Updated on May 22, 2021

Did China Really End Animal Testing in 2019?

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In the past few months, we’ve been hearing some news and changes about China’s animal testing requirements for cosmetics.

But what exactly has changed? Does China no longer require cosmetics to be tested on animals in 2019? Let me break it down for you.

Animal Testing in China

China has a long history and a bad rap in the cruelty-free space of being one of the countries that require all imported cosmetics to be tested on animals. This means any cosmetic brand wanting to import and sell in China must consent and pay to have their products tested on animals by the Chinese government.

This has been the case since 2012 when PETA was the first to bring this issue to light. In 2014, China made some changes to its laws, but the adjustments only affected non-special use cosmetics that were made in China.

Nothing had changed for imported cosmetics, special-use cosmetics, and cross-border e-commerce channels (aka online sales).

China Ends Post-Market Animal Testing in 2019?

Fast forward to March 2019, China announced that post-market testing for finished imported and domestically produced cosmetics in China will not include animal tests.

HSI states the news was “encouraging” but does not guarantee that no animal testing will ever happen again, explaining post-market and pre-market animal testing for imported cosmetics remains as before.

Michelle Thew, Cruelty Free International Chief Executive, added, “At this stage, this does not automatically mean that brands can import to China overnight and be cruelty free.”

China Approves Non-Animal Cosmetics Tests in 2019?

In April 2019, China approve two new non-animal test methods for the regulation of cosmetic ingredients. This brings the total to nine animal-free tests in which China has approved, so far.

In a statement by the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS) announced China’s acceptance of certain non-animal (alternative) test methods for the regulation of cosmetics that will go into effect January 1, 2020, and will be the preferred toxicological tests for the registration and pre-market approval of cosmetic ingredients.

This recent announcement has many people assuming China no longer requires animal tests for all cosmetics, but that’s unfortunately not the case.

It is great news that China is working towards alternative tests that doesn’t involve animals and hopefully the day that China will no longer require animal tests for all cosmetics will be possible, sooner rather than later, but China isn’t there yet!

Cosmetic Ingredients vs. Final Formulations

The issue with the recent announcement of China’s approval of these nine non-animal test methods is that they’re not a complete replacement to all animal test methods in China.

The newly approved and preferred non-animal toxicological tests only apply for the regulation and pre-market approval of cosmetic ingredients but they were not validated for final formulations.

This means the alternative test methods are the preferred option for cosmetic ingredients, but not for final formulations and therefore China still requires foreign cosmetic companies to consent to have their products tested on animals before they can be sold in stores in China.

So.. Does China Still Require Animal Testing for Cosmetics in 2019?

Currently, China does require all imported cosmetics and special-use cosmetics that are sold in store shelves in China to be tested on animals.

There are also no confirmed reports stating China no longer requires animal testing for all imported or special-use cosmetics.

What are China’s Current Animal Testing Laws? (April 2019)

As of right now, China’s animal testing laws remain unchanged. China still requires all imported cosmetics and special-use cosmetics to be tested on animals.

We advise cruelty-free shoppers to continue to avoid brands that are currently sold in mainland China.

China’s acceptance of these nine animal-alternative test methods is a step in the right direction but is not safe to assume all animal-test methods have been replaced with these nine non-animal test methods.

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What do you think

5 thoughts on “Did China Really End Animal Testing in 2019?”

  1. Great update on this information. I am going to incorporate some of this in my blog (with credit and link to you of course) on KnowYourRabbit.com where I hope to review and compare some cruelty-free products. It is so important to educate everyone on this China caveat. Many of us have been duped by cruelty free brands due to not knowing about the language “except as required by law” to those companies selling in China
    Thanks for this post.

  2. Any update as of September 2019 on Mary Kay? Their distributors are insistent their products are not tested on animals even with them selling their products in China.

    1. Per my research into the new Chinese law, not a .com website, they are not anymore. Alexa has all the same info in her comment above, so I wont repost that part. I actually stopped using their products for a time. I had a consultant post about something recently so I contacted their corporate entity in Dallas, TX and they forwarded me this info. I did some pretty extensive research on it and the current Chinese law and was actually pretty impressed. I’ll be a customer for life. Hope it helps you too.

      *PETA themselves recognized the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS) as a driving force behind the success in stopping imported third party testing in China… Mary Kay Inc is actually the founding member of IIVS!

      *Mary Kay sponsored an “Alternatives to Animal Experimentation for Cosmetics” conference in Beijing in April 2011 organized by the China Cosmetics Research Center in the Beijing Technology and Business University.

      *They were also one of the first companies to work directly with the dermatology experts used by the Chinese government in their review process of alternative testing in lieu of animal testing for cosmetic products. In fact, they sponsored a symposium for dermatologists in China on the use of human clinical methods for product safety in 2007.

      *They conducted an educational forum for the Chinese Society for Toxicology in 2009 to again share information on alternative testing methods.

      *They are one of only two cosmetic companies listed as scientific contributors to the first book, in Chinese, describing alternative principles and applications.

      *They donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins University.

  3. Hi! Since actually 2014, not all cosmetics are required to be tested on animals. For example, cosmetics that entered through free-trading zone in Shanghai, didn’t have to be animal tested, as well as cosmetics which contain only ingredients which are deemed as safe, don’t have to be tested on animals to be sold in China. Special use products, are required to be tested on animals. Special use products include whitening products, or skincare that has medicine-related ingredients in it. China also built a few, advanced laboratories for alternative testing, which now are used mostly for domestic products. Interesting enough, there are European companies who have laboratories in China, specifically for animal testing, while China is now stepping away from testing on animals. Why do I know this? Because I worked as a consultant for multiple skin-care and cosmetics brands from Asia, who were entering chinese market.

  4. I stopped reading after “this has been the case since 2012 when PETA was the first to bring this issue to light.”

    Do you really think that PETA was the first to say something (or that they have done anything at all, other than talk)?! Or that they were heroes all the sudden in 2014?! You can’t be serious.
    I wish you actually had to have factual based evidence in order to post on the internet. Sadly, you dont… especially not on a .com website. Luckily there are more reputable sites with a lot of information about efforts that have been going on cor the last few decades.

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