We represent a number of all natural organic cosmetic companies. Almost without exception, these companies tout how their products are “cruelty free” because they are never tested on animals. Many of these companies rightly see China as an excellent market for their products. Some of these companies have been contacted by Chinese companies interested in distributing the natural organic cosmetics our clients produce.

There is one big problem with exporting such cosmetics to China: they are simply not legal there. At least not yet.

Though China just last month removed its animal testing requirement for most domestically produced cosmetics (under certain circumstances), imported cosmetics still require animal testing. Makeup, perfume, general skin care, hair care, nail care product, hair coloring, perming, hair products, deodorant, sunscreen, whitening products, all still require animal testing if they are manufactured outside China. There is, however, one interesting exception: cosmetics purchased on foreign e-commerce sites for shipment to China do not require animal testing.

Word has gone out about the end of the animal testing requirement in China and many American companies do not realize that end does not really apply to them.

China’s animal testing requirement means that our clients must choose between (1) not shipping their products (in large quantities) to China, (2) conducting animal testing on their products in China so as to secure government approval for their sale in China, or (3) re-branding their products for China and conducting animal testing on them. The first choice means little to no money from China. The second choice may damage the company’s reputation and sales outside China. The third choice may allow the company to avoid damage to its reputation, or not.

So far, all have chosen not to sell their products in China — rather than subject them to animal testing — with the hope that China will eventually allow foreign cosmetics to be sold without need for animal testing.

UPDATE: Quartz Magazine just came out with an interesting article on this whole issue, entitled, How cosmetics companies are diluting their cruelty-free claims to sell in China.