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There has always been a lot of confusion around trading laws in China, especially with the most recent updates this year. China is the only country that requires obligatory animal testing for cosmetics. Being that they also have the second largest beauty market in the world, it’s extremely important that we familiarise and keep up to date with their laws and regulations, to make sure we are certain that the companies we choose to support aren’t testing their products elsewhere in the world.

Image courtesy of Blue and Green Tomorrow

Back in 2012, it was announced that any cosmetics being sold in China were required to be tested on animals. As a result of this, cosmetic companies had to decide whether to remain to their cruelty-free ethos and values by not selling their products in China, or prioritise financial gain by allowing their products to be tested on animals, thereby losing their cruelty-free status. 

However in 2014, China changed their animal testing requirements permitting domestically-manufactured non-special use or general cosmetics (make-up, skincare, hair care products, nail polish and perfume) to be exempt from animal testing, as long as valid safety assessment reports were provided. However, it is important to note that China’s animal testing laws do not apply to all non-special cosmetics that are sold in China. The laws depend on how and where companies choose to distribute their products to Chinese consumers. 

Image courtesy of Cosmetics Design Asia

Cosmetics can be imported and sold in the Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan regions without animal testing. This is because Hong Kong and Macau are not part of mainland China and don’t have the same trading laws as mainland China. China’s animal testing requirements mostly apply to cosmetics that are sold in retail stores located in mainland China. If a company’s cosmetic products are marketed on a store shelf in any mainland China store, then they had to file and register their products and ingredients in China (which may have called for animal testing.) 

Fast forward to May 2021, the major change is that brands are now able to sell imported general cosmetics in mainland China and no longer require mandatory animal testing, under certain conditions. 

Image courtesy of Nars

Up until this point, only companies that manufactured their products in mainland China were able to bypass mandatory animal testing. As of 1st May 2021, companies that manufacture outside of China are now able to skip the pre-market testing process. Meaning that these companies will be able to sell their products in Chinese stores without being tested on animals beforehand. However, this new change does not apply to all Beauty products. Only general cosmetics will have the choice to bypass animal testing, any special-use cosmetics will still require mandatory animal testing in order for products to be sold in China.

To find out more about trading laws, visit