China Exempts Cosmetics From Animal Testing Starting in May

SHANGHAI — A long-awaited revision to China’s cosmetics animal testing rules was finalized Thursday, according to documents released by the National Medical Products Administration, with imported ordinary cosmetics exempted from undergoing animal testing starting from May 1.

Ordinary cosmetics, which make up the bulk of the market and are defined as beauty products that do not have active claims such as anti-acne or antiaging, will be exempt so long as companies provide a safety assessment and obtain the “good manufacturing practices” certificates issued by the relevant regional authority in which they are located.

The shift is likely to usher in a wave of new beauty brands entering the country that had previously avoided the world’s second-largest beauty market — the U.S. is the largest — over ethical values. It would also provide those companies a potentially lucrative avenue to the most COVID-19 recovered market, while the West continues to struggle with lockdown measures.

The onshore Chinese beauty market was estimated to reach 425 billion renminbi, or $65.75 billion, as of 2019, according to a December 2020 Goldman Sachs report. The bank expects China’s domestic cosmetics spending will grow at a 12 percent compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2025, to more than 1 trillion renminbi.

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Despite the changes, there are some products that are still ineligible. Products used by infants and children, any new cosmetic ingredient during the initial three years of required monitoring, and products from a company that has a brand notifier, or “responsible person” or manufacturer that is a key supervision target of the NMPA will still be subject to animal testing.

While the regulations were only finalized Thursday, companies globally began preparing for the market’s opening up months earlier going off of the draft of proposed regulations which were released last summer. In January, France became the first country to be able to apply for GMP certification.

The Chinese government for several years now had indicated a shift away from animal testing. Since 2014, the country has made allowances for animal-testing exemption if products were sold via cross-border e-commerce direct to the consumer. It had also allowed foreign companies to domestically manufacture their cosmetics, which would also bypass pre-market animal testing. However, this move to exempt imported ordinary cosmetics would mark the biggest step forward to cruelty-free practices.

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