I'm interested in whether one only needs to consider simple loops when proving results about simply connected spaces.

If it is true that:

**In a Topological Space, if there exists a loop that cannot be contracted to a point then there exists a simple loop that cannot also be contracted to a point.**

then we can replace a loop by a simple loop in the definition of simply connected.

If this theorem is not true for all spaces, then perhaps it is true for Hausdorff spaces or metric spaces or a subset of $\mathbb{R}^n$?

I have thought about the simplest non-trivial case which I believe would be a subset of $\mathbb{R}^2$.

In this case I have a quite elementary way to approach this which is to see that you can contract a loop by shrinking its simple loops.

Take any loop, a continuous map, $f$, from $[0,1]$. Go round the loop from 0 until you find a self intersection at $x \in (0,1]$ say, with the previous loop arc, $f([0,x])$ at a point $f(y)$ where $0<y<x$. Then $L=f([y,x])$ is a simple loop. Contract $L$ to a point and then apply the same process to $(x,1]$, iterating until we reach $f(1)$. At each stage we contract a simple loop. Eventually after a countably infinite number of contractions we have contracted the entire loop. We can construct a single homotopy out of these homotopies by making them maps on $[1/2^i,1/2^{i+1}]$ consecutively which allows one to fit them all into the unit interval.

So if you can't contract a given non-simple loop to a point but can contract any simple loop we have a contradiction which I think proves my claim.

I'm not sure whether this same argument applied to more general spaces or whether it is in fact correct at all. I realise that non-simple loops can be phenomenally complex with highly non-smooth, fractal structure but I can't see an obvious reason why you can't do what I propose above.

**Update: Just added another question related to this about classifying the spaces where this might hold - In which topological spaces does the existence of a loop not contractible to a point imply there is a non-contractible simple loop also?**