In high school, I had a memory foam pillow that I loved so much I took it with me when I had a sleepover at a friend’s house. Now, of course, I know that memory foam is some of the most toxic stuff in our homes and definitely not something you want to press your face against all night.
What About Pillows Made of Down/Down Alternatives?
I happen to love down pillows, and from a toxicity perspective these are fine, but when you learn about the way that some down feathers are pulled from live birds, it makes this a less appealing option. If you’re buying a down pillow, you’ll always want to find out where/how the down is sourced.
Down alternative (such as Primaloft) are made of polyester, which is a type of plastic, so also not the Good Stuff (although it’s unclear if polyester really poses a significant off-gassing risk).
What you Do WANT in a Pillow
Natural pillows come in a range of different materials, and depending on your needs/sleeping preferences, you’ll want to select one of the following:
- Cotton: A firm pillow that offers good neck support and is great for back-sleepers.
- Kapok: These are good for side sleepers and also great for people who like down. (Kapok is a nut-fiber from a rain forest tree.)
- Shredded latex: This feels the most like down to me, and really conforms to your head and neck, making it perfect for side sleepers. Make sure you select a pillow made of 100% shredded natural latex, not a latex blend. Latex does have a faint rubbery smell which may bother some sensitive individuals.
- Wool: Wool is insulting (keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter) and absorbs moisture, so a wool pillow is good if you get hot or sweat during sleep. This pillow is very firm and will compress over time. Make sure you choose a pillow made of untreated wool because conventional wool can be doused in insecticides.
- Buckwheat: This is a heavier pillow that’s popular in yoga classes. It provides lots of neck support, and is great for back sleepers.
When investing in a natural pillow, I recommend you get one with a zipper, so that you can remove or add more fiber to make it your ideal level of fullness and firmness.