Rating: Not great
- All packaging is kerbside recyclable
- Most ingredients are readily biodegradable
- Main ingredients have low aquatic toxicity
- Multiple ingredients with high aquatic toxicity
- Contains EDTA
- Limited information on some ingredients
Simple is a skincare brand based in the United Kingdom. Simple aims to develop products without irritating ingredients so that they are suitable for sensitive skin. The brand has been owned by Unilever since 2010.
Micellar water is essentially water and a type of soap packaged in a bottle. If you are wanting to reduce the environmental impact of your personal care products, this could be a product category to avoid altogether. You could reduce transport emissions and packaging by using tap water and a good soap or cleanser instead. The rating for this product is for its environmental impact compared to other micellar water products – find out more here.
Like most micellar waters, the Simple Micellar Cleansing Water is packaged simply. The bottle can be recycled in kerbside recycling, and there are no unnecessary plastic films, seals or boxes.
The main ingredients in this product are water, simple alcohols, natural extracts and vitamins. It can be difficult to tell exactly what chemicals are in natural extracts, but they are less likely to be chemicals of high concern. The alcohols are very similar to chemicals that naturally occur in the environment, so they will not disrupt the ecosystem much. The vitamins are not toxic to aquatic life.
One of the simple alcohols is glycerin. Glycerin is commonly derived from palm oil. Unilever aims to use 100% RSPO certified palm oil by 2019, up from 19% in 2015. Because it is such a large company, this is a significant commitment. Palm oil sources that are certified by the RSPO have a lower environmental impact during production.
However, there are a number of ingredients that have aquatic toxicity. Cetrimonium chloride is very toxic to aquatic life. It is also readily biodegradable and likely to get bound up with bits of dirt. Both of these characteristics mean that aquatic life are less likely to be exposed to it, but a small amount of the chemical could still get into waterways and cause toxic effects.
Another ingredient is a PEG ester. Less information is available for this one, but it looks like a similar story to cetrimonium chloride. Some other PEG esters are toxic to aquatic invertebrates, but this chemical should be readily biodegradable. This means that most of it should break down before it is released to the environment, which will reduce the potential to see toxic effects – but some will still be released.
This product also contains DMDM hydantoin. This chemical works as a preservative because it breaks down to release another chemical; formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is toxic to aquatic life but is readily biodegradable. The DMDM hydantoin should break down pretty quickly once it goes into waste water, so most of the formaldehyde should be degraded during waste water treatment. Again, though, some will probably get through and cause toxic effects in the environment.
Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate is another preservative. This chemical is very toxic to aquatic life, but studies suggest that it will break down into another chemical (propargyl butyl carbamate) quickly during waste water treatment. This chemical also breaks down pretty quickly, so the amount released to the environment will be reduced – but the amount that is released will be harmful to aquatic life.
Finally, this product contains EDTA in the form of tetrasodium EDTA. This chemical is a common pollutant in waterways, where it can increase exposure to heavy metals and interfere with normal nutrient cycles.
But does it work?
Considering how well a product works is a big factor in determining whether a product is a good one or not. A product that does not work is a waste.
Image credit: hannah heartss