Selecting a pillow is a very individual process. When it comes to picking the right pillow, there really is no one pillow-size, shape, or material that fits all. The best way to find the pillow that’s right for you is to determine your individual criteria—using the six elements below as a guide—and then use your instinct about what feels most comfortable and appropriate for you.
There is an array of fill options available for pillows. No one is best—all have advantages and drawbacks, depending on your needs and preferences. Let’s look at the most common types:
Down. These pillows are light and soft—if you like a soft place to rest your head at night, you may like a down pillow. Down pillows are usually made from either goose or duck fibers. Goose down tends to be softer than duck down—and more expensive—though there is also variation in softness within goose down. Down pillows are made of different combinations of down, feathers, and other fillings. Be aware that “pure down” and “all down” pillows may still contain feathers and other fill.
Many people worry about allergic reactions and sensitivity to down. There are people who have hard allergies to down and feathers. Often, however, the allergic reaction to down comes from a lower-quality down filling that hasn’t been sufficiently cleaned. The dirt that remains on the down, rather than the animal fiber itself, can cause allergy and discomfort. You can look for hypo-allergenic down, often called “hypodown,” which is a rigorously cleaned blend of pure down and a natural substance called syriaca, which helps bolster the allergy-free properties of the down, and increases the longevity of the pillow. Good quality down pillows are expensive, but worth it if this is the type of pillow you prefer.
Synthetic down and polyester fill. Synthetic down pillows are less expensive than natural, hypo-allergenic natural down—and will need replacing more frequently. Polyester fill pillows are a relatively inexpensive pillow choice, compared to other pillow types. They tend to be medium to soft, though less soft than down. They will flatten with time, and typically need replacing more frequently than other types of pillows.