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Being a Cruelty Free Blogger & Brands Selling in China

Many Beauty Brands Are Selling In China

Being a Cruelty Free Blogger & Brands Selling in China

I have been cruelty-free on my blog for over a year now. I was compelled to go cruelty-free after MAC broke my heart by testing and selling in China. I find being a cruelty-free blogger challenging in that many brand representatives are well-meaning but misinformed because they will tell me their brand is cruelty-free and not selling in China, but I will find out later that they are selling in China. I put time and effort in to email brands, and in some cases I call (I called Sephora to find out that the Sephora brand itself is no longer cruelty free, but some of the lines like Kat Von D, Tarina Tarantino, and Disney Sephora lines are cruelty-free), to verify that they are cruelty-free. I try my best to only cover cruelty-free brands, but like what happened with me recently with Laura Mercier, brand representatives tell me they’re cruelty-free, and then I later find out that they’re not. It upsets me when this happens.

My definition of cruelty-free is if a company is not selling in China and not testing on animals. I choose to support brands such as NARS, Urban Decay, and the Body Shop, who are cruelty-free and not selling in China, though their parent companies (Shiseido and L’Oreal respectively), are not cruelty-free. I regularly refer to Leaping Bunny, Paula’s Choice, PETA, NAVS, My Beauty Bunny and Logical Harmony to research brands to find out if they are cruelty-free. For many indie companies, who are often small teams of men and women, if they say they are cruelty-free and/or vegan, such as BFTE, Sugarpill, Fyrinnae, Silk Naturals and Darling Girl, I take them at their word. If you are looking for new brands, you can see my list of the Best Cruelty-Free Beauty Brands that Ship Internationally, though this is not a comprehensive list.

Be aware, that sometimes PETA will list a brand as cruelty-free when they’re  not. I still have no idea why they’re listing Smashbox as cruelty-free when ALL Estee Lauder brands (which include MAC, Smashbox, Bobbi Brown, Prescriptives, La Mer, Jo Malone, Tom Ford, Clinique, Origins, Ojon, Flirt!, Aveda, Bumble & Bumble, etc) are testing on animals and selling in China.

There are more brands that appear to be selling in China, through places like the SkinStore China and Sephora China. If the company’s site claims they do not test on animals but the brand has a website in China or is sold by a cosmetics site selling to citizens of mainland China, they may be testing on animals. The brand may not be aware of it though, and it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds.

The Chinese government requires animal testing on all imported cosmetics, but sometimes a brand can get around this (more on this below). So, a brand that retails in China (whether online or in an actual store) must agree to this testing even though the brand may not test on animals themselves or endorse this practice in any other country. The only exception to this is if a brand is exclusively selling in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is completely exempt from animal testing so if a brand is located in Hong Kong they may not be selling in China or conducting animal testing. As an example, when the law changed in China, Paula’s Choice moved their offices from mainland China to Hong Kong.

Tashina, Jen and I did some digging. Tashina and Humane Society International found out this information for you:

“Generally speaking if a cruelty-free company sells its cosmetics via an online retailer and that retailer ships the products to China, there would be no testing as officially the products would not be registered in China. However, if the online retailer’s website is registered in China – such as Tmall – that might be different because that requires the company to be registered in China and could then mean that animal testing will be involved. It all depends on how the online company goes about getting the products in to China. If they come in via road, I am told that most products now come in under distributors import licenses so a separate company license is not required – they tend to ship in everything under this one license. If air freight then it’s more likely to require being registered and therefore tested.

If a company doesn’t want its products to be sent to China, it can request that when it signs up with the online retailer. If the company isn’t aware of the animal test regs and therefore doesn’t ask for its products not to be sold in China, it wouldn’t necessarily be told if animal testing was requested because it would depend on how the request was made. Sometimes, all that is requested is that samples of products are made available for the relevant government agency to conduct the animal testing so that request may be made of the online retailer without the company’s knowledge, or that request could be made of the company but no mention of animal testing.”

You can visit the Skin Store China directly to see brands that are being sold in China via this link. You can visit Sephora China directly to see brands that are being sold in China via this link. You’ll note if you visit either link that Urban Decay, Too Faced, TheBalm and Stila are NOT on the list. You will also see that Amazing Cosmetics, Benefit, Make Up For Ever, and Sephora are on the list. Some brands recently became aware that they were being sold at the Skin Store without their permission and have since had their products pulled.

At the end of the day what I want from brands is transparency. It seems hard to get that transparency, whether you’re a brand or a consumer. If brands unwittingly have their products sold in China, it’s a problem. If consumers are misinformed by brand representatives that the items they’re purchasing are cruelty-free when they’re not, it’s a problem.

Sell in China or not, but please be honest about it. Of course I would prefer if no one sold in China until the law changed and animal testing was not required, but I realize that many companies won’t stop selling in China. I’d really be happy if animal testing was outlawed for cosmetics. After the EU Ban on Animal Testing, and India’s Ban on Animal Testing, and new testing methods such as the skin sensitization test being developed, I keep hoping more countries, including the USA, will follow suit and ban animal testing.

More Cruelty Free Posts

What are your thoughts on brands being sold at Sephora China and the Skin Store China? How do you feel when you ask a brand rep if a brand is cruelty-free and later find out that they’re not?

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  • Phyrra Replying to myself to quickly clarify that I found out Korres is not owned by J&J. Rather, it appears that J&J owns the rights or license (not sure exactly how it works) to sell Korres here in the US. Just wanted to make sure the right info is out there!

  • Phyrra Sarsie I totally agree. I prefer honesty and transparency, and like to be treated as an intelligent consumer who can weigh the facts on my own and make my own decisions.
    Good point about Korres being on the Skin Store. I will go ahead and email them just in case, but I generally try to not buy from companies with parent companies that do test. I know that you (& many others) have a different perspective on this, a perspective which I definitely think has its merits, but it’s a preference I have (and it makes even buying from Sephora problematic for me at times, plus they sell in China, argh where does it end?!?!). So, even if it turns out that they were being sold in China without their knowledge, I would possibly still not buy from them. But that’s a different topic than that of your wonderful post!
    Again, thanks so much for helping us all stay on top of this issue, because the companies certainly don’t make it easy! 🙂

  • Sarsie Contact Korres and ask them if they know they’re being sold on the Skin Store. The Skin Store China was selling several brands without their permission and they had to get themselves removed from the Skin Store China. Maybe korres falls under that category.

    It’s so frustrating, because I just want a straight answer. I don’t vilify those companies that do test, i just don’t want to spend my money with them. I do write letters and send emails asking for companies to reconsider their policy on animal testing.I just feel like they should be honest.

  • I, too, wish companies were more transparent. If they give us all the facts, then we can make appropriate decisions. For many people, knowing whether a company tests on animals or sells in China will not really change their purchasing decisions. But for those of us who would like to know, it is critical information. You know that I’ve had problems with Fresh trying to ascertain their status. So far, I have emailed them three times and called twice, and no one has ever responded. For me at this point, even if they got back to me and said they did not test on animals, I would not buy from them, because I feel like their lack of responsiveness does not reflect well on how they view customers. I would much prefer to buy from a company that is transparent and responsive.
    Thank you so much for this post — I especially appreciate the links to Sephora China and Skin Store China. I was crushed to see that Korres was on the list. I just discovered a primer from them that really works well with my sensitive skin. When I went to their site to investigate, I found that they are owned by Johnson & Johnson, so now I have two reasons not to use them. Sadness!

    • Fresh is owned by the company that pwns Dior and Dior tests. This means money spent on Fresh lines the pockets of the parent.

    • Don’t know if you will see this or not but Fresh says thay are cruelty free but test on animals when required by law. I want be using the free skincare samples I got from Sephora for my birthday.?

  • Lubyanka I think what you’re looking for is cosmetics that are also labeled “vegan”. These cosmetics should not have ingredients like carmine and beeswax in them, and their glycerin should be vegetable-derived, just as a few examples. There are actually a number of ingredients besides carmine that are animal-derived. Some companies don’t really understand what “vegan” means (or they are trying to muddy the waters on purpose), so they will label things as vegan that really are not. It’s a bummer. I’m not vegetarian either, but I try to make ethical and informed choices for everything I buy, use, and consume, so I prefer to use cosmetics that are vegan if possible.
    I don’t know if this rambling response has helped you at all, but I guess my short answer would be that you are doing the right thing by educating yourself, and that you should not just take companies at their word, but figure out resources that you trust and learn about ingredients so that you can spot them on ingredient lists. It’s more work for sure, but I don’t want to relinquish my power as a consumer to put my money where it best aligns with my values.

  • It really pisses me off when they are not 100% transparent. I seriously think as consumers we need to demand more from companies. I’m still trying to find out if Nfu-Oh tests on animals. I’ve looked all over the web and have emailed them. I’m still waiting to hear back from them.

    • Kell’s DIY Nails , me too, I’d like lots more transparency.
       But even if a company wanted to be transparent in good faith (unlikely, I know), the whole system is loaded against it.  I mean, how does coining a loaded, inflammatory, emotive, vague and posturing term like ‘Cruelty Free’ at all help transparency?  Cos honestly what company is going to say straight out that they support cruelty?  And even if they did, who would that help?
      I think if a term is adopted and used frequently which is both emotive and non specific, for me that’s a clue that the primary objective for the term is something other than transparency.  I find that accurate, bounded, neutral, and non judgemental terms and language use helps transparency along bucketloads more.  Which I like.  🙂

  • They were misinformed. If they ever say to you ‘we don’t test on animals, except when required by law’ this means that they’re most likely testing somewhere, probably china, Lisa.

  • Thank you so much for the info. A rep from L’Oreal/Kiehl’s told me via chat “no we don’t test on animals.”

  • Hopefully you’ll like, I put in links for people so that they could search Sephora China and Skin Store China, which helps.

  • I struggle with the idea of ‘cruelty free’ in association with carmine use as a colour ingredient.  The colour itself doesn’t involve testing on animals per se, however carmine production does by definition involve large scale killing of insects, whose bodies secrete the compounds used in carmine dyes.  Some source info:
    I’m not vegan nor even vegetarian, but I do have ethical problems with killing lots of creatures just so I can wear particular shades of cosmetics.  I’d feel a lot better about it if the insects were farmed and the compounds humanely milked from them in some way throughout their natural lives, like cows or something.  I’ve noticed that most of the companies identifying as ‘cruelty free’ also carry/make/brand products with carmine in them, which to me seems weird.  I mean, undertaking to reject animal testing, ok, but at the same time implicitly embracing products manufactured by *killing* animals?  Or do insects not qualify as animals?  
    I just don’t know how to work out the difference between companies who pay lip service to respecting other creatures to manipulate me into supporting them, and those whose words and actions are actually congruent, y’know?  Can any of you help unconfuddle me on this?

  • Good post. I don’t understand why in China they *require* animal testing. To me, that is baffling and inhumane. I understand the necessity of animal testing for medicines that are used to save lives, but for cosmetics it is unjustifiable. If a company was able to produce a product that is safe by all the strictest standards of other countries, why on earth should they *have* to test on animals to sell in China? To me, that seems like the definition of cruel, testing when it’s unnecessary. Like you, I wish companies would take a stand against this, but working for a corporation myself, I understand that the $$$ drives everything…

    • cmalmat It’s only been required in China for the past year or two. I speculate that the reason why is to have an economic impact on countries that want to import products.

  • thank you for this article. i agree 100%: companies need to own it.  if they are going to sell in China and therefore allow their products to be tested on animals, they should admit it and own it.  horrible.
    we’re working very hard to become a “cruelty free” house but it’s not easy. i am grateful there are bloggers like you, Jen and Tashina i can trust to give honest reviews of cruelty free products. thank you!

    • JessicaLarsonBailey You’re welcome! I know I hate it when I’m duped by a brand representative. I wish they were forced to be transparent.

  • I actually contacted PETA about why smashbox was still on the cruelty-free list. They responded that though Estee Lauder is selling in China Smashbox itself as a brand is not. It’s not listed on the Sephora China site either, just thought I’d mention it as I had the same concern.

  • Phyrra, this article you wrote is badass. I had many random questions and this pretty much answered them all. Thank you!! Love your blog!!

  • I also wish companies would quit making their cosmetics in China… the working conditions at the factories there are horrible.

      • Phyrra tikibwana I know– the garment industries, textiles, sneakers… you name it. Small children working in these factories, locked in, for horrible wages. I won’t buy any cosmetics made in China.

  • Phyrra, thank you so much for this detailed post.  I figured I was doing OK if I saw a bunny on the label.  I did not know about the issue of a brand selling to China.  I will be following this subject carefully.

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