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Cosmetics and skin care products are in high demand in China, it will undoubtedly continue like that in the future.
Before you start exporting, it’s important that you understand what regulations and laws you need to comply with, to avoid time and cost some issues at the China customs.
In this article, I explain how you can export cosmetics and skin care products into China.
China’s skin care and cosmetics market
The market for beauty products have increased much the past years in China, and so it will in the future. Otherwise, I wouldn’t dedicate a complete article for the topic.
Just giving an example, the sales of cosmetics increased with a whopping 100% from 2011-2016.
Most Chinese buyers are born in the 80’s and 90’s, as they’ve been exposed to foreign culture and tend to be more brand sensitive.
You should also know that the sales potentials differ between beauty products, some have stagnated a bit and some will see great increases in the coming years.
Big potentials can definitely be seen in skin care products, makeup and children’s products.
Keep in mind that it’s getting increasingly popular for males to use cosmetic products, you don’t necessarily need to target the female customers. Products in demand for men include facial wash, lotions and face creams.
Which customer segments should I target?
The same as it goes with meat, baby formula, wine and other products that are in high demand, the Chinese are willing to pay a couple of dollars extra to get the quality and brand preferred.
Foreign brands are outperforming the local ones in the high-end segment and cover 90% of sales, in terms of sales value.
While it’s possible to target the low-to-medium price segment, my recommendation is to find a niche product with a great branding, that can bring trust and value to Chinese
Stating that a skin care product is from France or Korea for example, can result in multiple increases in sales.
If you go to China, you’ll notice that cans with Nivea skin care creams have a clearly visible German flag printed onto them, and a large text stating “German production”.
So far, I’ve never seen this in Sweden or other European countries.
China animal testing law
First of all, I’d like to inform you about the requirements on animal testing for cosmetic products in China, something that’s been widely criticized, mainly in Western media.
This article is mainly to teach you about the market potentials, the exporting process and import taxes that apply, regulations will hopefully change within a near future.
While animal testing is still legal in most countries, except for those in the EU, it’s actually required for cosmetics sold on the Chinese market.
Sadly, but understandable, many have been left out from a market worth USD 30 billion, when refusing to comply with animal testing required.
Fortunately, the Chinese government is going in the right direction and has started to work more closely with the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, Inc, Inc, which is a nonprofit organization. With their new technology, at least parts of the animal testing can be replaced.
In September, an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed that will hopefully end the requirement of animal testing in a near future.
Can I sell cosmetics without the need of animal testing?
Some people are experimenting and claim that you can avoid China’s requirements on animal testing if you sell your products via cross-border e-commerce.
This means that you ship the products directly from your country of manufacturing, or from a warehouse outside of China, to your customers in China.
Registration at CFDA (China Food & Drug Administration)
Before you can start exporting, you need to get a hygiene license. This is not applicable for all products, but for products like baby formula and cosmetics.
In addition to registering your company with AQSIQ, you also need to register at CFDA. This is required for products such as health food, baby formula and cosmetics.
To apply at CFDA, you need to manage the following steps:
1. Find a Chinese agent and assure to have an import license
Before exporting, you need to find a Chinese importer, or agent, that will be responsible to handle a majority of document submissions and registrations at the Chinese authorities.
The agent will also be responsible to help you with the customs clearance.
You’ll also need an import license. If you want to read more how you can get an import license, I recommend you to read this article.
2. Product testing and preparation of documents needed
You’ll also need to do product testing proving that you comply with local laws and GB standards, as explained above.
Product testing is required for all products exported to China.
3. Submit application form online (together with other documents)
You can apply for a hygiene license online. You need to provide the following documents at a minimum:
a. Information about product ingredients
b. Effective components, evidence of use and inspection methods
c. Documents showing the manufacturing process of the products
d. Certificates of quality standards
e. SFDA approved testing reports
f. Intended labels and packaging
g. Documents proving that you’re eligible and certified to produce and sell the products (manufacturing country)
h. Statement regarding the mad cow disease
CFDA will judge whether your products can be imported into China, or if any complementaries are needed.
Be sure to communicate and collaborate with your Chinese importer during the complete process.
Import regulations for cosmetics and skin care products
The most common laws for import of cosmetics are as follows:
a. Regulations concerning the hygiene supervision over cosmetics(1990)
b. Detailed Rules for the Implementation of the Regulation on the Hygiene Supervision over Cosmetics(2005)
c. Hygienic Standard for Cosmetics(2007)
d. The Measures for the Administration of Hygiene License for Cosmetics (revised in 2010);
e. Guideline for Risk Evaluation of Substances with Possibility of Safety Risk in Cosmetics(2010)
f. Standard Chinese Names of International Cosmetics Ingredients Inventory (2010)
g. Cosmetics Technical Requirement Standard(2011)
h. Guidelines for the Registration and Evaluation of New Cosmetic Ingredient(2011)
i. AQSIQ Order No. 143 of 2011 – The Administrative Measures on the Inspection, Quarantine and Supervision of Chinese Imported & Exported Cosmetics (2011)
j. Provisions for the Hygiene License application procedure (2009)
k. Rules of Cosmetic Administrative Approval Testing, No.82 (2010)
Before you start exporting to China, you need to make sure what GB standards your product need to meet.
Simply explained: GB standards are similar to ISO standards in the West, in fact, most of the GB standards have derived from those.
These standards cover everything from product testing, labelling, product usage and more.
For cosmetics and skin care products, the following GB standards are normally used:
- GB 7916 1987: Hygienic standards for cosmetics
- GB 7917 1987 (1 to 5): Related to hygienic standards and testing procedures
- GB 7918 – 1987 (1 to 5): Hygienic standards
- GB 7919 1987: Procedures and methods of safety evaluation of cosmetics
Except for hygienic standards and product testing, you also need to comply with GB standards related to labelling:
- GB 5296.3 – 2008 (Instruction for use of consumer products – General labelling of cosmetics)
Be sure to confirm with your Chinese importer and with a professional company what GB standards that apply to your specific products.
Labelling of cosmetic and skin care products
It’s important that you label your products correctly. As informed above, you’ll need to provide both labels and packaging to get a hygiene license from SFDA.
You also need CIQ stickers and labels for the China market, before you can clear the goods at the customs.
What information should be included on the label?
It’s important that you understand the labels standard used for products that are imported in China.
First of all, you need to attach a CIQ sticker to the products. The CIQ sticker is round and small, often in the color of silver or white with the text “CIQ” written in
In addition to the CIQ label, some products like food, wine and cosmetics need a Chinese label, showing different information about the product in Chinese.
You need to have both your original English label and a label translated into Chinese. The following information should be included:
- Product name
- Address of the manufacturer
- Net content
- The code of the hygiene license
- The code of the manufacturing license
- Product ingredients (INCI)
- Date of production and shelf life
- Usage instructions
HS codes for cosmetics and skin care products
HS codes are used to classify products traded in a country, China is not an exception.
Without knowing them, you won’t be able to register your company AQSIQ or manage customs clearance.
Below I’ve included some of the most common HS codes used for cosmetics and skin care products in China.
- 33042000: Eye cosmetics
- 33030000: Perfumes and toilet waters
- 33049100: Powders (compressed or not)
- 33043000: Manicure and pedicure preparations
- 33051000: Shampoos
- 33052000: Preparations for permanent waving
- 33053000: Hair sprays, hair wax and hair gels
- 33059000: Others
- 33072000: Deodorants and antiperspirants
- 33041000: Cosmetic products for lip preparations
- 33049900: Other beauty products or cosmetics and skin care products
Can I sell cosmetics and skin care products online in China?
Yes, there are a number of big e-commerce platforms where foreigners sell products to Chinese consumers. The biggest sites are undoubtedly JD (Jingdong) and Tmall Global.
If you want to read more how you can start selling cosmetics or skin care products on Tmall Global, I recommend you to read our separate article that explains all the crucial information.
The Chinese government has reduced the import tariffs for almost 200 products, including cosmetics, starting from December 2017.
Below I’ve included the tariffs (New / Old) for different cosmetic products:
- 33042000: Eye cosmetics = 5% / 10%
- 33030000: Perfumes and toilet waters = 5% / 10%
- 33049100: Powders (compressed or not) = 5% / 10%
- 33043000: Manicure and pedicure preparations = 5% / 10%
- 33051000: Shampoos = 2% / 6.5%
- 33052000: Preparations for permanent waving = 5% / 15%
- 33053000: Hair sprays 5% / 15%
- 33053000: Hair wax and hair gels = 5% / 10%
- 33059000: Others = 5% / 10%
- 33072000: Deodorants and antiperspirants = 5% / 10%
- 33041000: Cosmetic products for lip preparations = 5% / 10%
- 33049900: Other beauty products or cosmetics and skin care products = 2% / 6.5%
Cosmetics and skin care products are in big demand in China, especially among women born in the 80’s and 90’s. The market for men increases as well.
Unfortunately, China’s requires that products are animal tested, before these can be sold to Chinese consumers.
Some people claim that foreigners can sell cosmetics in China without the necessity of doing animal testing by selling through cross-border e-commerce.
There are a number of import regulations you need to follow when importing cosmetics into China, for example different GB standards, you also need to get a hygiene license.
If you want to read more about how you can export cosmetics and skin care products in China, I recommend you to read the complete article.