If you ever wondered why Aesop, purveyor of the most iconic plant-based beauty products, has many stores in Hong Kong yet none in China, it is because it doesn’t test its products on animals.
China has to date required all perfume, skin, hair – the entire spectrum of beauty products from shampoo to moisturizer – to be tested on animals. But this is now coming to an end.
Last year China’s National Medical Product Administration began implementing regulations allowing brands to enter the Chinese market without having to resort to animal testing.
PETA provided initial funding to train Chinese scientists
Approved by the Chinese government, the motion would see major progress thanks to the groundbreaking work of expert scientists and regulatory specialists at the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS), with whom PETA, the world’s largest animal rights organization, provided initial funding to train Chinese scientists and inform government officials about modern, non-animal methods.
Of course any topological product used by mankind must be tested before it hits store shelves to ensure their safety. According to Vogue those tests were carried out on animals. “To test a cosmetic or moisturiser for skin irritation, for example, a rabbit or guinea pig would have its back shaved, and then be injected with the product. Occasionally the animals would have material injected into their eyes. Scientists would then observe how the animal’s skin responded – was it just red? Or were there blisters? Thankfully, significant breakthroughs were made in the 1990s with the growth of human tissue in petri dishes circumnavigating the need for animals. These processes were banned in the UK in 1998 and in the EU in 2013.”
In 2012, PETA exposed the fact that some formerly cruelty-free companies had quietly started paying the Chinese government to test their products on animals in order to sell them in that country. At the time, animal tests were required for any cosmetics sold in China. PETA immediately contacted the leading experts in the field of non-animal test methods at IIVS and supplied them with the initial grant to launch their work in China.
Following that stunning exposé and the on-the-ground work by IIVS and some corporations, the Chinese government began accepting the results of non-animal test methods for non-special use cosmetics manufactured in China.
While the pandemic may have set back any changes to regulations, it is back at the top of the agenda and soon a 51.3 billion pound market could open to international cosmetics and skincare brands.
Image via Aesop