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.

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Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.

  • FOARP

    This is just another example of where sticking to what your company is, rather than trying to change what your company is just to get into China, will be the best cause of action for most involved.

  • Rick in China

    This explains why there is no Body Shop in China, but it’s everywhere else – and all over Hong Kong! Ah.. forced animal testing.

  • P. Jones

    The Chinese know better than to eat poisonous American GMO corn. Better to bugs… much healthier for you.

  • Robert Czik

    Our manufacturing is in UK and we do not test our brands on animals but I wonder if this also applies to animal products such as Dog Shampoo?