In the era of self care, shower real estate has been a battleground for new brands. From razors with sleek suction holders to shampoo bars, there is now a huge array of direct-to-consumer brands that all promise to leave you feeling great after hopping in the shower.
But when it comes to the shower itself, most of us have no real reasin to pay attention to this thing we use most mornings.
A new wave of direct-to-consumer brands wants to change that. All less than a year old, the likes of Sproos!, Jolie and Hai want more people to do away with their old-fashioned showerheads and replace them with their easy-to-install versions. The advantages they boast range from optimal pressure and reduced water usage to better skin and hair.
“If you asked people to name the shower brand they stand under every single day, almost none of them could do it,” says Leah Stigile, the cofounder of showerhead brand Hai. “You have this thing that’s very important to people, that they do every day, but there’s no brand relationship.”
Meet the shower upgrade brands
Hai’s smart showerheads feature LEDs that light up once the shower has reached a certain temperature, or at the point a certain amount of water has been used. The shower also syncs to an app that enables users to track their water usage over time — hopefully encouraging them to take more efficient showers. So far, it seems to be working: Stigile says that Hai’s customers are using around 30% less water than the average American shower-er.
Sproos!, which shipped its first 50 showerheads to customers this month, is explicitly targeting renters who are unhappy with their shower setups. The showerheads, which come in black and white as well as bright red or yellow, can screw onto any 45 degree overhead shower arm. They also come with a rail that sticks to the shower wall with adhesive, and which is used both to adjust the height of the shower, but also attach gadgets such as mirrors and soap trays.
It’s a reversible change “that creates a lot of value for a small amount of money,” points out cofounder Benjamin Fix, who also adds that the packaging used to deliver the showerheads doesn’t give away what’s inside the box, should any disapproving landlord catch sight of the delivery. Sproos! own research found that, among renters who want to change their showerhead but haven’t yet, more than half were concerned they might be violating their tenancy agreements by doing so.
Then you have Jolie, maker of a showerhead that comes with a built-in filter that it says can help improve the condition of hair and skin by removing irritating or drying chemicals and minerals. The brand’s cofounder Arjan Singh describes the product as “step zero in our beauty routines."
Taking on shower curtains is Outlines, which officially launched at the start of this year but had previously operated as a side-hustle called Drip. Cofounder Luke Barkley Young says that the majority of the 3,500 customers who Drip had amassed have now transferred over to Outlines, which sells a shower curtain with a replaceable liner that is delivered via subscription.
The idea, Barkley Young says, is that every six to eight months, just as the shower liner is starting to get slimy and moldy, a new one arrives in the mail. The old shower liners can be detached from the main curtain, and mailed back to Outlines. Once the brand has collected enough old shower curtains, it can send them off to a facility in New Jersey where they can be shredded down and recycled into things like gym mats and shoe soles.
Do renters really want to spend money on their showers?
People age 44 and under make up more than half of America’s renting population, and as rents increase and interest rates rise, it's likely that this group will rent for longer. An April survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that only 43.3% of renters expect to be able to own a home in the future, the lowest figure since the survey began in 2015.
More people, therefore, seem to be interested in making cheap upgrades to make their rental units feel more like a home. The showerhead brands have designed their products with this in mind — you don’t need to hire a plumber to fit them, they come with all the tools you need, and they can be removed as easily as they are attached, meaning the showerhead can move with you once the lease is up.
But while around half of renters are already going ahead and changing their showerheads — according to the brands’ estimates — can they actually convince more people to start doing it?
Stigile estimates that around 50% of people who have purchased a Hai showerhead so far were already actively searching for a replacement. These are the easy wins, but it does seem Hai is convincing people with its message around saving water. “People have intense showering routines with all different products and things like that. It’s something people are investing in, and we view that as an opportunity,” Stigile adds.
By positioning itself as a beauty tool, Singh says that Jolie is mostly competing against shower filter attachments that people find on Amazon, and which are often clunky to use and replace. If you live somewhere known for its hard water, the problems a shower filter can solve might be obvious — but those living in softer water areas might need more convincing. To do that, Jolie has compiled data from municipal water providers so it can provide free water reports via email that detail all the unnatural-sounding substances found at any given source.
Even the bright, poppy colors that these shower brands use are essentially employed for the purpose of convincing customers to make the switch. In a world where people have no idea who the brands that make showerheads actually are, it’s not hard to imagine home improvement-minded millennials showing off their yellow Hai showerhead or their pink-and-white Jolie filters.