Considering that my friends and I have used this micellar water before, I wanted to see if it’s really as sustainable as we thought. It’s marketed as a cleanser that gently removes makeup and instantly soothes the consumer’s skin: a perfect product for dry and sensitive skin. When looking at the ingredients list, it definitely seems like a great skin care product, but as we know, it often takes just a little bit of research to flip a product’s entire image. Unfortunately, that was the case here. The biggest disappointment was the lack of information about where the ingredients are sourced, where the micellar water is manufactured, and how it’s actually made. Only after doing some additional research, I found that many products are made in the UK. Even then, consumers are recommended to check the country of origin before buying anything. So, despite the safety and quality of the ingredients, Simple’s lack of transparency and traceability is definitely an issue that cannot be overlooked, and made me give the product 1.2/3 planets.
When it comes to ingredients, Simple really stands out with their choice of contents. All of their products are free from artificial perfumes, colourants, alcohol, soap, parabens, salicylic acid, silicone and glycolic acid (the list goes on but these are the common ones that consumers should avoid). The micellar water is also hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, which means it’s less likely to cause allergic reactions and can be used by people with acne-prone skin. The first few and thus more concentrated ingredients in the micellar water are water, hexylene glycol, glycerin and PEG-6 Caprylic/ Capric Glycerides. Since I couldn’t find any negative impacts of these ingredients on the skin or environment, it’s fair to assume that the product isn’t harmful. The only ingredient I personally don’t like seeing high up on ingredient lists is phenoxyethanol because it can irritate the skin and eyes, particularly when the product is used every day. If you have super sensitive skin, it’s best to either try a tester first or directly opt for a product made for highly sensitive skin. While I didn’t experience any problems, everyone's skin is different.
However, what I am most concerned about is the company’s transparency. When I was trying to find information about where the ingredients are sourced from, I realised that Simple doesn’t have a separate section on their webpage dedicated to their sourcing and manufacturing process. Instead, it’s addressed only once on their ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ tab, where it merely states that ‘Unilever [their parent company] are committed to sourcing all agricultural raw materials sustainably.’ Wow, I love the detail... Fortunately, there are various policies that Unilever’s suppliers have to abide by, such as protecting and promoting the land rights of indigenous communities. Nevertheless, I don’t appreciate the lack of transparency about their sourcing locations. Disclosing the locations of only some of their ingredients isn’t enough, and I’d expect more from a company like Unilever that has so many sustainability documents on their webpage (seriously, at least one could list their sourcing locations). To me, it feels a lot like cherry picking, and advertising sustainable practices for ingredients that have become “trendy” to call companies out for (palm oil, soy, etc). However, all resources are important and Simple needs to take just as much accountability for them.
Again, there is no information on the site about how the micellar water is manufactured, but typically it’s made by mixing ingredients with mild surfaces that join to form micelles. This is a chemical structure that helps extract dirt and oil from pores, and what makes micellar water so great for cleansing. Even though Simple’s parent company is Unilever, I think it’s still important for the company to have the sourcing and manufacturing process of their products openly available. If they feel like it’s enough for Unilever to supply all the information, they might as well just not have their own website. Then again, to Simple’s credit, all their products are vegan AND cruelty-free (certified by PETA), which means they don't test on animals or use animal derived ingredients (apart from beeswax). In addition, the micellar water bottle is made with a 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic bottle that is 100% recyclable, including the lid. It’s always great to reduce the amount of newly produced plastic and decrease the burden on resources, such as oil, but that doesn’t make using recycled plastic acceptable. Stating that the bottle and lid are 100% recyclable overshadows the fact that most plastic doesn’t actually get recycled. According to National Geographic, 91% of plastic doesn’t get recycled and only 9% of plastic finds a new purpose.
While I still believe there isn’t enough information on Simple’s sustainability, the website does provide a few of the company’s goals. The company is trying to move away from using plastic and work towards making all their product formulations biodegradable by 2030. Since the ingredient list of many Simple products is already pretty clean, I think it’s safe to say that the biodegradable goal is achievable. In accordance with Unilever’s targets, Simple also aims to have no emissions from their own operations and halve the GHG footprint of their products across the value chain by 2030. Although I commend Simple for setting GHG emission targets, the goals seem a little over-ambitious. Personally, I’d much rather see the company have short AND long-term goals so they can show a continuous commitment and reflection process towards sustainability.
Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by their Woodland Trust support in the UK, which brings damaged ancient woodlands back to life and ‘safeguards the carbon stores’; in total, Simple helped restore 58 hectares of ancient woodland. Still, I wonder whether this is really the community they should be supporting, or if Simple’s contributions are needed more where the soy and palm oil are obtained, as their sourcing can be quite damaging to the environment. In terms of social justice, Simple has an entire page dedicated to sharing “Stories of Kindness” to show their dedication to inclusivity and treating everyone with equal respect. Since Simple is partnering with the ‘Positive News’ magazine to share stories of kindness beyond their own reach, I believe they’re being genuine about their stance on social justice. It’s also great to see that they’re taking some initiative beyond what their parent company is doing. However, going forward I think it’s important for Simple to have an openly available Code of Conduct and information on how they treat their employees because without it there isn’t much to back up their social justice agenda.