Strict new regulations from China’s Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) are likely to have an impact on how cosmetics are marketed in China. Identifying a beauty product as having “medical benefits” is now illegal.
Shortly after the regulations were announced, the popular Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao issued a notice to sellers noting they will block “medical cosmetics” searches on their site. Such searches now return no results. Several other Chinese e-commerce sites, such as Netease and Vip.com, did the same, but search results could still be found on the massive online e-commerce sites Tmall and JD.com.
Specifically, in January, China’s National Medical Products Administration (a unit of the CFDA) issued a policy stating that any cosmetic product with a registered name relating to the phrases “medical cosmetics” and “medical skincare products” or claiming any medical effect on its packaging or in its promotional campaigns is now considered illegal. Specific cosmetic ingredients can no longer be referred to as medical, including the popular skincare ingredient EGF (epidermal growth factor, which supposedly speeds wound recovery).
In the U.S., companies are only allowed to use vague words like “restorative” to promote cosmetic products, but it isn’t surprising that cosmetics brands would take advantage of consumers by frequently using the term “medical” prior to this regulation. “This will lead to more significant changes in the industry and will protect young consumers,” said Dao Nguyen, founder of creative strategy agency Essenzia, about the regulation’s effect. “The new law will only make them [cosmetic brands] check that the translation/used words are in line with the requests…but deep down, it should not change their ways of marketing the products very much.”
Though there’s plenty of concern about false advertising and dangerous ingredients in China’s cosmetics industry, consumers are gleaning a lot of information from a new generation of beauty bloggers who specialize in using science to demystify cosmetic products and their effects. Sometimes these bloggers even help to police cosmetics companies, such as when the famous beauty blogger Hao Yu sued U.S. luxury cosmetics brand La Mer (Estee Lauder Group) for exaggerating the effects of their products in their China-based advertising, leading to backlash against products in China that claimed restorative effects.
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