Although the traditional spa experience originates from Finland, the U.S. has come to love the ritual behind a rejuvenating sauna bath. Whether you head to a wellness spa or it’s your favorite post-exercise step at the gym, adults of all ages can appreciate an old fashioned sweat session. And as is typically done with popular health and wellness pastimes, the sauna experience gets more advanced with every year. This time it’s going infrared.
Using infrared heat for a sauna may sound a bit far fetched but the health benefits from an infrared sauna are more natural than you think. From big city beauty treatments to at-home spa moments, the infrared sauna is now highly sought after. We’ll take a deeper dive into what exactly constitutes an infrared sauna and its top health benefits.
In order to understand, we have to get a bit technical. Infrared saunas use infrared light. It’s a type of light not visible to the human eye but we can feel it as heat, explained by NASA. You have probably felt it from sources like the calming heat radiating around the campfire or on your feet as you run across sun-soaked sand at the beach.
The spa treatment uses Far Infrared Radiation, or FIR infrared heat, which is radiant energy that has been shown to help improve cardiovascular conditions and can be found in tons of therapeutic tools like heating pads, for example. Far infrared saunas warm your body from the inside—where our muscles and fat are stored so it doesn’t burn our skin (unlike tanning booths and UV rays which heat our bodies from the outside in). Infrared saunas heat your core body temperature to about 140-150°F.
The majority of saunas you see in homes and commercial settings are electric sauna heaters. They often include remote controls with temperature displays and timers. These saunas heat the air around you, typically to a higher temperature by comparison—around 180-220°F.
When sitting in an infrared sauna, on the other hand, your body is warmed directly by the heat from the infrared lamps that use electromagnetic radiation. Infrared saunas also operate at a much lower temperature, usually hovering around 140°F. Because the heat is more tolerable in an infrared sauna, you can extend your stay and be more comfortable, reaping the benefits for a longer period of time.
Both sauna rituals provide a wonderful environment to relax and unwind. However, the difference is enough to create infrared sauna fanatics. Now let’s take a look at the benefits, both of a sauna and those specific to an infrared sauna.
Many health spas and gyms include saunas in their amenities because of the weight loss benefit. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, regular use of a sauna (any kind) evokes an effect meant to simulate the benefits you’d get from light exercise such as, say, a power walk. That is, as your body generates heat from sitting in the heated sauna, your body increases sweat production to cool itself off. Then your heart has to pump a bit harder to boost blood circulation. That then works your body by increasing your metabolism during the sweat session which may help burn calories.
More specific to the infrared sauna health benefits, we can look at a sauna weight loss study conducted by Binghamton University in New York. It showed that people who used a Clearlight Premier IS-3 infrared sauna three times a week for 30 minutes each session dropped an average of 4 percent body fat over four months. The control groups in the study who did not use the Clearlight Sauna showed no weight loss. The study also notes that those who experienced infrared sauna weight loss did not change their diet or exercise during the study.
According to The North American Sauna Society, “an infrared room is best used as a prior-sports muscle preheat means, or after the sports or exercise to relax the tension in the muscles.” That may be why, in addition to the possible weight loss benefit, many upscale gyms offer saunas and are beginning to include infrared sauna options on the list. The increased blood circulation from sitting in the sauna removes metabolic waste products and feeds fresh, oxygen-rich blood to your tired muscles. This increase in blood flow can help your muscles recover faster and you won’t feel as sore after an intense workout, making this sauna experience a part of an efficient post-exercise routine.
It goes without saying that having a day spa in your home is a relaxing experience. It loosens up a stiff or fatigued body and relaxes sore muscles—not to mention the time to yourself can be bliss for the mind as well! This mind-body rejuvenation is the best recipe for a stress-free end to your day (which will probably lead to a peaceful night’s rest!).
In fact, it does promote good sleep by hacking your body’s thermoregulation process. That means the infrared sauna warms your body then allows it to cool down after. This quick cool-down speeds up the process for your brain to fall asleep, giving you a relaxed mind and body simply primed for sleep.
Of course one of the main benefits of a sauna is to have a good old fashioned sweat session. The infrared sauna has the ability to temporarily stimulate the sweat glands, releasing built-up toxins—such as dirt, pollution, metals, nicotine, and alcohol—in the body.
In fact, it’s no secret that doctors have long used saunas to stimulate the release of toxins from the bodies of their patients. In an interview with Total Wellness, Dr. Sheey Rogers notes that “it has been known for decades that sweating is a wonderful way to get rid of stored chemicals, including heavy metals.” Even Hollywood has created a global trend out of infrared sweat sesh’s for a Hollywood glow—now available in the form of saunas, heating tools, and even infrared blankets for a quick sweat before a big night. That’s right—even A-listers like Selena Gomez are raving about these infrared beauty treatments.
As an added bonus, sweating has been said to help your body purge dirt, oil, and other environmental impurities that deposits on the skin—most notably your complexion. And as we’ve already mentioned, the sauna experience promotes increased circulation which quickly draws fresh blood to your face, leaving you with a natural-looking glow. That’s why influencers, celebrities, and bloggers rave about the treatment, noting that less than half an hour in the glowing red booth will give you a top-model radiance.
In fact, Sasha Sabapathy, the founder of London’s Glow Bar told Well + Good that “because the heat from an infrared sauna is so much deeper and more intense in the body’s core, that helps you sweat more profusely,” noting that it can even clear out pores that have been clogged from big city pollutants. Just be sure to cleanse properly after the session, as leaving sweat on your skin for a prolonged period of time can clog pores and cause breakouts!
Saunas are naturally oozing with relaxation but did you know it could also help those with chronic fatigue and arthritis? A study in people with chronic musculoskeletal diseases (including rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis) found that Infrared saunas improved stiffness, pain and fatigue!
If you’re new to the world of saunas, the manageable heat from infrared saunas could expose you to a world of wonderful health benefits. It’s important to note that if you’re pregnant or an older adult at risk of overheating or becoming dehydrated, or you have a chronic health condition, an infrared sauna may not be the best choice for you at this time. For healthy adults wanting to buy your own infrared sauna, begin with a 10-15 minute session and gradually work your way up. Some people will stay in for up to 30 minutes.
Make sure to follow all of the safety precautions and allow your body adequate time to cool down after you finish. Incorporating an infrared sauna session into your wellness routine can add a myriad of lasting health benefits. For current sauna lovers, the infrared variety will make an exciting addition.