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An Ugly Dilemma for Beauty Companies

Animal tests, required for makeup sold in China, breach a Europe ban
An Ugly Dilemma for Beauty Companies
Photograph by Grant Heilman/Alamy

Executives of Western cosmetics makers are ecstatic about the prospect of continued growth in China’s $32 billion beauty market. Animal rights activists, not so much. That’s because hundreds of thousands of animals are believed killed each year in tests mandated for all new cosmetics and personal-care products to win approval on the mainland.

China is the only major market where companies must test their mascaras and lotions on animals. Rabbits, for instance, have ingredients dripped into their eyes or are killed after skin irritation tests, according to animal-rights group Cruelty Free International. That’s created a dilemma for companies like L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble that want to sell in the giant market without alienating consumers in countries where public sentiment frowns on such animal treatment. U.S. regulators discourage, but don’t bar, animal tests. India in June banned animal testing for beauty products. And the European Union, which has long barred such trials within its borders, in March tightened regulations to also prohibit the sale of newly developed products tested on animals elsewhere. (Existing products that previously underwent testing in China are exempt.) Unless companies can get Chinese regulators to ease their mandate, they may need to devise separate formulations for China and Europe or produce China-only items.