Updated on May 22, 2021

China’s Animal Testing Laws May 1, 2021 – What You Need To Know!

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China's Animal Testing Laws: What's Changed After May 1, 2021?

On May 1, 2021, China implemented updates and changes to its animal testing laws. Under the new regulations, some cosmetics may qualify to be exempt from their animal testing requirements.

Note that the changes do not apply to all cosmetics and that cosmetic companies will need to jump through hoops before they can be exempt from China’s animal testing requirements.

This can be confusing to understand from a consumer standpoint. So, I’ve created an infographic to help illustrate and navigate through China’s latest animal testing laws.

You’re welcome to share the infographic but please do not edit, crop, translate, or modify the original image in any form.

Infographic: Guide to Understanding China Animal Testing Laws 2021

China & Animal Testing FAQ’s

See below for a list of frequently asked questions I get about China’s animal testing laws:

What’s the difference between General Cosmetics vs. Special Cosmetics?

Special Cosmetics (or Special-Use Cosmetics) are products that make a functional claim like hair dyes, hair perming products, sunscreens, whitening products, anti-hair loss, and cosmetics claiming new efficacy.

General Cosmetics (or Ordinary Cosmetics or Non-Special-Use Cosmetics) are pretty much everything else and include makeup, skincare, hair care products, nail polish, and perfumes.

Are cosmetics ‘Made in China’ required to be tested on animals?

No. Just because a cosmetic company is manufacturing their cosmetics in China does not mean they are required to test on animals. In fact, since 2014, general cosmetics that are manufactured and sold in China do not require pre-market animal testing, if reliable safety assessment reports are provided.

Animal tests are only required for cosmetics that are imported and sold in China.

A cosmetic company says they only sell online to China, are they required to test on animals?

No. As long as the company is only selling their cosmetics online and then shipping directly to their customers in China, they are not required to test on animals. The same goes for cosmetics sold on an online Chinese shopping website like Tmall, Taobao, or JD, which do not require animal testing.

Animal tests are required for cosmetics that are sold in physical stores (and not online) in mainland China.

Are cosmetics sold in Hong Kong required to be tested on animals?

No. Since Hong Kong is not part of mainland China they don’t have the same animal testing laws. Cosmetic companies can choose to only sell in Hong Kong stores and will not be required to test on animals.

What is post-market animal testing?

Post-market testing is conducted after the cosmetic product is already sold on store shelves in mainland China. It’s the opposite of Pre-market testing, where tests are conducted before the products are available for sale.

Post-market testing in China may be conducted in the event of a customer complaint or to check to see if the product sitting on store shelves is authentic and is the same as what’s in their records.

Currently, there are conflicting opinions on whether post-market testing in China is still conducted on animal test subjects. Read more about this complex topic here. It seems like it’s rare and hasn’t happened in years but it’s not excluded.

Are sunscreens and hair dyes sold in China required to be tested on animals?

Yes. Sunscreens and hair dyes are considered Special-Use Cosmetics and if they’re sold in China, they are still required by law to be tested on animals.

So, does that mean a brand’s ‘general cosmetics’ can be considered cruelty-free but just not their sunscreens and hair dyes?

When we evaluate brands to determine if they’re cruelty-free or not, we generally look at the overall brand and not individual products. If a brand sells some of their ‘Special-Use Cosmetics’ in China, they are choosing to engage and pay to have those products tested on animals. Therefore, we wouldn’t consider the brand to be cruelty-free even if they sell some General Cosmetics that may be exempt from animal testing. Brands can’t be 78% cruelty-free, it’s either 100% or not.

Does this mean a lot of brands are now considered cruelty-free that have been selling in China all these years (like MAC Cosmetics, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Aveeno)?

No. Companies will need to obtain and submit specific certificates and documents from very specific authorities in order to be exempt from China’s animal testing requirements.

In other words, companies will need to jump through hoops and hurdles before they can import and sell their cosmetics in China while avoiding new animal tests.

Only cosmetic companies that are willing and able to go through the proper process will be considered cruelty-free in the future.

Is animal testing for cosmetics in China banned in 2021?

No. China has not banned or made it illegal to test cosmetics or their ingredients on animals. These new changes have only lifted the requirement for some (not all) cosmetics imported and sold in their country.

Although it’s not required for some cosmetics, it’s still not illegal if companies or suppliers choose to conduct animal tests in China.

So, what’s changed then?

General imported cosmetics can be exempted from China’s animal testing requirements after May 1, 2021, but only if they qualify under the permitted cosmetic category and they have the proper certificates and documentation from the proper authority.

Has any cosmetic company been able to qualify for exemption yet? Not that I’ve heard of but things may change in the coming months as we learn more about the requirements.

Further Reading on China’s Animal Testing Laws:

*Important Note: We can address China’s animal testing laws and regulations without criticizing the country, its culture, or its people. Or bring up the virus. I will not tolerate any comments that have racist or xenophobic undertones and will delete such comments from my site.

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What do you think

49 thoughts on “China’s Animal Testing Laws May 1, 2021 – What You Need To Know!”

  1. I’m so confused by all of this. I have contacted Demeter Fragrance and they said they sell in china but they don’t have to test on animals. Will you please go over the email I got and help me make sense of it? I can send it to you if you’d like. Please help! I love their fragrances but I cannot support a company if I think they arent really cruelty free. Please write back. I’ve tried to contact other vegan beauty bloggers for help and no one responds.

    1. Hi Lynette,
      I totally understand the frustration! Some start-ups and customer service reps actually don’t know that animal testing is required by law in China. Not sure if that’s the case with Demeter Fragrance but feel free to forward me the email at [email protected]

    2. HAH, I just asked a similar question about Frangrance.
      It’s weird that it’s not coming up in any searches.
      Have you found out whether fragrance is still being tested on?

  2. Hi sorry i am a bit confused by all the laws. Do know if all of the cosmetics/ingredients of a said brand are tested on animals so that some may be sold in China or is it only the cosmetic products that are sold to/in China are the ones that are tested? Thankyou πŸ™‚

  3. I am completely against any form of animal testing and will not buy any products from any company that sells in China and has to contribute to the practice

    This does, however, raise another question –

    It is the Chinese government that impose the testing policy and, hence, those that are at fault. Does this mean I (we) should boycott Chinese manufactured goods as they are part of the same corporate mechanism

    Seems like a double standard if not?

  4. Hi,
    I’m having a difficult time finding a straight answer for my question.
    Is perfume something that China feels to be something that needs to still be tested on animals?
    I’ve read about what they require from companies to consider something safe, but I’m looking for a specific yes or no answer about fragrance.

    1. Hi Ana,

      From my research, Fragrances and Perfumes are considered ‘General Cosmetics.’

      So, as long as a perfume manufacturer can meet all of China’s new conditions and qualify to be exempt from animal testing, then theoretically, they will not be required to test on animals.

      But I haven’t heard of any fragrance brand that has accomplished this yet. So I’m saying ‘theoretically’ here.

  5. Hi,

    I reached out to Biologique Recherche India and they had told me that even though the products are sold in china, they do not test on animals. However, as you know, if a product is sold in Mainland China, it means their products must be tested. As you are more experienced, I would like your opinion on this- about whether they actually test or have bypassed animal testing in some way. Please let me know. Really looking forward to your response.

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