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China Plans Ban of CBD Cosmetics

The nascent market had attracted local start-ups including Simpcare, Cannafever, Inbriz and foreign brands like Pacifica and Uncle Bud's.

SHANGHAI — While there had been high hopes for CBD cosmetics in China, the market looks like it has reached the end of the road after China’s National Institutes for Food and Drug Control put out draft rules showing it plans to ban cannabis compounds for use in cosmetics.

Cannabis sativa fruit, cannabis sativa seed oil, cannabis sativa leaf extract and cannabidiol — also known as CBD — will not be permitted, the announcement said. The public has until April 19 to submit their feedback.

While the Chinese CBD market was only emerging, local companies Simpcare, Cannafever and Inbriz had been promoting CBD’s use and foreign brands like Uncle Bud’s and Pacifica began using Tmall cross-border to sell to the Chinese market. Proponents for the use of CBD in cosmetics claim anti-inflammatory properties and use it for skin conditions including psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, acne, itching, as well as for pain management. The chemical compound, which is derived from hemp, is non-intoxicating unlike THC.

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Chinese CBD cosmetics brands Inbriz (left) and Cannafever (right)
The Tmall landing page for Chinese CBD cosmetics brands Inbriz (left) and Cannafever (right). Screenshots

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“In the past two years, cannabis cosmetics [has become] undoubtedly one of the hottest products in China,” said market compliance consultancy ChemLinked. “There has also been a significant increase of international brands successfully filing imported cannabidiol skin care products at the NMPA in 2020 and 2021, with the total of 15 being filed. By comparison, 2019 had zero filings. As for domestic products, the filing records have shot up to the thousands, covering almost all mainstream categories such as cleanser, lotion, essence, body care, etc.”

Despite the increased oversight on CBD, China is the globe’s largest producer of hemp — the plant from which CBD is extracted — with production allowed in three provinces Yunnan, Heilongjiang and Jilin. Most of the hemp grown is bound for exportation. According to the U.S. Department of Foreign Agriculture, China grew nearly half the world’s supply in 2019.

While this represents a big setback for CBD beauty entrepreneurs, China is opening its doors wide to cruelty-free beauty brands soon. Starting May, cosmetics brands will be allowed to import ordinary cosmetics without being required to test on animals.