Are Cosmetics Made in China Cruelty-Free in 2021?

by Becky

February 10, 2021

When shopping for your favorite lipstick or daily cosmetics, you never want to discover that they were tested on animals before they made it to the store shelves.

As one of the only nations in the world not to strictly prohibit the use of animal testing in products, some might question whether or not you can purchase cruelty-free products from China at all.

Despite the Chinese government passing legislation that will end their previous pre-market animal testing policies by 2021, purchasing products that are not cruelty-free is still possible. If a product is imported into China and then sold, it is highly likely it has being tested on animals.

The Chinese legislation regarding whether animal testing is required before importing, exporting, or selling a product can be confusing.

Therefore, it is prudent to discuss when animal testing is and isn’t required so consumers can more easily gauge whether or not a product is cruelty-free.

How Does Production Impact Testing?

Where products are created and where they need to be sold determines whether animal testing is required by the Chinese government.

Cosmetics are the most in-demand products subject to these laws. Below is a chart that demonstrates, according to Chinese law, when animal testing is required and when it is not.

Animal Testing Required

Products that were not made in China but are sold in China.

Special cosmetics (such as sunscreens, lotions, deodorants, hair dyes, etc.) were made in China and are sold in China. 


Much easier to manipulate and sew

More texture options

Animal Testing Not Required

Products that were not made in China but are sold in China exclusively online and therefore shipped to China via online purchase.

Products that were not made in China but will be exclusively sold in Hong Kong. Not on the mainland.

Ordinary cosmetics that are made in China but not sold in China 

Ordinary cosmetics that are made in China and sold in China (might still be subject to post-market animal testing)

You can see that the circumstances that do not require animal testing far outweigh those that do.

Unfortunately, just because the situation does not require animal testing doesn’t mean the product is cruelty-free.

Animal testing has not been legally banned in China yet, so it’s likely that if you buy a product made there – it was tested on an animal pre- or post-market. We’re going to tell you why next.

Is it possible for products sold in China to be cruelty-free? Yes, but unfortunately, it is unlikely. 

Why Does China Require Animal Testing?

Animal testing in China

Animal testing has been proven to be cruel and directly conflicts with animal rights. An estimated 20.5 million animals are killed in China through animal testing.

Although this figure also includes testing for scientific purposes, such as medical training, biology lessons, or drug creation, there is still a substantial amount of animal deaths due to cosmetic testing.

Companies will use animal testing at two central part of their product development before it’s sold: 

  • To test the product's ingredients; and
  • To test the final product as well

About 3% of animals subjected to animal testing survive, and the survivors are typically deformed or severely injured.

Public Safety

So, considering all of these horrendous statistics, why do it? The primary purpose of animal testing, according to the Chinese government, is to protect its citizens.

Most products that require animal testing before they are sold in China are imported from foreign countries and not made domestically.

To ensure these products are safe before they are sold to Chinese citizens, they must be tested on animals until there are no significant side-effects to the product.


Companies use animal testing to generate data that proves their products are safe for human use if any legal measures are taken.

Unfortunately, this is not only proven to be cruel but also ineffective. Bottom line: the Chinese government requires foreign nations to subject animals to this cruel fate unnecessarily.

Why Foreign Nations Participate

Unfortunately, because China's market is so substantial, many countries will create two lines of the same product, one that is cruelty-free and one that is animal tested, to enter the Chinese market for profit.

This significantly impacts the population of animals used and killed for animal testing. The easiest way to avoid this is for these companies to manufacture their products in China, where they will not be required to resort to animal testing. 

How Can You Tell?

Although the political climate towards animal testing in China does not bode well for those who only seek to purchase cruelty-free products, it is possible to find Chinese brands that do not resort to animal testing.

The easiest way to determine if a product is cruelty-free is if it has been certified by Leaping Bunny, PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies, or Choose Cruelty-Free (CCF).

These animal rights organizations have rigorous and strict requirements that brands must adhere to if they want to be labeled cruelty-free. Each organization has its own distinct trademark bunny logo, so if you see that little guy on the bottle of your favorite lotion, rest easy, it’s cruelty-free.

You can also determine if a Chinese product is cruelty-free by researching the company website to determine their animal testing policy or what testing alternatives they use. Where the product was created and sold will play a significant role here.

If you know that the product is from a foreign nation and sold in China, find an alternative because it may not be cruelty-free.

Because animal testing is not legally banned in China, this might be difficult to research, or the company might be unwilling to answer questions about their testing.

In these cases, it is best to search for a cruelty-free product rather than risk purchasing one that might have been animal tested. 

Will Things Change for China?

Man holding a mouse after animal testing

Despite being one of the only remaining nations to not legally ban animal testing, China has made some profound strides in the right direction in the past decade. In 2004, China made the first alterations in the legislature to only require animal testing in certain circumstances rather than a universal requirement for all products and situations.

This is the legislation that is described in detail above. These changes alone were thought to save 10,000 animals annually from animal testing. Unfortunately, this number pales to the 20.5 million animals tested on, but it is a start.

Furthermore, China released a statement saying that it will no longer mandate pre-market testing of ordinary cosmetics from foreign nations, effective from January 1, 2021.

Recently, France was given exemption on animal testing for ordinary cosmetics exports, although this has not rolled out worldwide, it indicates that China is moving in the right direction. This is a giant ray of hope for animal lovers and the millions of animals subjected to these cruel tests.

Now, foreign nations that want to enter the Chinese market will not have to test their products on animals, and, for some, this means they will no longer need to make two lines of the same product for market use. Not only will this potentially save companies money, but it will most certainly save animal lives. 

Final Thoughts

Although most products sold in China are not cruelty-free, there are still ways to purchase cruelty-free products in this country. Not only do renowned animal rights organizations verify these products as cruelty-free.But they also provide website information with lists of Chinese brands that are proven to be cruelty-free for you to read.

If you are passionately opposed to buying products that might have the faintest chance of being animal tested, then the Chinese market is not for you. We would recommend purchasing European products instead because animal testing has been illegal in the EU since 2004. 

Although China is slowly making strides towards being cruelty-free with the pressure and assistance of foreign nations and animal rights activists, it still has a substantial way to come before you can buy cruelty-free products there with peace of mind.

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