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End of Mandatory Animal Testing on Imported Cosmetics in China

Testing skincare and cosmetic products on animals has always been a highly controversial topic, especially since the European Centre for Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) was established in 1991. Its goal was to reduce, refine, and replace the number of animals used in cosmetic research, more commonly referred to as the 3 Rs. Ever since, over 40 countries around the world have either completely phased out or banned animal testing, starting with the United Kingdom in 1998.

With the introduction of the European ban on the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in March 2013, swiftly followed by legislation in the USA and Australia, pressure has mounted on China to follow suit. Over the last five years, close cooperation between a number of organisations has advanced the process of eliminating animal-testing on imported cosmetic products. These include:

  • PETA
  • Cruelty-Free International
  • NGOs
  • Leaping Bunny programmes
  • In-vitro testing laboratories
  • Cruelty-free cosmetic companies
  • Chinese authorities

While animal testing on domestic beauty products has been slowly phased out, the real issue facing global cosmetic companies is that imported products have been forced to undergo animal testing on arrival into China.

Breakthrough in regulations for 2021

As of January 1st this year, China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) implemented the final version of the Regulations on the Supervision and Administration of Cosmetics. Progressing the agenda for exemption of animal testing in general use cosmetics exported to China, under certain conditions.

France was the first European country to qualify for this exemption and could apply for the Good Manufacturing Practices certificate to prove production sites complied with China’s safety requirements. Each certificate, combined with product safety assessments qualified French cosmetic companies for the animal-testing exemption.

Further to this breakthrough, is the announcement that as of May 2021, all European countries can apply for the animal testing exemption, as long as certain requirements are fulfilled:

  • Relevant certifications of Quality Management Systems issued by the local government of the country are produced
  • Sufficient safety and risk assessment materials confirming product safety are provided
  • Products are not aimed at children or infants;
  • Products have no new raw materials that are excluded from the approved raw materials list
  • The applicant, the responsible person in China, and the production entity have not been listed as key supervision participants.

How are product safety tests and risk assessments now performed?

New approaches to animal testing must now be incorporated into China’s national regulatory system. Accelerating technology development and in-vitro testing methods are paving the way forward, and there are now nine alternative methods being used to prove the efficacy and safety of both domestic and imported cosmetic products.

Where does Labskin fit in?

Labskin is at the forefront of this technology as a viable alternative to animal testing. Its lab-grown in-vitro human skin model produces collagen de novo useful for testing anti-ageing products. Furthermore, the improved barrier function of this model allows colonization with skin microbiota to study the impact of cosmetic and skincare product ingredients have on the skin’s microbiome. As the most physiologically comparable alternative to natural human skin, it offers the highest percentage of accuracy and efficacy to cosmetic manufacturers. Each model can be adapted to mimic different types of skin bacteria and microflora, so manufacturers can test each ingredient to prove the effectiveness and resulting medical claims made.

In collaboration with the University of Bradford, Labskin is developing a model containing melanocytes to make each skin model more relevant to Asian markets. Using cells from donors with different ethnic backgrounds allows for a wider variety of tests to be performed on skin with different levels of pigmentation.

Labskin’s foothold into the fast-growing Chinese skincare and cosmetics market

In January 2020, Labskin signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with InnoCare Group, a Chinese technological innovation company. An innovative and cooperative alliance that was established to provide Chinese research institutes and commercial enterprises with routes to regulatory compliance in animal testing, using Labskin and LabskinAI platforms.

This mutually beneficial relationship has allowed faster commercialisation of InnoCare’s technologies in both China and Europe and escalates Labskin’s foothold into the fast-growing Chinese cosmetic and skincare markets.

Where do we go from here?

Though China has come a long way in the bid to eradicate animal testing on cosmetic products, there is still some way to go. Labskin is in an excellent position to become a key part of the new regulatory environment emerging in the Chinese cosmetic market and will continue to deliver cruelty-free product testing to countries and cosmetic brands across the world.

To talk to a Labskin representative about our services, please contact us here.