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Urban Decay & China Press Release

This is the press release from Urban Decay‘s website.

Urban Decay is going to sell our products in China. Because of China’s policies on animal testing, we know that this will not be a popular decision with some of our loyal customers. But the decision is a thoughtful one.

For 16 years, we have been committed to two key causes: women’s rights, and the fight against animal testing. Our dedication to those causes will not waver.

For those of you unfamiliar with China’s policies, the sticking point is this: the Chinese government reserves the right to conduct animal testing with cosmetic products before the products are approved for use by Chinese citizens. The government has not told us if they have exercised this right with our products. So, our brand does not test on animals, but the Chinese government might conduct a one-time test using our products. Do we like China’s policies? No…and that is really the point. Going into China was a huge decision for Urban Decay. But, we believe that change cannot and will not happen by outside pressure alone in a closed market. Change can only happen from within. When we enter the Chinese market, we will do our part to help make those changes.

When we were considering expanding into China, a group of marketing consultants told us to remove the section of our company history that describes our crusade against animal testing. “It doesn’t mean anything to the Chinese beauty customer,” they said. Of course, we refused. Our “no animal testing” policy is part of who we are, and has been since day one. The news that animal issues don’t even register with the average Chinese consumer was one of the biggest factors in our decision to go there. During Urban Decay’s infancy, we worked hard to inform consumers about animal rights in the United States and Europe. The battleground for animal rights is now in China, and we want to be there to encourage dialogue and provoke change.

We also hope to shed some light on women’s rights issues in China. As a company that caters to a female customer, this is extremely important to us. For one thing, going into China is a way for us to advance women into important professional positions. We will help grow the cosmetics industry, which primarily employs and creates career paths for women. Although workers’ employment rights are a relatively new concept there, progress has been made partially because of pressure from businesses, consumers, and advocacy groups from other countries. Based on this, our belief is that both an outside force and inside pressure for change can result in helping transform both the importance of women and animal testing policies in China. And more importantly, we hope to influence the perspective of the citizens on both of these issues.

If we don’t go to China, other companies without our beliefs will, and the culture will never change. We want to encourage a culture of consumers who care enough to buy cruelty-free products, and who view professional women as role models who influence their lives on a daily basis.

Yes, we are a for-profit company. And yes, we would eventually like to make money in China. But we don’t stand to turn a profit in China for quite a while, partially because the market isn’t quite ready to sustain an untraditional brand like ours. If it were only about the money, we would wait a few years. But our foray into this market is also about participating in an amazing time of change in China. We don’t like animal testing (and neither do the 13 dogs in our office), but we are trying to change the world… even if it is one eye shadow at a time! Sitting on the sidelines isn’t our style. We understand that you might not like our decision, but we hope you can respect it.

Any editors or advocacy groups interested in interviews with Urban Decay founding partner Wende Zomnir may contact us at

For any advocates or Urban Decay fans interested, Urban Decay founding partner Wende Zomnir will host a live chat in 2 weeks to answer questions about our entry into China. Please check back to this page for a confirmed day and time.

As you know, I’ve become quite fond of Urban Decay. So I really want to believe UD when they say that they are doing this for women’s rights and animal rights, because they truly do have a track record to support that statement. I even think that with as different as China can be compared to the USA, they’re probably right that change will have to come from within, rather than people in other countries trying to preach their beliefs to China from outside without having a cultural understanding.

But a big part of me is afraid that all mainstream companies will be doing this, or already are doing this and that pretty soon the only companies left that will be safe to buy from are Indie companies (such as BftE, Fyrinnae, Makeup Geek, Sugarpill, Evil Shades, Morgana Cryptoria, Cult Nails, Kiss My Sass, Dorian & Dahl, etc).

I’ve purchased a lot of products from Urban Decay. I love their quality, and I especially love their new formula. I will be watching this situation closely.

I really applaud Urban Decay for being open about this, as opposed to the way certain other big mainstream companies hid it.

China is very different culturally from the USA. You can’t go in there armed with the same FAQs and campaigns that you can in the USA and expect them to work. You need a Cultural Anthropologist or an Expert who understands their culture to find the best way to work with them. It really needs cultural relativism. China’s beliefs and values are very different from our own. (and there is my little nod to my Anthropology degree).

What do you think of Urban Decay’s press statement?

Edit: Christine from Temptalia did a Q & A with UD. You may find the answers informative.

Edit: Please read my follow up post at My Beauty Bunny. I am extremely disappointed in UD at this point and I feel stupid for having even considered that what they said may be true. The current evidence from the Q & A shows that UD does not have an understanding of Chinese culture or what it will take to influence the Chinese government. The fact that they removed this original press release is awful.

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  • I think their PR department found a very customer-conscious way to explain why they are going into China that will do the max amount of damage control possible. However, to say they are going to China for women’s rights is pretty silly. They are going into China because there are 1.3 billion people, 48% of whom are women. That is a new brand market of 624 million potential customers, not counting the men who may dig makeup. They can wrap it up in altruism if they wish but at the end of the day they are a company who is in it to win it looking at a huge market currently largely untouched with their product.

  • I’m very dissapointed in UD. Though I like that they at least provided a statement, the statement seems to me, after reading it twice, to be full of contradictions. For example: How can they bring change from within by promoting cruelty free products when their products won’t be cruelty free anymore?

    There are so many countries where UD isn’t available yet, Belgium (my country, yes small, but still a possible market), Japan, Australia, New Zealand, … So why China? The only answer is: money. It is understandable that a company like UD needs to make money. But it just doesn’t sit right with me that to increase revenue they are basically selling out and giving up the foundations and ethics of their brand.

    If they continue with this business plan I will not buy any more of their products until there is proof that they are actively taking steps to change consumer views and the legislation in China. Words are easy, I’m waiting to see the actions.

  • I totally agree with Mandy and I’m quite shocked at the kudos given to UD for being transparent. Don’t you think they didn’t watch the MAC outcry and plan this so as to be “forgiven” for the about face they are doing on animal testing? Please everyone, open your eyes. It makes me believe that UD was all along about attracting customers with the “anti-animal testing” marketing strategy than REALLY believing that the practice is atrocious and immoral.

    Someone on the Temptalia blog summed it up perfectly: “I don’t punch my kids in the face, but my babysitter does, and hopefully if she sees I don’t, she won’t.” That is simply delirious. UD has watched Estee Lauder, Avon, Mary Kay and others leave behind their decades of being cruelty-free to pursue the millions of dollars available in China. Of all companies, I never suspected that UD would follow suit. Why then did they? Because in the end, they never were really committed to the cause. They offered no efforts that they are engaged in to make a difference with the Chinese. They admit they have no idea if the products are being tested. They even go so far as to say that their products won’t really be received well in the beginning. So why not go into markets that don’t require animal testing, sending a message to the Chinese government that we don’t do that?

    This is about a down economy where their sales probably have ridden on the success of the Naked palettes and a few other products. So many companies, like The Body Shop and Bare Escentuals sold their souls to the devil (L’Oreal and Shiseido, respectively) and hence abandoned their cruelty-free morality. This is no different. And being transparent is simply part of the plan to fool you into believing it’s anything else.

    I was part of the 1970’s campaign to convince companies to stop using animals in testing of cosmetics. It was a hard battle and one company at a time stopped the practice. This is LOST ground that will take time again to regain. UD will not change the Chinese government. It takes committed consumers again to speak out loud with their wallets and spend their money with companies who practice what they preach.

    As I’ve posted before, on the back of my UD Vegan palette, it states “We don’t do animal testing. How could anyone do that?” I guess they should amend that now to “We don’t do animal testing. We let the Chinese do it.”

    • I love your comment. And thank you for fighting the good fight in the 1970s so that we could have the option to purchase C-F products today!

  • I wanted to wait and let the news sink in overnight before I posted my feelings about UD’s decision and pres release. I’m still kind of digesting it, to be honest, but I will no longer buy their products. That much I do know, and the decision is an easy albeit sad one for me — many of their products are HGs for me, but I am looking forward to finding new, even better, replacements.

    While I agree with you that they did go about this change in policy in a much more forthright way than MAC and other companies did, that fact doesn’t change what their decision actually is. And, to be honest, they are not as forthright as it seems: the announcement is not on their home page, nor in the “press” section, nor in the customer service section, nor in the “about us” section. If one did not subscribe to their FB page or otherwise have access to a site that posted the direct link, you would be completely unaware of the decision. I would bet that in the last 24 hours, many people have proudly purchased UD products who would not have done so if they knew. That really really bothers me. And secondly, I don’t find the press release well-written at all. It’s a lot of whitewashing (also, since when are women’s rights on equal status in their company values as being cruelty-free? this was the first I’d heard of it…), and I found their statements about effecting change in China to be really arrogant and presumptuous. Imagine a company making similar statements upon their entrance into the US market — many of us would be thinking, “excuse me???”

    I think UD’s decision in some ways is *much* worse than MAC’s, precisely because they so vocally advertised the fact that they were C-F and had so many vegan products. I completely understand that they are a business, and businesses act in their self-interest. It’s not their job to make us happy or to do the morally right thing, really, though it’s always lovely when they do and makes me want to go out of my way to support them. So, I can’t fault UD for their decision to maximize their profits, it just means that I won’t buy their products. I really really loved them, but I’m happy to find other products that I will love even more.

    • Such good points, Sarsie. I totally agree the statement was poorly written and well-hidden. I would bet if you walked into Sephora this morning, 9/10 artists would have no clue this had happened. So how is the public supposed to know?

      • Thanks, Suselew! I really don’t know the answer to your question. As inconceivable as it may be to us :), I would bet that the majority of people who purchase cosmetics do not read makeup blogs and thus have no idea when situations such as this arise.

        It will probably also take a while for new packaging to filter down to the stores (assuming they will be taking the Leaping Bunny logo off if it was ever on their packaging), so I’m not sure that consumers would notice anything different even based on the packaging.

        Also, kind of unrelated, I find it interesting (and telling) that the waited to make this announcement until *after* their widely-hyped release of the new eyeshadow formulation and build-your-own-palettes.

    • I forgot to say an important point: I wish that UD had been even *more* forthright in their statement. It was insulting to me that they couldn’t just say, “Look, we’re a business, and we hope to increase our profits by expanding into China. Doing so means we will indirectly be supporting animal testing by the Chinese government. We apologize to our customers who will be bothered by this.”

      Of course, their PR department would never allow this to be said, but I would have respected them even more for being completely honest and giving us the information straight up. All of the talk about women’s rights and change from inside is just smoke and mirrors to me.

    • This! So VERY much this! And let me also add, after mulling this over for a night — they’re being awfully condescending to their US customers as well. Essentially, they’re approaching this actually thinking that hey, as long as we make it sound like we’re FIGHTING FOR A GOOD CAUSE, it’ll pass with the US customers.

      I know that, if someone thought that of me, I’d find it awfully insulting to put it lightly.

      I’m simply shocked that their PR thought people would buy this pile of nothing BUT insults.

      • Sarsie, you put my own feelings into words! Perfect explanation, brava. I also am not going to buy any Urban Decay products until they are once-again cruelty free. And if we are to believe anything they say, that day will come.

  • Of course a big part of this is about money, but I put that more on the company that owns UD (Castanea Partners, a private equity firm) than UD it’s self.

    I am glad that they’re being up front about this whole thing and I do think that I get where they’re coming from. A foreign company that creates cosmetics (something that is probably not regarded as important as a company that makes something like electronics), & edgy cosmetics at that, is not going to be able to change the minds of China’s members of government. They’d all just be all, “whatever… it’s just weird makeup.. it’snot something very important”. However, if UD can make an impression with consumers in China with their products and then with their beliefs about animal testing, then the people of China themselves will hopefully start to take actions to make animal testing not required anymore. At least that’s what I hope will happen. We’ll just have to wait a see for a bit, because it’s not something that will happen over night. If at a certain time UD realizes that what they’re hoping for isn’t going to happen, I think they might decide that China just isn’t the right market for them after all stop selling there.

  • As someone who has studied China, I think that this kind of insight into the market they are entering and the impetus to mobilize social change in China is rare from a Western company. Their approach, while perhaps profit-driven, is multi-faceted. If they were pioneers for change in our market, as well as the European market, certainly this experience has something to offer Chinese consumers. China’s rise has been fast and furious in the last 50 years. During the Cultural Revolution, the use of cosmetics was considered “anti-revolutionary”. Perhaps the Red Guards were on to something, because it seems eyeshadow has an opportunity to spark a change in consumer tastes! Clearly not the revolution once intended.

  • Okay, so I am glad they were straight-froward (kind of) and admitted to animal testing (sort of). They weren’t as clear as they should have been. There was a lot of fancy footwork being done to glaze over the actual issue at hand.

    But basically, I don’t respect Urban Decay’s decision. I posted the following on another blog post regarding this so every point I stated there I would make here as well:

    It’s a lot of fancy PR-speak trying to make themselves look like white knights embarking on a glorious cause in China. But what it really is, when you take off the sugar-coating, is Urban Decay has decided that the profit-potential in a market as large as China was too tempting to give up, so they compromised their morals for money. You can not say you feel strongly about preventing cruelty against animals, and THEN SELL IN COUNTRY THAT REQUIRES TESTING ON ANIMALS.

    Okay, Urban Decay, so you expand your market and now can make more money… but you give up one of the pillars that you an admirable company. You alienate a large portion of your customers who purchased from you because you were cruelty-free. You lose any validity as a socially-conscious company in regards to humane treatment of animals.

    My respect for them has been lost. When MAC did this, I began looking for products from cruelty-free brands to replace my most loved & used ones from MAC. I have not repurchased from MAC since, and I am still looking for replacements, but since that time most of my palettes, foundations, etc., from them sit untouched because I can’t use them without my feelings attached to the brand/their policies affecting me. Needless to say, I’ll be doing the same in replacing UD as well.

  • I think UD’s statement was a lot more thoughtful than other companies’. My feeling on the issue of animal testing in China is that we Americans need to remember that China is not a democratic nation. What’s more the Chinese government disregards human rights quite often so it follows that animal rights is not a big issue there. Yet. China has changed so much in the past century and even in the past 10 to 20 years. I don’t think China is done with this period of change yet. Idk. I study Mandarin and Chinese culture so I just feel that we need to be sure to direct our anger at animal testing and the policies of China’s authoritarian government rather than at Chinese people or companies who want to sell to them. That’s one reason I keep up with your posts about animal testing because you treat the issue with sensitivity.

  • Whatever their motives might be, the bottom line is that they are now responsible for animals being tortured and killed for cosmetics that we already know are safe. That’s just not acceptable to me. FYI – I have heard that China requires these tests because it creates extra jobs and income for their citizens. I doubt it has anything to do with concern for safety.

    • I wonder if the creating extra jobs / income for their citizens also ties into it being a deterrent for non-Chinese companies to sell in China. I also wonder at the legal implications for companies that currently sell there, if they decide to pull out.

  • This is a really well-written press statement. I’m skeptical that they’re going there to advance their causes (at all, not just in addition to making money), but I definitely applaud that they are being forthright and honest that it was a difficult decision, and not trying to hide that going in to China requires animal testing.

  • That’s the thing about indie companies though…most companies start out that way. When those companies get larger and larger, they will want to expand. And you have to admit, China seems like a pretty big market. If I were in business I’d probably want to tap into that too.

    • Some indie companies will never sell out. Some have refused to go into department stores when they’ve had that offered to them.

  • While I applaud UD for being up front and honest, it will not change my decision to no longer purchase from them due to this change. Actually, Phyrra, when I heard the news at first, I thought the same thing…”Well, I guess indie is the way I’ll have to go in order to be certain about my products.” Which is fine, since I love supporting indie companies.

    Like you, this didn’t hit me the same as MAC since they WERE honest. However, I must say that in some ways it hit me HARDER. If the company was founded to be a leading advocate in eliminating animal testing it makes no sense to me other than it being a commercial decision that they should change their stance now. I have to stand by my own values and therefore will no longer be an UD customer. I love the products, but not enough to contribute to this.

  • If you’re against animal testing and then contibute to MORE of it occurring, then that’s indefensible. It’s a commercial decision no more, no less. It really is that simple.

    • Someone articulated it better than I could:
      In the USA you make change happen through appealing to the people.
      In China you make change happen by showing the government how it is profitable for them.

  • Ok so I know I’m probably being obtuse but here are my first random thoughts on this:
    -At least they’re trying to change things, or have the smarts to pretend they do. And they’re being open about it, unlike so many brands… The press release bothers me if only because of the change they may not be honest.We’ll have to wait and see if they don’t take advantage of China’s legislation. Also China is taking a lot of advantage on having such economic esplendor; their inhuman rights give me the creeps but no one is moving a finger…
    -Corporations are not people, and they don’t have “emotions” as such. We’re naive to think so. But they have an image, and support good causes to improve it..UD’s image is “purple, vegan and sexy”. I hope they want to keep it because I happen to like, even if it is marketing. Especially the vegan, no testing part.
    -Thanks for posting this Phyrra, I’ve given up MAC but I don’t know what to do about this. Hopefully reading other people’s opinions will help, or make me see it from a different perspective. Right now, I’m thinking except for 2 products, I could just expend the rest of my life just using indie makeup and save myself the grief. Honestly I don’t know.

    • Marta, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.
      I like your succinct description of UD as ‘Purple, Vegan, Sexy’! It works 🙂

      I’m going to wait and see what happens.

      This didn’t hit me the way MAC did, and I think a large part of that is due to Urban Decay being honest about it.

  • I think there is no doubt that they are expanding for the money; they are in the business to make money, and UD would not be successful in any endeavour if they weren’t. That being said, they placed so much emphasis on ‘change from within’ that I think they have set the bar high for everyone’s expectations. It will be interesting to see if anything changes as a result.
    I also think it’s important to note that they are not testing the products on animals themselves. It sounds like a third party is doing the testing. While this does not excuse them entirely, I do think it is important to note that this means that there are other cosmetics companies there, who by there very existence, are cause for animal testing by Chinese standards. It does mean that it is happening whether we like it or not, and I think that there is some truth to what UD is stating: the only way to affect change is to know the system from the inside. It is at least a place to start.

  • I agree that it is AWESOME that they are so open with their customers.

    I am 100% positive that they are in this for money. How many people live in Chine? 1.5 billion? It is the most populous country in the world, so I do not believe that it would take time to make a profit like they claimed. I feel like this is very sad… I’ve seen other companies do this recently as well. But my question is, if they really want to expand their company overseas to Asia, why not do it in a different popular place like Japan or Singapore? WHY China? Since they claim to be **so against** animal testing, they would not do this. Urban Decay has recently become my favorite brand as I thought very, very highly of them. I still do. But this is SO disappointing to me. I feel like they are being sell-outs.

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a profit. Just stay classy and stick to your word.

    • Nikki, you are totally right. A LOT of people live in China and are now middle-class with disposable income that many companies want to tap into.

      I’m curious as to why they haven’t expanded into the UK, Australia, etc, places that have been clamoring for them for years.

  • I am glad they made a clear statement, they might have learned from mac’s mistake.

    I would like to know more about china’s animal testing policies. It states that the chinese government might perform a one time test on UD products, but will they actually do this? Isn’t there enough knowledge available about the safety of cosmetic ingredients? I feel like an analysis of the ingredients would be sufficient, because UD isn’t the kind of brand that focusses on new innovative ingredients.

    • I’ve always wondered WHY china is requiring testing now, when they send dangerous products to the USA.

  • I think UD did an admirable job in releasing the information and having the cofounder available for a live chat to answer questions. I’ll be interested to see how they “encourage a culture of consumers who care enough to buy cruelty-free products”, although technically, their products will no longer be cruelty-free. China isn’t exactly a free press country, although I have no idea how marketing of products is handled there.

    I saw a post at another blog that raised the interesting point of why haven’t they gone into other non-animal testing countries that have clamored for them, such as Australia? So, while a part of me would love to think they are actually trying to accomplish something good (in addition to expanding their market), time will tell.

    I get that China is not a market most companies will ignore, so I fully expect more and more to go in this direction. I also think it could be a boon for the smaller indie companies who will continue to be cruelty free and will pick up customers looking for alternatives to MAC and UD, and who often have products that are just as good at less expensive prices. I also do not think that customers boycotting UD products will have any impact on their policies – they’ve already taken their stand. To a certain extent, “mass appeal” is now influencing UD’s direction, IMO.

    • UD really wins big points from me because of their transparency and official press release. I agree, it’s great that they will have the co-founder available for a chat.

      I truly think it’s because no large company right now can afford to ignore China. With the USA economy being weak, they need to expand into a market with great buying potential.

      It’s funny, because I was starting to consider UD as a sort of independent and successful company, but really, they’re not.

      I don’t know why they haven’t expanded into countries that have been begging for them such as Australia and Romania. I know those places love their products, but I can only guess that they don’t feel it would be as financially successful, which seems crazy, especially in the case of Australia!

  • I think UD make some good points and have clearly thought long and hard about how to approach this vast new market. To me it seems like a good example of how to coherently communicate strategy and intelligently engage the beauty community.

    I have no personal experience of whether the prevailing ethos in China is truly so oblivious to the anti-cruelty philosophy, but if it is, then UD’s long-standing commitment to and continuing espousal of anti-cruelty is bound to raise the issue in at least some consumers there who may have remained unthinking on this matter without this prompt.

    One step at a time…

    • I really applaud Urban Decay for being open about this, as opposed to hiding it the way MAC did.

      China is very different culturally. You can’t go in there armed with the same FAQs and campaigns that you can in the USA and expect them to work. You need a Cultural Anthropologist who understands their culture to find the best way to work with them. It really needs cultural relativism.

      • sorry again but I wanted to make my point very simple.

        There are companies who don’t sell in China and does not give in to testing on animals, because it’s not right.

        checkout veggiebeauty on youtube or her website or leaping bunny, because it is BECAUSE OF THEM , that they released it, since leaping bunny exposed them.

        Thank you just thought you may wish to get the “facts”.

  • I really adore Urban Decay products and have long appreciated that they clearly mark their vegan-friendly products, but this is sad news. For the time being I’m going to keep a close watch on their statement to make sure that they themselves are not testing on animals. I do suppose ultimately that if China doesn’t require they perform the tests themselves, really anyone could do horrible things with makeup (like my neighbors that painted their dog’s fur with nail polish… they were kids at the time). I am, however, far more likely to seek out an indie dupe of a UD shadow rather than buying the original, now.

    • I admire UD for making a public press release rather than changing things and hoping no one would notice.

      China is really very different culturally, their values are different from American values. They need to be handled in a respectful manner to find the best way to appeal to them to make change.

      • no offense, but are you serious? Cruelty for makeup, in my heart is never okay with me, other comapneies don’t sell in China, so they don’t have to either. They make money and still are ethical.

        wet n wild

        This company is so dishonest, they already launched in Shanghai before they released this statement, they have already been doing this and very interesting to note is this “press release” has mysteriously been removed from their website, not even one day later and their animal testing stance is no where to be seen!

        Please correct me if I’m wrong.

        Please check out youtube videos everyone on this subject for your own opinion and get “the facts”

        • Please check out my follow up post at My Beauty Bunny:

          After the lack of answers from the Q&A with Temptalia, the fact that UD has NO plan is very evident.

          Add in that they REMOVED the original press statement, and I’m seriously disappointed.

          I feel they have no plan and have since changed my opinion on how they’ve handled things.

          • I know at first it was such a shock that some have a hard time believing it, thanks for having the courage to admit how you truly feel and updating it as one or two peopel on youtube I told them urban decay tests (and now NYX) and they don’t believe it.

            thankfully many people have woken up. thanks for taking the time to respond!

            great you are showing lush statement! Rock on! 🙂

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