China Actively Embraces the Trend of Zero-Cruelty Beauty

The ban on animal testing on cosmetics was implemented after years of advocacy by animal welfare activists and industry leaders.

Currently, more and more countries are becoming aware of the negative impact of animal experimentation on animal welfare and human health.

Recently, Canada passed the Budget Implementation Act, which includes an amendment to the Food and Drug Act that bans the use of animals for cosmetic experiments in Canada and prohibits false and misleading labeling in relation to animal testing of cosmetics. In this regard, Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health of the Government of Canada, said, “Testing cosmetics on animals is both cruel and unnecessary. That is why we are proud to move forward on our promise to ban cosmetic animal testing and trade.”

Gradual relaxation of policies in the Chinese market

According to Humane Society International, 43 countries and regions, including the European Union, India, South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia, have now enacted policies regarding the ban on animal testing. In North America, where Canada is located, Mexico is the leader in the implementation of this policy. Mexico was reportedly the first country in North America to ban animal testing when it passed a bill to ban animal testing in 2021.

It is worth noting that the UK, which first announced a total ban on animal testing on cosmetics, announced in May that it wanted to reintroduce animal testing on cosmetics. In response to the move, more than 80 brands were “dismayed” by the government’s stance, with a letter signed by the brands stating, “We want the UK to uphold its 1998 position as intended, with no new tests on animals allowed.” However, the news was later officially denied.

The presence of “zero-cruelty beauty” is growing in the international market. Chinese regulators are gradually embracing the international trend of “zero-cruelty”

In China, regulations have been in place since 2014 that allows for animal testing to no longer be mandatory for general cosmetics manufactured and sold in China, but animal testing is still required for the filing and approval process for imported cosmetics and Chinese special cosmetics.

This requirement made it impossible for a long time for many international cosmetic brands that insisted on rejecting animal testing, mostly through cross-border e-commerce to test the Chinese market, to land in China, especially in the offline market.

However, things took a turn for the worse in 2018 when Cruelty-Free International (CFI) signed an agreement with the Chinese government and regulators to collaborate and reach a consensus with Shanghai-based certification and compliance body Knudsen & CRC, Shanghai Fengpu Industrial Park and Oriental Beauty Valley to license some international brands to be exempted from post-market animal testing by manufacturing in China.

On January 14, 2021, the French Federation of Beauty Businesses issued a statement saying that the French National Agency for Safety of Medicines had launched a qualification platform that allows French manufacturers of generic cosmetics to apply for qualifications related to production quality management systems that comply with the Chinese authorities regulations. Then the French cosmetics manufacturers can export their generic cosmetics to China without having to undergo animal testing.

Subsequently, on May 1, 2021, China launched a regulation that imported cosmetics was exempted from animal testing. As a result of the policy change, Aesop, which had previously been unable to open shops in mainland China, has finally completed its offline filing and will open two offline flagship shops in Shanghai by the end of 2022.

(Credit: Aesop online shop in Shanghai China)

The ban on animal testing for cosmetics has become a global consensus

As technology and civilization improve, the rejection of animal testing is becoming a global trend, and cheaper and more effective alternatives are emerging.

The EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) has introduced NAM (New Approach Method) as a new alternative to animal testing as part of its guidance on cosmetic ingredient testing and its safety assessment, which refers to a variety of new non-animal techniques, alternative strategies, ideal predictive models and a wealth of relevant data and information generated from chemical hazard and risk assessments. Compared to the traditional substitution of animal testing methods, NAM has a wider range of applications, covering computer simulation evaluation (in silico), in vitro testing methods (in vitro), and cross-referencing (read-across).

The Regulations on the Administration of Registration Data for New Cosmetic Ingredients issued by the National Medical Products Administration in China have also stipulated that where animal substitution methods are used for toxicological safety evaluation, an appropriate integrated test and assessment method (IATA) should be selected to evaluate the toxicity of the new ingredient based on the structural characteristics of the ingredient and the specific toxicological endpoints.

If the animal alternative test method used is not yet included in China’s Technical Specification for Cosmetic Safety”, the alternative test method should be one that has been included by an international authority for the validation of alternative methods and should be accompanied by information proving that the method can accurately predict the toxicological endpoint.

In fact, more beauty giants such as L’Oréal and Estée Lauder have long applied animal testing alternatives. Back in 1997, L’Oréal acquired EpiSkin Biotech. By 2011, L’Oréal opened the Episkin Predictive Evaluation Centre in Lyon, France, to create human-like skin to curb animal testing of products. 2014 saw the establishment of Shanghai EpiSkin Biotechnology Ltd. by the L’Oréal Group, which was granted the right to operate in China’s “Human skin reconstruction model”

(Credit: L’Oreal is exploring the use of 3-D-printed skin to test products and reduce the controversial use of live animals. above, reconstructed human epidermis at the Lyon EpiSkin facility.)

In 2019, Estée Lauder Cos. announced that it would join forces with the animal protection organisation Human Society International (HSI) to support the #BeCrueltyFree initiative. It stated that it would continue to test the safety of cosmetics using scientific tests that can replace animal testing and support the development of alternative testing methods.

In general, the ban on animal testing has become an important issue for the global cosmetics industry. A growing number of countries and regions have taken action to ban animal testing, including Canada and the EU, while China is also moving forward with regulations. In addition, more and more beauty brands are adopting alternative methods in order to reduce their reliance on animals and promote a sustainable cosmetic industry.




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