January 18, 2021

Cosmetics exporters eye expansion in China with regulation changes

PUBLISHED : May 13, 2020 - 16:07

UPDATED : May 13, 2020 - 16:07

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With the Chinese government poised to revise its regulations on beauty products for the first time in 30 years, South Korean cosmetics firms are seeking to expand shipments to their largest export market, a government agency said on May 13.

Under the current regulations, exporters must pass a complicated sanitary permit and certification process. The rule applies to all beauty items, including simple soaps. Cosmetics made from raw materials that have not been used in China also have difficulty tapping into the market.

But China is currently seeking to revise and simplify the regulations this year, which may give more opportunities to Korean cosmetics companies, said the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, which held an online briefing Wednesday for Korean exporters.

According to the draft revision, China seeks to change the definition of cosmetics to include daily chemical industrial products used for cleaning, protection, beautification and correction of human skin, hair, nails and lips. Soap used for simple cleanliness purposes will be excluded. 

A South Korean mask pack manufacturer consults with Chinese buyers about online exports. (KOTRA)

Categories of special cosmetics, whose sales require approval from China’s National Medical Products Administration, will be cut in number to five from the current nine. Currently, special cosmetics comprise freckle removers (skin whiteners), sun care products, dyes, perm solutions, deodorants, hair removal products, hair growth promoters, breast care products and diet products. After the changes, the categories will be freckle removers (skin whiteners), sun care products, dyes, perm solutions and new functional products.

Some processes, however, will become tougher for exporters.

Labeling requirements are expected to become more stringent, and so are penalties for violations.

KOTRA said it has become even more important for exporters to understand the local system when they make labeling and packaging decisions, and when they develop marketing and public relations strategies.

For instance, if an exporter states on a label that a product uses nano-class raw materials, it must be prepared to back up that claim with evidence. KOTRA said if a claim is difficult to prove, certification acquisition support agencies advise against the use of such phrases.

The biggest change is to the reporting requirements for raw materials, according to Lim Hae-woon, head of Zhongmao, a cosmetics certification firm.

Currently, all products based on new raw materials require approval from China’s quarantine authorities. Under the revised rules, raw materials will be divided into low-risk and high-risk groups. The high-risk group comprises preservatives, sun care products, coloring agents, dyes and whitening agents. Materials deemed low-risk need to be reported to the authorities, but do not require approval.

“It will be an opportunity for Korean companies that have gained the upper hand in research and development capabilities and utilization technology in raw materials,” said Lim.

Park Hyun-jin, a chief of KOTRA’s China office, said, “Korean products have become more popular in China due to the exemplary prevention of COVID-19.

“We will provide support to help K-beauty leap forward in the Chinese consumer goods market by thoroughly grasping the changes in the local system.”

By Shin Ji-hye (

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