PARIS — France is the first country in the European Union now able to export its “ordinary” cosmetics to China without testing them on animals, paving the way for beauty companies that support cruelty-free practices to enter the country for the first time.
To do so, companies worldwide must present a certificate conforming to “good manufacturing practices,” which is issued by authorities in their home countries, as well as a product safety assessment, according to France’s beauty federation, the Fédération des Entreprises de la Beauté, or FEBEA.
China is one of the world’s largest and fastest developing beauty markets, representing a huge potential revenue source for brands not yet selling products there.
Companies that fulfill the criteria for importing ordinary cosmetics, such as shampoo, blush, mascara and fragrance, no longer have to have those products be tested on animals for eye and skin irritation in Chinese laboratories.
Ordinary cosmetics make up the bulk of personal care products imported into China, versus special cosmetics, such as those used for hair and skin coloring, perming, sun protection, anti-hair loss and children’s products.
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In July 2020, the Humane Society International in China flagged that a change of legislation could go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
French cosmetics companies and health authorities have long been mobilized to pave the way for that by introducing alternative methods of testing, encouraging Chinese authorities to abandon testing on animals, which has been banned in the European Union since 2009.
Since June 2014, certain cosmetics products, such as shampoos, shower gels and makeup, manufactured and marketed in China, have no longer had to be tested on animals, although domestic special-use products and all imported cosmetics products were.
In France, the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament, or National Agency for Medicines Safety, will be able to issue the certificate to cosmetics manufacturers. Since Jan. 12, the ANSM has posted on a dedicated platform the necessary documents for obtaining the certificate.
“We are delighted with this progress, which rewards several years of efforts made with the Chinese authorities,” said Patrick O’Quin, president of the FEBEA, in a statement. “The cosmetics industry is the only one in Europe to have completely banned animal testing, and we are happy to continue changing regulations in other parts of the world.
“This agreement will also allow French cosmetics companies to export more fluidly and quickly to China,” he continued. “This country is now our second-largest trading partner.”
In 2019, French cosmetics sales to China were up 48 percent year-on-year, making it the fourth-largest beauty export country for France, whereas in 2018 it ranked seventh, according to FEBEA.
For many beauty companies, China has been the motor of growth in the swiftly developing Asia-Pacific region. Asia-Pacific in 2019 for the first time became the largest geographic zone at the world’s largest beauty maker L’Oréal, for instance.
Most multinationals have factories set up in China, but the animal-testing requirements for other foreign beauty players have kept them from exporting directly to the country until now.
Often cruelty-free companies have opted to sell products to Chinese consumers via e-commerce websites. That’s because pre- and post-marketing testing requirements in China have not applied to beauty products ordered by people through an e-commerce website if it and the site’s fulfillment were located outside mainland China and the products were sent directly to a customer in China.
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