My name is Leah. That's me on the left, circa the 70s, drying off by a toasty wall heater at our home in British Columbia, Canada. I consider this photo to be Polaroid proof that at one time, the daily bathing ritual was actually something I looked forward to. And so easy! (Though my mom might dispute the simplicity of combing out the Medusa of tangles lurking beneath that oversized towel.) But as an adult, I couldn't remember a time in recent decades when haircare was quick and enjoyable. So much for the illusion of blissful, daily self-care. That got me asking other women if they hassle with their hair every time they step in or out of the shower. Turns out, well...YEAH!
I founded Turbella out of frustration with hair towels and no-tech shower caps that don't work. What I discovered is that it's a big small thing that isn't just about hair. Some days, the shower is the only time we have to ourselves, for ourselves. It's a precious time to recharge, so we can take charge of our day. Which got me thinking...
This strange and oddly specific feminist manifesto energized me. So much so that I left my career to try to create the best shower cap and hair-drying wrap ever. I know! Before diving into what my husband affectionately calls “the shower cap biz,” I was a TV writer and producer. As the co-owner of a production company in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of creating hundreds of episodes of lifestyle programming for TV networks like Travel Channel, Food Network and HGTV. Basically, my job was telling stories about people inviting something new into their lives. So, I thought it’d be fitting to share a bit of backstory about this “something new” and how Turbella came to be.
They say the best ideas come while showering. I guess mine came while cursing my umpteenth sucky shower cap. The elastic on this particular one was so stretched out after a month that its only usefulness would have been as a tarp for a large pizza. The shower cap before that squeezed so tightly I wondered, under the thunder of water hitting it, if it was reshaping my sweaty head into a figure eight. I usually wasted half an hour post-shower wrestling my hair back from the Swamp Thing. Which got me puzzling...
A triathlete can compete in the most punishing weather conditions and with today's cutting edge technical outerwear, she's covered. That's good. But that same athlete can't take a shower and keep her dry hair styled. That's ridiculous!
What gives? Well, our "gear" is a crunchy disk of plastic stuck on a wimpy strip of elastic.
We call it a shower cap although it's actually a bathing cap. It was patented in 1903 to wear while soaking in the (clawfoot) tub – definitely not for standing under a torrent of water in a steamy enclosure. Yet the shower cap hasn't really changed in those 115+ years. Which is awesome if you're a Victorian ghost. But if you have places to be this millennium, the bathing cap/shower cap is a crazy-making relic. Maybe crazy is contagious, because it inspired me to start this company and try to figure out how to make hair protection that actually works.
It became obvious that to eliminate hair hassles, there also needed to be a better way to dry wet hair. Cotton towels don't cut it – rubbing causes tangles, split ends and breakage to vulnerable wet hair. Balancing a tower of towel on your head is a pain in the neck (sometimes for real). Microfiber hair turbans are also underwhelming – the fabric is a reminder that the car needs washing or the floor needs mopping. Even the most expensive microfiber towel and hair turbans are made in China, like their cleaning cloth counterparts, and lack quality details.
No wonder bathing feels like a chore. Yet every woman I know has precious little time for herself.
Can't the daily shower be a luxurious treat? Wanting to get to 'yes' lead the way in the early days.
We looped in - literally - the Austrian gemstone company, Swarovski®, for crystals to fasten our turbans. After six months of testing, we arrived at the right super-absorbent textile for hair-drying. It's milled here in the USA without any questionable chemicals. It absorbs 10x its weight in water in less than three seconds (Yes!). That's about 18x better than a cotton towel and 2-6 times more effective than microfiber imported from Asia. And it feels sublime.
So, on the "dry-your-wet-hair" front: High performance - check. Luxury - check. Mission accomplished - check. But, the "keep-your-hair-dry-and-styled-in-the-shower" mission? Not so much (okay, not at all). Turns out, that's next to impossible with the existing materials and construction used for shower caps. Why? Because plastics and laminated fabrics either don't breathe at all or not nearly enough to manage the hairstyle-hijacking moisture trapped beneath it.
Water goes through holes. For a kindergartener with a watering can, that's fun physics. But if you want to keep your hair dry, hundreds of needle holes in your hair cover is a problem.
The existing construction and materials used for shower caps are a dead end that no amount of tweaking is going to solve. The path to a solution had to begin somewhere else...which brought me back to that triathlete. Outdoor sports companies like REI, Patagonia, and The North Face are blazing the trail for all of us with near limitless possibilities. Thanks to evolving textile technology in athletic wear, it’s possible to keep warm on a high altitude hike and cool on a tropical expedition. We can stay dry while shredding Class V rapids and shake off a torrential downpour on a run. We can ‘just do it’ in the most extreme environments and be comfortable.
With that came a guiding principle for Turbella - Adapt the technical fabrics and construction methods of the best outdoor gear specifically to keep hair dry. It was a start, except it was still uncharted territory. No outdoor sport features hot water in free-fall. So we needed to customize everything to make caps and turbans that would be ready to hit the shower.
A high performance textile is crucial. But what woman longs to wear the rugged technology of a survivalist's tent on her head? We guessed zero.
So, we set the bar that our fabric had to be as soft, light and luxurious as a silk scarf. And as waterproof, breathable and exothermic (geek talk for "heat-releasing") as the premiere technical outerwear. "Pucci meets Patagonia," we called it.
All told, it took nearly two years of research, design, and development, hundreds of fabrics, countless trials and spectacular blunders to get it together.
That little person in a big warehouse on the left is me again. This time, circa 2016, balancing a box I hoped contained a solution to replace ordinary elastic. (Its contents actually did hold a clue...Kind of how these pictures tip you off that I prefer anonymity, so if you choose to follow Turbella, you know you're safe from unrelenting promotion and selfie assaults!)
Finally, the first three pieces of the collection were put to the test by real women. It was thrilling to get their feedback. Even more than confirming we delivered the benefits we'd hoped, it was the specific ways the products were working for women that made me so happy. Many I hadn't even thought of. Leave it to women to be creative and clever, right?
The most gratifying surprise was how many women actually packed their Turbella when they travelled! In honor of these first fabulous women (and the planet), we designed and packaged each Turbella in a PVC-free travel case. I can only imagine the adventures.
It's my sincerest hope that a Turbella makes your hair a joy to handle and taking a shower the treat you deserve.
The shower turban and hair towel in one.