Last week, there was a little shake-up in the cosmetics world, when NARS Cosmetics announced that they will start selling their products in China. Now, at the best of times, a statement like this wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. Who cares where companies want to sell their products?!
Ah, but you see, entering the Chinese market brings with it the looming spectre of animal testing. China notoriously requires, by law, cosmetics brands to test their products (or ingredients) on animals to ensure product safety. Their version of it.
NARS, before this, while not wearing their policy on their sleeve, did not test on animals and was one of the high end brands that could claim to be cruelty free. So, it wasn’t surprising to read about the backlash that the decision to enter the Chinese market brought the brand. There were numerous reports of customers announcing boycotts of the brand.
So, I’m curious. Has this decision by NARS Cosmetics affected your perception of the brand? Will you stop using their products?
Here is the statement given by NARS on their Instagram page.
We want you to know that we hear you. The global elimination of animal testing needs to happen. We firmly believe that product and ingredient safety can be proven by non-animal methods, but we must comply with the local laws of the markets in which we operate, including in China. We have decided to make NARS available in China because we feel it is important to bring our vision of beauty and artistry to fans in the region. NARS does not test on animals or ask others to do so on our behalf, except where required by law. NARS is committed and actively working to advance alternative testing methods. We are proud to support the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS), a globally recognized organization at the forefront of advancing non-animal methods in China and around the world. NARS is hopeful that together, we can work toward a cruelty-free world. For more on the good work IIVS is doing, see: http://bit.ly/2rVjnwV
I cannot say that I support animal testing of products. Who can? It’s cruel. (But don’t believe everything PETA tells you – I don’t as I find them to be unnecessarily over-dramatic, and there are also numerous articles out there exposing their own heinous behaviour – just Google)
Yet, I can see the logic of NARS wanting to enter the China market. The Chinese market is a huge market, and NARS is, at the end of the day, a global business driven by one key thing – profits. They must know that there is a big demand for their products, and they know they can reap the benefits, because as much as we hate to admit it, China is an economic force to be reckoned with. Not only by sheer population numbers, but also their purchasing power. I’m actually surprised it took them this long.
To answer my own question, I’m going to put forward the unpopular opinion that it won’t overtly affect my decision to purchase NARS products in the future. I hesitate to use the word “support” because you offer your support for a brand, every time you use or purchase their product. But I don’t otherwise blindly support, nor put any brand on a pedestal.
I’m afraid that I will have to continue purchasing the Radiant Creamy Concealer, because that is the best concealer I’ve ever used. Perhaps I’ll find another in future? It’s hard to say. I don’t buy very much from NARS, as it is, and am not particularly a die-hard fan of its products because of their dumb rubber packaging. I like some of them (the Audacious lipsticks are nice, as are some base products, and of course their risque-named blushes) but I dislike the rubber packaging with a passion (most of mine have degenerated to a sticky mess) so I usually stay away. If I can find an alternative, I will. But will I boycott the brand? I can’t say I will.
As much as I’d prefer to use a product that is cruelty-free, I’m afraid I cannot wear that pledge on my sleeve, for I realise that many products I use aren’t. I will not make a pledge, nor commitment that I cannot keep. I’m an omnivore – I eat meat, and I also realise that not everything I eat is necessarily reared in a comfortable environment. I also sometimes question if a product that is cruelty free takes into account that the individual ingredients may not be, or may have, at one point or another, been tested on animals for safety.
So, that’s my position. I don’t necessarily seek out cruelty-free brands. If a brand makes that claim, I say good for them and I support them. But it’s not my deciding factor whether to choose the products of one brand over another. I go on product efficacy – on my skin. Not a cat or dog or a rat. My skin. For this reason, I wish a cat or dog or rat was not sacrificed in the process, for ultimately, the products are being used by humans – and maybe they should instead, be tested on humans? But I can’t be a hypocrite and pledge to go cruelty-free, when I am fully aware my lifestyle isn’t. I will, where possible, support a company who makes this decision to go cruelty-free for no one and nothing should be harmed in our vain pursuit of beauty, should it?
What say you? Does this commercial decision by NARS to enter the China market and therefore have to test their products on animals, to comply with local laws, affect your purchasing decision?
To be honest (and venture the unpopular view), I feel like it might be a little storm in a teacup. Most major brands are available in China, and that hasn’t hurt their bottom line, has it? When NARS made this decision, they knew what they’d be in for. Honestly, I feel like they would have balanced it out, and decided that entering the Chinese market will reap monetary benefits that far outweigh any boycott they may face. Maybe. Feel free to disagree – politely of course 🙂
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I agree with you PB. Sometimes we tend to get swept away because of all the hype created online. No, I do not condone animal testing – and we hope that with all the interest generated through this that the ‘noise’ will be loud enough to shake some policy makers up into changing laws in China. As with you, I agree that Nars has a notable item or two that I enjoy but with the onslaught of so many other cruelty free brands in Malaysia now (for that I am so grateful) there is no doubt that they will come out with bigger, brighter and better formulations that will take a place in our hearts. Besides, that’s what keeps up beauty addicts hooked isn’t it?
Paris B says
What I’m given to understand is that in China, there is a ruling now that allows for products produced domestically to not be tested on animals. Might this then explain why some products from big brands are made in China? I can’t say for sure. But you are also right that there are many options these days, so we have more options now than before. The question of course, is that most of the brands that proclaim a cruelty-free status might be enjoying benefits of ingredients tested in the past. Not slamming anyone, but just saying that it often isn’t as clear cut as we’d like to believe 🙂
Hui Min says
Hi PB! It’s been a while since I last commented here. Undoubtedly, Nars products are really pretty and not overly expensive. I would probably still purchase the Orgasm blush after I used up one, provided that I couldn’t find a replacement for it. However, hearing about this news, probably I would just reduce my passion to this brand, which means, stop exploring Nars products of other range.
In this competitive cosmetic industry, I guess it is not difficult to find a replacement of this blush. After all, their packaging of product is always disappointing. I purchased a limited edition Orgasm blush earlier and find out that the wordings on the mirror inside disappeared with a wipe of tissue. Haih.
Paris B says
Hi Hui Min, to be honest, I feel that there are many options available out there for the Orgasm blush (that might be prettier) so if that’s the sole product that you’re most keen on, I’d just look elsewhere 🙂 And yes, their packaging sucks so bad. I refuse to buy any more of their products with their rubber packaging, simply because it is awful,and degrades so quickly. That, and their sometimes suspect quality of their powder products have had me looking elsewhere. But their name sells, and that much I can understand the marketing strategy.
I’m sort of on the fence. I wish I didn’t know- ignorance is bliss. But now that I do know, I may reconsider repurchasing any NARS products. If I can help it, I attempt to go cruelty-free (eg consciously going vegan for lunches, supporting local markets and etc). What REALLY gets me is the long spiel NARS vomited out – uses a lot of words amounting to a big fat nothing.
I have a long way to go to go in cruelty-free especially with my addiction to leathers but I try where I can because we all have to start somewhere. (By going vegan for lunch, I don’t mean I guzzle down a few glasses of wine. Just thought I’d clarify)
Paris B says
In your case, I think it better that you know 🙂 I too agree that their speil on Instagram was unnecessary. Unlike Urban Decay, they weren’t going to pull out (But UD had more to lose, as they were certified and boasted their cruelty free status, Nars never did) of the China market over this furore. From what I understand, despite the online backlash, in reality, their sales at counters aren’t affected.
On second thoughts, why does China insist on animal testing? Does this process bring additional value? Rather than boycotting brands who sell in China, wouldn’t it make more sense to bring China to the party with education? Boycotting brands don’t amount to much given the huge purchasing power of the Chinese.
And on that note who has the balls to offend the red dragon who’s hellbent on reminding the world they’re in power and they’re not afraid to use force if they have to? (Discussion for another day)
Beauty Bee says
My guess is that it is cheap (sadly) and quite easy to determine reactions. High-tech testing requires know how and some economic investment. I wonder if there is much consciousness in China on animal welfare in general? I know that societies who are very economically disadvantaged don’t deal with such issues (its just not a priority) but with the economic boom, I wonder is animal welfare is starting to rise? I do hope so…
Paris B says
Another commentator, who is in the industry, has offered their view on the actual laws and requirements, which might shed some light on this issue. From what I understand, there is an effort going on with some brands, that are trying to change the requirements of animal testing for ingredients and products, and I also read that products produced domestically (in China) don’t need to be tested. So, if you think about it, there is incentive for brands to have their products produced in China. For now, everyone wants a slice of the Chinese pie – it’s all about dollars and cents after all in a company.
Shorty k says
I was a long time fan of Nars, using there products daily, but I will be discontinuing purchasing new products at this point out. I have been vegan for the last 21 years and live as cruelty free as possible. There are some things I can’t get around such as asthma medication from brands that conduct animal testing, but beauty is a choice so I’ve always felt it to be easy to say no to brands that test on animals.
I also understand that not everyone feels this way, and they have the right to make their own stands on matters most important to them. Obviously, more people feel as you do, or big brands wouldn’t still be testing. We all need to do what allows us to sleep peacefully at night, whether that be buying cruelty free products, or feeling safer that some products have been tested to ensure safety for themselves or others. Ultimately, its a personal choice as to what makes us feel better about ourselves. Some will feel better buying cruelty free, and some will gain confidence from buying the perfect shade of Nars blush.
I totally agree with what you have said. To me it has always been ‘I have a choice’, you can either close one eye and continue buying from brands that you know are testing or just boycotting them. There are plenty of quality Cruelty free brands to chose from, why should we make animals suffer?
Paris B says
And I respect your decision Shorty K 🙂 When it comes to sensitive issues like this, everyone will have a different take on how to approach it. For some, budget affects their choices and for others, different concerns depending also on experience and what they know. Thanks for sharing your view 🙂
I eat meat and am not vegan in any way but I’d say I’d be interested at looking at substitutes for NARS products that I might have been keen on. It’s a big precedence that NARS is setting and feels backward at a time when people are making a concerted effort to avoid animal testing.
Paris B says
To be honest, it being “just cosmetics”, there are always options. But I didn’t want to be a hyprocrite and rail at the brand and call for a boycott when I can never be sure if anything else I use may be non cruelty-free. I guess in their case, the lure of the RMB far outweighs any other issues they may face, and I think they’d have weighed that. Unlike Urban Decay who tried the same thing a few years back, they don’t focus on their cruelty-free status, nor are they certified as such. So the backlash is less – from what I have heard, there has been little to no impact on sales at counters. Which I can expect. Nars is owned by Shiseido, who isn’t a cruelty free company, and I’d imagine they share ingredients. So, are they truly cruelty-free if they use an ingredient which may have been tested on animals years before this? I think it’s all highly debatable.
Yes! I do not see the same sensitivity to its absence from the small Greek market! It is all about money making.
Paris B says
It sure is, unfortunately! I didn’t know Nars wasn’t available in Greece! How very strange.
Hi PB, longtime reader here. BUT. Try spending at least an hour watching videos or seeing images of animal that have been tested with makeup products. I would like to know if you will still continue buying that concealer. NARS made that conscious decision to make profit by disregarding the tested animal’s pain and blood. They do not have to. Their company is doing very well outside of China. This is just pure greed.
Paris B says
Hi Rasa, I have. Often, over the years. All I’m saying is that this isn’t what’s going to spur me to look for alternative products in other brands. I’m a beauty junkie and I’ll keep looking all the same, regardless. But I wasn’t going to be a hyprocrite and proclaim a boycott or that I’d stop using a product or a brand, when I cannot tell that I’ll be able to make as informed a decision with something else, be it food, medicine etc. I do what I can when I can, and I do agree with you that the decision to expand into China is premised on profit – they are a company after all where the bottom line rules. I cannot say with certainty how the brand is doing financially globally, but China, as a market is one that cannot be ignored, unfortunately.
I’m hoping that the companies who did not test in animals in the US and other countries will help China move out of the animal testing mindset with their own experience and information. They’ve proven it’s not necessary and I hope they will bring that knowledge to China with them.
Paris B says
It is something that we can hope will eventually be the norm. I read that China does not require products manufactured locally to be tested, which could also mean an incentive for brands to produce their products in China. But products that are imported, are. Apparently. As things currently stand in the global scheme of things, I don’t think the Chinese government is bowing to any international pressure over anything. Unfortunately.
I eat meat, love leather goods but refuse to buy cosmetics and skincare that are tested on animals. So no more Nars for me – not that I had much anyway!
If others make different choices about this issue, it doesn’t bother me.
Paris B says
Thanks for sharing Tubbs 🙂
Im in the opinion that no companies can claim that they are cruelty free. Sure, they didnt do the animal testing on their ingredients. But someone did, so when they use the ingredients that were tested on animals, they are still not cruelty free. Just because they are new, they can use proven ingredients so they can say they are cruelty free. No one want to get lawsuits from reaction to ingredients, so at one time or another almost all makeup ingredients have been tested on animals
Paris B says
I’m with you on this Peggy. I have queried if a brand is truly cruelty free if they use an ingredient that was tested on animals in the past. But it seems you can’t raise this topic without people jumping all over themselves LOL I don’t agree with how products are tested on animals, but I can understand why it is done, overtly or covertly.
I was thinking the same. They would have done their risk management and foreseen this boycott from the cruelty free community. And what do you know, the purchasing power of Chinese wins. It’s really not a surprise. They are a global company and like you said, bottom line is profit.
Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion on animal testing so yes I will be purchasing from NARS… which is hardly ever anyway. Hahaha!
Paris B says
Yup, it’s a company and the goal of a company is to make money. It isn’t a small company helmed by the owner who can dictate what is done. I don’t actually buy much from Nars either, primarily because of the packaging. I’d stop buying from them simply because of that.
Beauty Bee says
I consider myself to be a huge animal lover. I do eat meat – but – I limit my intake and I use my buying power to source meat that is sustainable and farmed consciously (to me, this is where the power to change the market is – not everyone is going to go vegetarian or vegan, so those who eat meat should be conscious about where it comes from and its impacts re farming).
I don’t buy a lot of NARS, despite ordering a product from them today (I hadnt read this post yet!). It is irritating that their ‘spiel’ basically says, profits are more important, hence animal welfare is nice but not important enough. I’d be more happy if they said that they had a plan to lobby for change and that this can only be done by entering the market and making some noise (helloooo –
I should be in PR!) They could start some social change by bringing light to the issue of animal welfare. Supporting an international organisation out there, somewhere, is nice but not enough if you truly care about an issue
I can’t be a hypocrite and say I only use cruelty free products, because sometimes Im ignorant. Company comments and statements like the one above are just irritating and I will think twice about buying products in future.
Paris B says
Actually I’m with you on their spiel. It’s better that they didn’t say anything. The only thing I would say is that NARS never claimed to be cruelty-free. It wasn’t not their selling point, unlike Urban Decay, who tried the same thing and changed their decision to enter the CHinese market. But I do agree that they could have, and should take a more prominent stance, as a large global brand, for education for animal cruelty. But then, this is China – humans barely get any form of rights, much less animals. Putting it crudely.
I work for a US medical device company and I specialize in qualifying products for FDAs in China, Korea and Japan. Not sure if this will help anyone but due to the deluge of misinformation on the internet, maybe it would be good for me to clarify a few things.
1. The law does not say that cosmetic companies selling in China have to test on animals before they can start selling. What the law says is the the Chinese government has the power to require companies do testing for certain or all products at their discretion. They do not need to give a reason why, but I think the implication is that if there are a lot of complaints about a product causing reactions then they want to have to power to require the company do tests, including on animals.
2. 100% of all ingredients legally allowed in medical and personal care products in China require extensive, lengthy and expensive testing, including animal testing.
But guess what guys? If your mother ever slathered sunscreen on you and if you continue to use sunscreen today, then you have used non-cruelty free products. All sunscreen ingredients have been throughly extensive testing on thousands of animals.
And the public should realize that mainstream cruelty free brands like Urban Decay source 100% of of their ingredients from ingredients that have been thoroughly tested, including animal testing. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble but those companies would be foolish to risk lawsuit and injury to customers by using untested ingredients (granted most of this testing was done 30-40 years ago). Even tiny indie brands are likely using 80% animal tested ingredients. It’s impossible to get away from it as even something like primrose oil has been tested on animals at some point.
I guess my point is, I understand why some people don’t like that China requires animal testing. But I find this attitude incredibly hypocritical when 99% of all personal care products at CVS and Target are using 100% ingredients that have been tested on animals. The US FDA is not requiring this, it’s the high standards that US personal care companies are held to that cause them to refuse to use ingredients that are not thoroughly tested (including animal testing). No one wants to go back to the days where lead was touted as a whitening ingredient, and have you guys seen the reports of what they’re counterfeiting in China? People are selling fake meat and fake rice! It’s no wonder the Chinese government is trying to give itself more power to protect its people.
And to those of you to tout non-animal testing, the in vitro testing methods are not currently accepted by mainstream companies unless paired with animal testing. And testing on 200 humans is not enough (unless it’s a formulation that is using already proven ingredients). You need thousands of subjects to prove an ingredient safe and if the personal care industry goes the same as the pharmaceutical industry then that means thousands of Africans being smeared with unknown substances for pennies a day.
Sorry for the rant. It just drives me crazy when people talk badly about companies selling in China when it’s the work of decades of animal testing by beauty companies and beauty ingredient companies that keep them safe today from things like lead powder and arsenic whitening potions
Paris B says
Thank you so much for shedding light on this Katie. I truly appreciate it, because most of us, as you’ve pointed out, don’t necessarily know what’s going on at the back end.
Bernice D says
No one’s a saint anyway. While I find animal testing cruel, there’s no guarantee that every product is as cruelty free as they claim to be. It’s the same w being strictly vegan or going organic. What guarantee have we as the consumer that restaurants don’t cook your veggies in the same pan which fried meat?!
I agree w you, PB.
P.S. – So glad to hear I’m not the only one irked by their rubber packaging! It gets so gross & sticky as time goes by…
Paris B says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Bernice 🙂 I think we all try to not be cruel in our choices, but we aren’t all saints. I just preferred not to make a stand on a situation I cannot be sure I can stick to always 🙂 Oh and their dumb packaging really irks me. I don’t even know why they keep to it, when it is clearly a problem. When I raised it with the brand locally last, I was told that it has been improved. But the few items I bought thereafter have degraded, and it seems to be even faster than before! It’s ridiculous and for this reason of quality (which has nothing to do with animals) I’d stop buying from them 😛
Hani Lutfi says
I practice conscious consumerism in a way that instead of cutting off a brand, I try to buy their products when they’re on sale so they don’t earn as much money as they would if I bought them at full price. It may sound ridiculous to some but I don’t just do it for the fight against animal cruelty. I do it for all the causes I believe in. I don’t buy ZARA at full price because they commit one of the worst labour crimes in the world. I don’t buy L’Oreal at full price because well, they test on animals. I don’t buy fast fashion brands at full price because they are one of the top pollutants of the world. I don’t watch Wonder Woman because Gal Gadot is a Zionist. I don’t watch anything with Matt Damon because he is a racist. I do things a little at a time because guess what? I still need to consume, I still need to buy products, I still need my clothes and beauty products. In a perfect world, we would cut off every single brand and company that does and support horrible things but this isn’t a perfect world. We cannot fight the same fight, we cannot fight for the same causes. We need to do our part in the best way possible and to do that, we need to focus on the causes that matter to us the most. So, to answer your question; yes I would still buy from NARS but then again, I don’t buy that much stuff anyway because I practice conscious consumerism. This is my fight against capitalism as a whole. The less I consume, the less they “win”. But I could only do it in the tiniest ways possible.
Paris B says
Conscious consumerism is a good practice, and is what I believe also, helps us reduce consumption and help us lead a zero waste lifestyle. Often quite ideal. I think, the way that most brands are owned by just a few giant companies, it is realistically hard to say you want to cut off one branch/brand, while using another under the same global brand. That is mostly what I was getting at. I didn’t want to be hypocritical e.g. Urban Decay is cruelty free, but they are currently owned by L’Oreal, who has its tentacles in many pies and many of which practice animal testing, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Supporting UD is the same as supporting L’Oreal, except those who do, may no see it the same way.
Hani Lutfi says
I agree, even The Body Shop (that claims to be cruelty-free) is owned by L’Oreal! Everything we do should be done in moderation. You can’t completely cut-off a single company and boycott because it’s just not realistic! It’s like Malaysian Muslims wanting to cut off McDonald’s and Starbucks (because they’re Israeli-owned) as a step to boycott and condemn Israel’s occupation of Gaza but it’s simply not realistic. Take it like going on a no carb no sugar diet, it’s quick and effective but it’s not efficient in the long run. Reducing consumption and adapting it into our lifestyle is a lot easier to keep up in the long term.
Paris B says
Yes I totally agree with you! And besides, McD is owned by the Saudis in MY now! The whole thing is just very much of a knee-jerk reaction, and very superficial. I think anyone who really wants to promote anything cruelty-free should apply it to all aspects of their living, not just cosmetics, and not just food. But in the main, I’d think that will lead to a fairly niche way of living that not many people can sustain in the long run – expensive too!
I’m glad you took this stand instead of jumping on to the bandwagon of holier-than-thou-morality. I have no problems with animal testing because that’s the way science works. I don’t see people queueing up to become test subjects for drugs/personal care ingredients.
Paris B says
Thanks Firn, I couldn’t be a hypocrite coz I don’t proclaim to be a cruelty free consumer in any manner or form, and I think it extends far beyond cosmetics. If you want to be cruelty free, it better be in every aspect of life, not just makeup or skincare. But that’s just me. I guess in many ways, I’m practical and realistic. Sometimes, bluntly so LOL!
Sometimes, is better to be the last comment; first of all we have to be honest: if I can get my hands over a cruelty free product that I actually like I’d buy it, but at least here in Mexico is really hard to get cruelty free products easily, somehow it’s easier to get cruelty free makeup than skincare. So I can blame NARS completely because they’re now selling in China since I still buy products from any brand.
Katie said a lot of things we needed to hear, because yes, cruelty free is still a really grey territory, at least for example if I start my own brand, and I don’t test in animals nor I buy from laboratories that don’t test, my ingredients probably have been tested many years ago. So yes I condemn animal testing but until we really have a true alternative I think we can’t say so simply “Go cruelty free”.
By the way I saw the Twitter thread you retweeted about PETA and I couldn’t agree more, for me they’re the worse in animal welfare. I don’t want to become vegan and those kind of videos doesn’t make me feel bad about eating animals. As Beauty Bee said I think we should start eating less meat but also looking for sources that really treat animals right, I don’t know if you have seen Netflix’s Cooked but they have a really good point about how we treat animals that we eat instead of saying “Go vegan or go vegetarian”.
Paris B says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this touchy topic, Efrain. When it comes to food, I’d like to think that man evolved to eat both meat and plants, and our bodies are made to process that. If we were only made to eat plants, we’d have 4 stomachs like a cow 😛 But that’s just me of course. I do enjoy my meats, and naturally, I’d prefer for my meat to come from a good source. But truthfully, how much do we know about the source of our food? We only know what we are fed. Unless you actually rear your own animals, or visit the farm where they are reared, it’s going to be hard. Also, I feel like this is less of an issue in lesser developed countries (not playing down Mexico) where people do have more on their mind about surviving, than about where your food comes from. Ditto cosmetics. I do honestly think that testing on animals isn’t affordable as lab testing. I personally don’t think this issue has affected the company at all – last I read, the sales are still on the up. But PETA isn’t the gold standard, and after reading about them over the years, I think they are like the people who try to scare you into using organic or natural skincare, you know. The ones who make all sorts of claims about chemicals, but still use water. LOL