Byline: Gabrielle Fagan
THE feeling of warm, tropical rain on your skin as you stand beneath a cascading waterfall, or feeling the stinging exhilaration of a ocean-style spray, was an experience once limited to those who could afford holidays in exotic climes.
Now these are just some of the "back-to-nature" effects mimicking natural water flow that we can enjoy in our own bathrooms.
Because today's showers are a far cry from an underpowered trickle in a cramped, damp cubicle.
They're sophisticated pieces of technical wizardry that can also incorporate indulgences from aromatherapy, massage, soothing lights, sound systems or even remote control, so that a personal temperature and water flow can be pre-programmed.
So it's no small wonder that, although we spend our time dodging and complaining about outdoor showers, as a nation we've become hooked on indulging in them indoors.
Recent research by Triton found that around 86%of us have switched from baths to showers, and an Ipsos MORI poll for the Royal Society of Chemistry found that Britons spend more time in the shower than the rest of Europe.
While our Eurocounterparts splash around for two to five minutes, in the UK around 15% of us stay in our showers for more than 11 minutes daily.
A further 3%love the shower so much they're under the water for more than 20 minutes.
Jerri Farris, author of 1001 Ideas For Bathrooms, says: "Today's showers are luxurious affairs with showerheads that can deliver anything from gentle rain to racing waterfalls. Or you have head-to-toe body jets to massage away aches and pains, and steam units which can envelop you in warmth and fragrance."
Farris adds that there's a huge choice designed for every space and budget.
"It means you can create a shower with a spa-like atmosphere, one that gives you not just a place to refresh and invigorate yourself at the beginning of the day, but somewhere to relax and pamper yourself at the end of it."
Banishing that initial chilly start before the shower warms up is now possible thanks to the development of digital technology.
Simon Greenstreet, marketing and sales director at Aqualisa, says this technological innovation is "one of the most exciting things to happen in showers for years.
"Digital showers do away with mechanical mixer valves and because a processor blends water electronically, temperatures and water flow are always consistent.
"At the press of a button, settings can be saved - for individual members of the family."
An average shower uses around 60 litres of water every five minutes - and, in our environmentally conscious times, many showers, including digital ones, have eco settings that minimise water wastage.
There are all sorts of reasons for our preference for showers - including lacking the space for a bath (or the time for a leisurely soak!), believing it's more hygienic to wash in running water, or worries about wasting water.
But, just to emphasise that showers are now apparently an essential in our lives, Emirates has introduced the world's first in-flight shower so passengers can enjoy the experience 30,000ft up.
Even if you don't have such lofty bathing ambitions, it's worth diving into the new world of showering.
But, before installing a hi-tech new shower in your home, always check to see the water pressure it requires, whether it needs both cold and hot water supply lines, and if drains are adequate for any increased flow of water they may generate.
HIGH DRAMA: SHOWER CUBICLES
A SHOWER cubicle can fit into a floor area of only 70cm square, and doors can slide or fold if you're pushed for space. Alternatively, screens or cubicles can be made-tomeasure for awkward areas.
"The right enclosure for your bathroom is one that combines the look you prefer with a size and shape that suits your room," Farris says. …