China cosmetics and skin care

My law firm represents a number of all natural organic cosmetic and skin care companies that operate internationally — we have what I believe to be the first and only law firm Health and Wellness Law Practice Group in the world. We also have a long history of siding with animals on legal matters. See Rough Seas: Ex-Kirkland Lawyer Talks About Japanese Whaling Row and this Time Magazine Quote of the Day.

All of these company-clients’ products are also “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 their natural organic cosmetics in China.

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

Though China just last month removed its animal testing requirement for most domestically produced cosmetics (under certain circumstances), imported cosmetics and skin care products 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 made anywhere other than in China. 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.

There is though one interesting exception to China’s foreign company animal testing requirement: cosmetics and skin care products purchased on foreign e-commerce sites for shipment to China do not require animal testing.

China’s animal testing requirement means 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 would 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 — hoping China will eventually allow foreign cosmetics and skin care products to be sold without need for animal testing. Good for them!

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

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Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

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

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network. 

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

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His 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.

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

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. 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 Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses 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.