Is Korean Beauty cruelty free?
For decades, the beauty and cosmetics industry has been rightly criticised and condemned for its treatment towards animals. With the fabulous rise of ethical shopping in generations Y & Z, the single most frequent question we get asked at Beauty & Seoul is whether the products and brands we sell are free from animal testing and furthermore, what is South Korea’s stance on animal testing?
Firstly and most importantly, it is an EU requirement that all products sold in Europe have not been tested on animals. So you can be rest assured that not a single product we sell, or have ever sold at Beauty & Seoul has succumbed to animal testing. Furthermore, I was delighted when back in 2016, the South Korean government implemented a law whereby all cosmetics must be cruelty free by the end of 2018! So that’s it right, blog over? Unfortunately not, things are about to get a little unclear right about now.
With its high demand for luxury products and very close geography, the Chinese market is extremely lucrative and a big draw for South Korean brands. The unfortunate conflict is that in order for a cosmetic product to be sold in China, animal testing is mandatory. It is therefore impossible to be fully regarded as cruelty free and sell your products in both China and Europe so Korean brands are forced into some tough choices.
Some of the larger brands can create two separate formulations of the same product – a Chinese version which has been tested on animals and a Korean version which has not. This is a permissible way in which a product can be legally sold in both China and Europe. However, at a brand level, it can never carry itself as truly cruelty free. It is quite difficult to get confirmed details on who does and doesn’t sell in China as many of the brands who do will not be forthcoming about it but there is evidence that Missha, Tony Moly, Clio, Son & Park and Dr.Jart all fall into this bracket. Pyunkang Yul are in the process of registering products on the Chinese FDA so they will be selling in China shortly
Thankfully there are some loopholes (there’s always loopholes)! Hong Kong and Macau, whilst still being governed by China, do not carry the same law which insists that all skincare products must be tested on animals. Therefore, by launching your products into the Hong Kong market and then using mail order / online channels for distribution further into mainland China, many Korean firms have found a loophole into the Chinese regulation without having to compromise their cruelty free status. At the time of writing (Jul 28, 2018), we have confirmation that the following brands use this tactic to avoid animal testing; Cosrx, Mizon, Whamisa, Thank You Farmer, iUnik, Heimish and Helloskin.
Finally, and most admirably, some brands forego the Chinese market completely, and often these are the brands which have been certified by official cruelty-free bodies. Klairs and Benton are all certified with various cruelty free organisations and do not sell in China. These are the brands that you can 100% guarantee have never tested on animals.
"So if some of your brands are certified as cruelty-free, are they the only ones which are cruelty free?" Some of the brands we carry have managed to get their products certified by KARA or have the leaping bunny certification. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest are not. Certification can be a long and expensive process and might not be a priority. Also, bear in mind that a lot of the brands we sell are relative newcomers and their effort and resource are currently best placed in marketing, product development and better distribution.
I hope this blog helps give you the information you need to make an informed decision. South Korean skincare is on a journey to be completely cruelty free, the vast majority of brands already are following the principles but lacking the official certifications. I would expect that in the coming years we are likely to see a lot more certifications being awarded to South Korean brands and proudly displayed for complete transparency.
Son & Park have confirmed that they do sell in China
iUnik have confirmed that they do not sell in China
Heimish have confirmed that they do not sell in China
Pyunkang Yul have confirmed that they have had some products approved on the Chinese FDA so will start to sell in China
The company who owns J.One have confirmed that they do not sell any products currently on the Chinese market. However, there seems to be a grey area in that there are some J.One products registered on the Chinese FDA but the company themselves do not know whether they ever came from J.One or whether they are duplicates created by a total different, unaffiliated Chinese company. There are no conversations or data passed between the company that owns J.One and this Chinese company.
*The following brands all strongly claim to be cruelty free (Neogen allegedly is certified) but we are awaiting confirmation.
Touch in Sol