Do Purple Pillows live up to the hype?
Purple is one of those mattress brands a lot of people know—but in my experience, the pillows fell flat
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There are a lot of well-known sleep brands, but few are as recognizable as Purple. It’s probably easy for you to conjure up an image of the mattress company’s signature grid-like, rubbery material that’s, yes, purple in color. But having good name recognition doesn’t necessarily make for a great product, so we decided to put Purple’s much-hyped pillows to the test.
What is Purple?
Purple is known for making sleep products with its proprietary "hyper-elastic polymer" that takes the shape of an innovative grid design. It's touted for its purported cooling qualities, and being stretchy but supportive. The company launched into the consumer world with its first mattress in a box in 2017 after years of using its technology in medical settings, namely hospitals. Since then, the company’s offerings have expanded to include pillows, blankets, and even dog beds.
What’s the Purple Pillow?
The brand carries three different pillows. Two of them, the Purple Pillow and Purple Harmony, use the company’s signature grid structure, which lends them a unique sensation that’s got a little cushion but is overall quite firm. Its other pillow, the Purple Plush Pillow, is filled with polyester fluff and looks more like traditional pillows.
The Purple Pillow was the company’s first, but it doesn’t look like the image you think of when someone says “pillow.” The Purple Pillow’s edges aren’t tapered or rounded but have more of a blunt drop-off, making the pillow look more similar in shape to a chicken nugget (i.e. flat surface, and fairly steep edges) than, say, a ravioli.
The Purple Pillow has several pieces within the 100% polyester fabric cover: the main layer is a 3-inch thick piece of the purple grid and there are two “boosters” made of thin slices of polyurethane foam, one that’s an inch thick, and another that’s just half an inch. The boosters allow you to customize the pillow’s height to your preferences by removing what’s there, or by purchasing additional boosters separately. As sold, a customer service rep recommended the Purple Pillow for back sleeping, so that’s who we tested it with. As it’s thinner than the Harmony, we also tested it for stomach sleeping. It costs $109, falling on the more expensive side compared to other pillows for back sleepers.
What’s the Purple Harmony Pillow?
Purple released the Purple Harmony Pillow in 2019, but it quickly became the company’s best-selling pillow, according to a customer service rep. The Harmony is similar to the Purple Pillow in that it incorporates the Purple Grid—but that’s where the resemblance ends. The outer fabric is a nylon spandex blend that has a “moisture-wicking treatment.” The grid used in the Harmony is made with a “special type of latex” according to the rep, that lends the pillow a jiggly yet firm sensation.
The Harmony does not include booster pads and isn’t adjustable or customizable. Its shape is more similar to a traditional pillow—again, think ravioli, not chicken nugget. According to the rep, it’s well-liked by folks who favor side sleeping, so we tested it in our roundup of pillows for side sleepers.
Like the Purple Pillow, the Harmony pillow comes in just the standard size, but it is available in two heights, one that’s 6.5 inches high, and a “tall” version that’s 7.5 inches. The price, $159, is the same regardless of which height you choose, making it one of the most expensive pillows we tested.
What’s the Purple Plush Pillow?
The Purple Plush Pillow doesn’t have the signature grid and looks like most any other fluffy, down, or down alternative pillows you’d see. It was released in 2016 but never overtook the Purple Pillow or Harmony in popularity, according to a customer service rep. The polyester-filled pillow isn’t customizable—like our favorites from Coop Home Goods, which allow you to remove their shredded foam to find your ideal lift—but it has a zipper that allows you to make it feel more firm by zipping and compressing the stuffing, or softer by opening the zip.
It’s the company’s only pillow that’s available in more than one size—it can be purchased in a standard size for $49, or king size for $64. We didn’t test this one in our roundup of the best pillows because we were already including the two more popular (and unique) models from Purple.
How did we test Purple Pillows?
Here’s the thing: You can’t write about a sleep product without sleeping on it. That’s what informs our testing philosophy here at Reviewed. We tested the two most popular pillows from Purple, the Purple Pillow and Purple Harmony, as part of an overhaul to our pillow round-up. I slept on each pillow in different positions for about a week and assessed their comfort, adjustability, heat retention, and so on. I sleep on my side and stomach, and as such tried the Purple Harmony for catching zzz’s on my side, and the Purple Pillow for stomach sleeping. Sarah Hagman, a Reviewed editor, tested the Purple Pillow for back sleeping, as it’s her preferred position.
After the at-home sleep stint, both Purple pillows went into the Reviewed labs for trials by fire with our senior scientist, Julia MacDougall. Okay, she didn’t subject them to actual flames, but she did measure their temperature under a heated blanket. She also assessed how well they sprang back after resting under a 25-pound weight overnight, and even washed the components that could be cleaned (the covers, in this case).
What’s good about Purple Pillows?
Reviewers on the website, as well as several staff members at Reviewed, swear by Purple Pillows. Many extol their comfort and supportiveness, and like that the foam grid material doesn’t tend to fall flat, even after years of use.
That said, the pillows are also aggressively buoyant. They remind me of an overzealous sports coach who looks mad but is really just screaming that you can do it. The material has some give, but not all that much. Personally, I found they weren’t forgiving enough for me to nestle in, so I felt like my head was crooked up and not aligned with my spine when I slept on my stomach with the Purple Pillow (even with boosters removed) or my side with the Harmony. But for folks who go crazy when their heads sink through a too-soft pillow, or who find themselves bemoaning how their pillows compressed within mere months of purchase, either pillow from Purple could be the solution. They never even needed to be fluffed or reshaped like down and down-alternative options or even ones filled with shredded foam.
Kyle Hamilton, who works in product testing here at Reviewed, used the original Purple Pillow for two years. Even after all that time, it never fell flat. Dylan Prowse, Reviewed’s operation’s manager, praised it on the same grounds, raving, “It retains its size and shape very well.” Kyle was such a fan of the OG Purple Pillow that he sprung for the Harmony, too. And in his experience, it’s paid off. He finds the Harmony pillow more comfortable for side sleeping than the Purple Pillow, citing that its additional height fills out the space between his head and broad shoulders even better. With that evidence and from my experience as a narrow-shouldered person who didn’t love Purple’s offerings, I think that folks with wider shoulders, like Kyle and Dylan, will be best served by the Harmony and Purple pillows.
Purple claims the pillows that use its grid structure aren’t prone to heat retention. I didn’t notice the pillows sucking in and holding onto heat, and Dylan specifically noted how cool the pillow he uses feels to him. But our lab tests told a different story—both the Harmony and Purple Pillow retained heat. So whether it’ll feel warm to you is a toss-up.
What’s not good about Purple Pillows?
As already alluded to, the Purple Pillow is not for everyone. I, unfortunately, fall into the “not everyone” category in this case. To be blunt: I do not like Purple’s pillows. Confused? That makes two of us. After hearing everyone else’s rave reviews, I still am trying to grasp how these pillows could have flunked so royally in my book.
But after testing more than a dozen pillows, I came to realize there are two key factors in selecting a pillow that’s perfect for you (and me, by proxy): preferred sleep position, and the space between your head and the bed in said position. My biggest issue with the Purple pillows had nothing to do with the materials themselves—it was the height that bothered me. I found both the Harmony and Purple Pillow were too thick for my comfort. When I tried both pillows on my side, I felt my head being pushed upwards which forced my neck and spine out of alignment. (Forget about stomach sleeping on Purple pillows—it was virtually impossible to even lie down with these while resting on my stomach.) Our back sleeper, Sarah, also found the Purple Pillow too high for her comfort.
Another small downside of the Purple Pillow specifically is its weight. You’re probably thinking, how can that even be? I’m not sure, either. But when I lugged the pillow home from the office for additional testing, it occurred to me that it felt as though it weighed as much as my rather large cat. Sure enough, when I hopped on the scale with it, I found out it weighed a whopping 12 pounds (my cat weighs 15, so not far off). Its weight seems like a minor inconvenience, but it turns out it could be a nuisance for folks with adjustable bed frames. Dylan uses the motorized Purple bed frame, and the pillow is so heavy that it sometimes pulls the fitted sheet off the mattress with it when he sits up. The Harmony, for one reason or another, isn't as heavy, making it easier to wrangle into pillowcases—and probably less likely to strip your bed, too.
Are Purple Pillows worth it?
Purple Pillows are bound to be a great investment for some people. Personally, I couldn’t even sleep on them, so I would never buy one. With my narrow shoulders, they were just too thick and firm. However, the same attributes I dislike are what make the pillows sing for others, like Kyle and Dylan.
Even while some folks will like Purple’s pillows, I find myself circling back to other pillows we tested that I think are more versatile and appealing. The Coop Pillows we loved, for example, have shredded foam that can be taken out by the handful until you reach the amount you need. Purple tried to implement some customization, but it just wasn’t enough. In my testing the Purple pillows’ inability to “fall flat” or compress is what ultimately made them, er, fall flat for me.
If you’re looking to firm up your pillow, the Purple Harmony or Purple Pillow may be just the thing. I wouldn’t recommend jumping from cushy down straight to these pillows, as it was a challenge for me, but if you already made the switch to dense and firm foam pillows and like the sensation, go for it.
Like other sleep companies, Purple offers a generous return policy. If you’re not satisfied, you have 100 days from the date of delivery to contact the company and request a return—though the company recommends sleeping on the pillow for at least 30 nights to give your body time to adjust. This may be true for the Purple Pillow, which offers you the option to tinker with its height. But when it comes to the company’s non-adjustable options, you’ll probably know fairly quickly if the pillow’s going to work for you—I know I did.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.