Gel vs. Memory Foam: What's the Difference?

Gel vs. Memory Foam: What's the Difference?

Are you in the market for a new seat cushion? What about a neck pillow or lumbar support pillow?

If so, you might notice that there are two primary product categories available today: gel cushions and memory foam cushions. While both can deliver beneficial, form-fitting comfort, they are markedly different in form and function.

Today, we're taking a closer look at the gel vs memory foam comparison.

What are the two different products made of? How do they operate? Most importantly, how can you determine which one is the best fit for your needs?

You don't have to wonder in confusion as you browse your options. Read on to discover the details to know!

What is a Memory Foam Cushion?

Memory foam is a substance made primarily from viscoelastic polyurethane, as well as a combination of other chemicals designed to promote viscosity, density and durability. It was first developed more than 50 years ago through a contract held by NASA in the 1970s! Also called temper foam, the material provided supplemental seat cushioning and crash protection for airline pilots and passengers alike.

In this matrix of materials, the foam bubbles, also called cells, sometimes remain open. This allows air to move more freely and helps to make memory foam more breathable. In addition to its widespread residential use, memory foam is also used in myriad commercial industries, including:

  • Healthcare
  • Radiation
  • Automotive 
  • Watercraft

Each manufacturer will have its own formula for combining these chemicals to create a unique type of foam. For instance, some types of premium memory foam are designed to adapt to a variety of body shapes and weights, allowing these products to last a long time.

Then, there are some low-quality and lower-density options that can be a little too soft for most people. Consider for a moment the popular image of a handprint pressed into a memory foam mattress. If it looks to be sinking into the material, that indicates that the foam isn't very dense. While many people prefer this feeling in a cushion or pillow, the support might not be adequate in a large mattress.

This foam is inherently temperature-sensitive and is capable of forming around your body due to the heat you radiate.

Regardless of the specificities involved, all memory foam products are elastic. This means that while they may temporarily mold to fit the shape of your body, they will not stay in that position forever. Over time, they will regain their original shape, regardless of how long you use them.

 

A memory foam cushion operates as its name implies. It is a cushion that is filled with elastic, heat-responsive memory foam.

What is a Gel-Infused Seat Cushion?

A gel-infused cushion is a special type of memory foam cushion that has been fortified and infused with gel, making it a little firmer to the touch. There are three main ways that this gel can be added to the memory foam. These include:

  1. Adding gel microbeads or capsules to the memory foam
  2. Swirling liquid gel into the memory foam
  3. Adding a layer of gel on top of the memory foam's comfort layer

Usually, the first option is most widely-used. Gel-infused foam products can contain millions of tiny gel microbeads that help dissipate heat to make the material cooler. As with standard memory foam, this material contours to your body, but avoids the sinking feeling that large surfaces of memory foam can sometimes create. 

One of the advantages of investing in a gel-infused cushion is that the added microbeads wick away heat. This can make the material cooler and more breathable. For this reason, gel-infused memory foam mattresses are especially popular, as they can help regulate your body temperature while you sleep.

In addition, these gel microbeads can also make the memory foam denser. This way, the surface remains soft but is a bit firmer to the touch and has built-in support. If traditional memory foam tends to be too low-density for your needs, then gel-infused foam could be the answer you're looking for!

Benefits of Both Memory Foam and Gel Foam Cushions

Regardless of whether you prefer memory foam or gel-infused foam cushions, the two materials do share some remarkable similarities. Let's take a look at a few of the benefits you can expect from either choice.

Pain and Pressure Relief

Do you suffer from sciatic nerve pain? What about pressure and pain in your lower back or coccyx? If so, a foam seat cushion is ideal.

These products cradle your lower body in around-the-clock comfort, relieving pressure from your joints and helping you sit more comfortably for longer periods of time. Whether you're working from 8-to-5 in a sedentary office position or you're on a long car trip or plane right, it doesn't take long to realize that most chairs lack the support your body needs.

To recognize the difference right away, try our Gel-Infused Memory Foam Lumbar Support Back Cushion. Designed to reduce lumbar discomfort and reduce chronic back pain, it's the ideal solution for hard-backed chairs that leave you doubled over in pain at the end of the day.

The gel beads work together with the cushion's strategically-placed ventilation holes to provide all-day cooling and comfort. It also features a universal ergonomic and orthopedic design that allows you to place it anywhere on your chair for maximum support.

Spine Alignment

It's all too easy to become hunched over your computer all day. Or, you might tend to slouch at the steering wheel or toss and turn into an odd position as you sleep.

In all of these cases, your spine can become misaligned. This can lead to or exacerbate severe back pain, arthritis, stenosis, herniated discs, and other conditions. 

A foam cushion can help keep your neck in a safe and comfortable position while your rest and relax. At work, you can use a memory foam footrest to keep your knees at a 90-degree angle and align your posture. Our Memory Foam Foot Rest Pillow Under Desk is a perfect accessory to store in your office!

Motion Absorption

We've all seen the commercial where someone jumps on a foam mattress next to a jar of paint or a glass of wine. While most materials will transfer motion and cause a major spill, memory foam does not. 

This is great news for spouses who tend to toss and turn in different directions as they sleep. A memory foam mattress can keep each person from feeling the motions of the other. In terms of cushions and pillows, this means that you can twist your neck from side to side while still enjoying full support.

In other words, range of motion does not disrupt the efficacy of this material. It's designed to support your every move, even if that means you're kicking your Memory Foam Knee Pillow all night long!

Easy Maintenance

While you cannot wash memory foam in the washing machine, most cushions have slipcovers that easily zip off and can be laundered with the rest of your laundry! In all, these products are easy to care for and are designed to last for years.

workplace

Gel vs Memory Foam: Key Differences to Know

As you can see, there are plenty of similarities between gel-infused memory foam and regular memory foam. Still, there are some important differences to take note of, too. Let's review the most prominent ones. 

Heat Retention

Thankfully, there have been plenty of innovations and tweaks made to memory foam since its original debut.

While older models tended to retain a significant amount of heat, modern manufacturers are finding ways to mitigate this effect. For instance, many memory foam products now include ventilation holes that allow excess heat to escape, helping to cool the user as much as possible.

As previously mentioned, others now rely on an open-cell structure to improve breathability. In years past, most memory foam products were constructed using a closed-cell format, which tended to trap body heat and made for a warmer surface area. There are also some manufacturers that add a cooling layer of top foam onto their products to promote optimal airflow.

Still, gel-infused memory foam reigns supreme in this category. The microbeads help the material stay cool and avoid heat retention. For a prime example, take a look at our Memory Foam Seat Cushion and Back Cushion. Both gel-infused and ventilated, this set relieves pressure and pain without making users hot and sweaty.

Density

The presence of the microbeads makes gel-infused memory foam denser than traditional memory foam. If you prefer a slightly firmer cushion or pillow, look into this category first. 

When does density matter the most? It becomes paramount when you're applying weight to the cushion for an extended period of time. While both kinds of foam offer similar support at first, lower-density memory foam will begin to soften and sink as the hours go by.

Are you looking for an office chair cushion that will offer the same level of support from your first cup of coffee to your last?

If so, focus your shopping efforts on gel options, such as our Gel-Infused Memory Foam Coccyx Seat Cushion. Though it is heat-responsive, this 100% memory foam cushion compresses just enough to offer incredible comfort and body support where you need it the most.

Yet, you can remain confident that it will retain its form as the day goes by. Those aches and pains you're used to feeling every time the clock strikes closing time? You can greatly relieve or even eliminate them with a supportive product like this one. 

Which One Should You Choose?

Now that we've discussed the similarities and differences between traditional memory foam and gel-infused memory foam, it's time to go out and shop for the best cushions for your needs!

Yet, how can you know which one to choose? 

Begin by considering your priorities. If you suffer from pain in your legs, back or knees, simply making the choice to go with any type of memory foam solution is a great place to start.

Then, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my budget?
  • How important is ventilation and cooling to me?
  • Do I prefer high-density support or low-density support?
  • What areas of my body do I intend to target?

There are no right or wrong answers, but your responses can help guide your next steps. In all, gel-infused memory foam provides a cooler and more comfortable level of support if you intend to use your cushion for longer periods of time.

Yet, it can also come at a higher price point. If you only intend to use your support cushion for brief bouts and are trying to be as economical as possible, traditional memory foam can also work well.

We offer a variety of cushions and pillows in our online shop, as well as a bevy of health and wellness products, and both gel-infused and standard memory foam take center stage!

Shop Our Selection of Memory Foam Products

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In the great gel vs memory foam debate, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all of the details to remember. At their core, both products work in a similar way. They all respond to your body heat, contour to your curves, and help cradle your sensitive pressure points in long-lasting comfort.

If you tend to get heated easily, gel-infused memory foam can offer a cooler and more breathable experience. Still, newer memory foam products (including ours) are now able to avoid the overheating associated with our earlier prototypes. This means you can't go wrong with either choice!

We are proud to offer a variety of products designed to help alleviate and prevent a host of conditions, ranging from back pain to allergies. Feel free to shop our online collections today and contact us to connect along the way!

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