Cosmetics in China – a Boom Generating Opportunities for Foreign Firms

In 2016, Cosmetic and Beauty care products became the first category of goods imported and distributed on Tmall Global, overwhelming Food and Fashion.[1]

What is then behind the success of Foreign cosmetics in China?And how to import them?

As your one-stop-shop partner on Chinese market, we will outline the prerequisite you need to know before importing this kind of goods into China.

The Growth of Chinese Demand: How and Why

There is a real boom around foreign cosmetics in China, encouraged by specific factors. The surge in cosmetic and body care demand relies on a larger pool of new consumers that recently appeared: the post-90 and 95 generation.

The Millennial girls, born between 1985 and 1995, have been the first consumers of cosmetic products. Within this category, the 25-35 are actually earning more than their elders, and are willing to spend more in general for lifestyle and care products.

The Chinese consumers care more and more about quality, and are aware that a higher quality will be reflected into higher price. They are already keen on foreign luxury brand and are used to obtain them when they are travelling abroad.
The next generation will probably raise concerns about ethical issues, such as animal testing and natural ingredients.

Male are now catching up with female consumers: the sales volume linked to male consumption doubles every year, especially on skincare products.
Moreover, the range of products is evolving, boosted by advertisement and the increasing recognition of male celebrities and key opinion leaders, affirming in their post their daily make-up routine. Some tutorials now exist, teaching how to use make up and look like famous singers and actors.

To boost domestic consumption and foreign brands in the Chinese market, the Chinese government has considerably cut import tariffs in 2018. The import tariff rates on cosmetics was, on average, considerably reduced. For related personal care, the tax rates fall from 6%, even 4% for some products. Perfumes are currently under a 3% import tax.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Import Cosmetics

First, you need to find a Chinese representative agent to start your business with an import license. This agent will be the importer and the legal entity responsible for product quality and safety. He is also the one accredited to apply to the different governmental agencies.

Then, you need to know that Chinese regulations divide cosmetics into two categories and this will influence the applicable Chinese standard and the next steps of the import process:

  • The “non-special use” category gather products that will be under a European definition tag as make-up and perfumes, but also skin care (such as anti-wrinkle or any other moisture cream), nail care and hair care;

  • The “special use” regroups products that deliver special and innovative treatment on your body. For instance, are included in this category hair dye, perm and growth, whitening, sun screen protection, deodorizing and spot removal.

If your product is classified as “special use” or contains an ingredient not imported yet in China, then you must apply for an hygiene license, delivered by the CFDA (The China Food and Drug Administration). Additional inspection and test must be done that will certainly influence your expected launching time on the Chinese market.

This application need to be made by your China representative agent. Testing should be made in one of the laboratory aggregated by the CFDA. Be aware that testing on animal are still mandatory for any cosmetics that are imported and sold on Chinese platform. Human safety tests are also mandatory for “special use” cosmetics.

A set of documents need to be compiled and presented for the application: list of ingredients, manufacturing process, evidence of use of the components and testing methods, certificates of quality standards, a certificate showing that the manufacturer is allowed to sell in the production country or country of origin, original and Chinese label and packaging as well as statement of undertaking on the no use of raw materials involving high risks substances. Within the following 4 months, the CFDA will deliver you the authorization to import your product in China.

Once you get the certificate, you will be able to start importing your product in China. The China Inspection and Quarantine bureau will inspect your goods. They may proceed randomly to some physio-chemical and microbiological tests on the shipment, checking the labelling as well, its format and content. If the shipment fails the routine inspection, goods will be destroyed. Compliance with the Chinese regulations is essential at every step, and your Chinese partner is here to guide you and avoid any slip-up.

With ASI Solutions, launching your product on the Chinese market becomes easier. With our comprehensive set of solutions, we handle compliance, import, custom clearance, labelling, logistics and financial flux on the behalf of our International customers. Strong of our 10-year experience on the Chinese market, we will give you all the necessary assets to perform on this market.

[1] According to a cowritten Deloitte, China Chamber of International Commerce, and AliResearch Institute report: “A gargantuan market with increasing openness” (October 31, 2018)