There are two undeniable facts about China in the beauty world: it’s one of the biggest markets for the industry (the second behind the US, WWD reports), and it’s also one of the few countries that heavily relies on animal testing.
WWD reports that since 2012, the country has mandated animal testing on imported beauty products, making Western and European brands debate over sacrificing their cruelty-free ethics to tap into the large market, or to skip the beauty behemoth altogether. While all of the major conglomerates — Procter & Gamble, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal (which owns cruelty-free forerunner Urban Decay), Unilever, Shiseido, and Avon — still sell in China, many small indie beauty brands have decided to skip on selling within the country. But, as the demand for Western beauty grows within the country, loopholes are beginning to pop up left and right in order to slow down the uses of a “daigou,” an outside buyer that sends the products to Chinese buyers. So, is this the beginning of the Chinese government loosening its grip on their animal-testing stance?
The best example of this is Miranda Kerr’s Kora Organics, a popular PETA-certified vegan brand that worked its way into the Chinese market. How were they able to break in? Through Tmall, an e-commerce retailer. The brand took advantage of an overlooked loophole in the law: products that are physically sold are required to be tested, but are not required to go through testing if sold direct-to-consumer through the Internet.
“Kora Organics is on our cruelty-free list, but they’ve pledged only to sell through channels that don’t require their products to be tested on animals,” says Amanda Nordstrom, Company Liaison, to PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program. “There are legitimate ways for a company to sell in China and avoid the requirements for tests on animals. Those companies are eligible for PETA’s cruelty-free certification if they only sell their products directly to consumers via online sales (through e-commerce or their own website); or if they only sell domestically manufactured (made-in-China) non-special use cosmetics, and commit to not introducing any new products in the market within the future that would be required to be tested on animals.”
The latter is an interesting route that brands have been taking are producing product within China, which allows “non special” beauty products (a.k.a, any beauty product that doesn’t include an active ingredient ilke SPF, anti-acne, or antiperspirant) crafted within the country to be sold without testing on animals. One of the most recognizable brands to use this tactic is Nudestix, with China representing 10-15 percent of their global sales. Nordstrom also stated that Dove is another recognizable brand that has used this tactic, and produces only certain types of products domestically within China to avoid testing on animals.
While they’re not the most ideal loopholes, brands are jumping through hoops for one main reason: there’s an actual demand from Chinese consumers for these products. Whether the appeal is from their cruelty-free label or just from the fact that they want to try Western products is another debate, but whatever their reasoning may be, the intrigue exists — but will the government do anything about it? It seems like they already are.
Back in October, China’s National Institute for Food and Drug Control invited toxicology nonprofit Institute for In Vitro Sciences to assist in animal testing requirements for cosmetics, and just a year beforehand, the IIVS opened the first-ever non-animal testing lab in China.
According to Nordstrom, cruelty-free beauty is more than just a trend — it’s a worldwide consumer phenomena that wants nothing more than a safer cosmetics industry for all species involved. “We’ve made huge progress on ending cosmetics tests on animals,” Nordstrom said. “They aren’t required in the U.S., and these tests are now illegal in all member countries of the EU, India, Israel, Norway, Turkey, New Zealand, Switzerland, and other regions. Many other countries around the world currently have laws up for consideration that would also ban tests on animals for cosmetics. Both here and worldwide the industry trend has been to move away from cruel and deadly tests on animals for cosmetics.”
These signs, along with major cruelty-free brands like Kora Organics and Dove being sold within China, are showing that there is a light at the end of the cruelty-free tunnel for market — it’s just a matter of when this tunnel will finally end.