they seem to have made it as confusing as possible.

  5. Thank you for posting this. What does this mean for Laura Mercier? Will they still have to test on animals? I’m still a little unclear.

    1. Hi Carol,

      This law won’t change anything for international brands. At this time, it only effects certain products that are being made and sold in China by non-international brands. I hope this helps to clarify.

  6. Is still mac testing on animals? I feel i bit confused caused i live in europe and there is a law that forbides animal testin. So any profuct entenig europe must be cruelty free?

    1. Hi Elena,

      MAC does still test on animals, as do many large brands. The EU ban on animal testing was not a full ban in the sense that just because a brand is sold in the EU does not mean that it is cruelty free. The EU ban did not effect brands who test on animals outside of the EU, as required by law, etc. You may want to read this post to give you more information – What Does the EU Ban on Animal Testing Mean for Brands Selling Where Testing is Required by Law?

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