Have you tried an infrared sauna yet? They’re all the rage right now– celebrities are raving about them, and people are running around shouting their benefits like Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch. Do they live up to the hype? Curious and considering trying one, but aren’t sure what to expect? No worries– I’ve tried it, and I’m going to fill you in on all the details.
An infrared sauna differs from a traditional sauna by the method it uses to produce heat. Traditional saunas heat up the air around you using heaters, hot coals, etc. Infrared saunas use infrared light waves to heat you from the inside out. Because of this, an infrared sauna doesn’t need to be as hot as a traditional sauna. Infrared saunas are usually set to 120-145 degrees Fahrenheit, while traditional saunas can be as hot as 200+ degrees Fahrenheit. For me, this makes an infrared sauna far more enjoyable than a traditional one.
Touted benefits of infrared saunas are vast and varied. A quick google search would have you believe that infrared saunas are capable of lowering blood pressure, releasing toxins, improving circulation, aiding weight loss, clearing skin, improving cell health, relieving pain, relaxing organs (um, what?), reversing the signs of aging, supporting cardiovascular health, detoxifying, purifying complexion, increasing metabolism, improving cognitive function, supporting immune function, cooking dinner, walking the dog, and getting rid of your mother-in-law.
But, eh, there really isn’t a lot of peer-reviewed research to back up most of those claims. The Mayo Clinic website states, “Several studies have looked at using infrared saunas in the treatment of chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, headache, type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and found some evidence of benefit. However, larger and more-rigorous studies are needed to confirm these results.”
Point being, take all those claimed benefits with a grain of salt. But here’s what I can tell you that I’ve experienced personally:
- My complexion has improved. It glows, and I get fewer blemishes.
- It’s relaxing. Like, deeply relaxing. Mood-boosting, stress-reducing, anxiety-relieving relaxing.
- It’s refreshing. I walk out feeling new and fresh… does that mean I just sweated out a bunch of toxins, and their release caused me to feel immediately better? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. Probably not. But nonetheless, I still feel great.
- It soothes my tired muscles. Similar to the way a hot epsom salt bath would.
Have you tried the infrared sauna and experienced other benefits? I’d love to hear- tell me in the comments below!
Regardless of the validity of medical claims, I still think a session in the infrared sauna is a lovely way to spend 30 minutes, even if it won’t cure you of every ailment known to man.
Ready to try it for yourself? Here’s what you need to know:
- Make an appointment. Infrared saunas take about 30 minutes to heat up, so be sure to make an appointment– otherwise you might be sitting around waiting for a long time.
- What to wear: I wear nothing. Most all infrared saunas are private, and in private rooms, so your modesty is safe. If you’re more comfortable wearing something, I recommend a swimsuit. Because you’re going to sweat. A lot. Take off any metal jewelry, because metal gets hot quickly in there. Afterward, I like to have something loose and easy to throw on. Struggling with leggings or restrictive clothing when my skin is hot and sweaty is not my idea of a good time!
- What to bring: a large towel to lie/sit on, a water bottle to stay hydrated, and a smaller hand towel to wipe down with.
- Music: Unless you’re one of those weirdos who claims to hate music, you’re going to want music. It enhances the experience. Some infrared saunas will have speakers, cd players (my apologies to my younger readers who may be confused by that archaic technology), or plug-ins for your phone/iPod… but it’s a small space and I don’t find it necessary to fool with all that. I just set my phone to play whatever I happen to be feeling on Spotify and I’m good to go.
- Phone: The first time I used the infrared sauna, I didn’t take my phone in. I was worried it would be too hot for it. Ever since that first time, I take my phone in so that I can play my choice of music. And my phone is totally fine. Some will say that you should “totally unplug” to get the most relaxing benefits from your sauna session, but I sometimes find that being able to catch up on Instagram engagement (hashtag bloggerlife) or reply to DMs is what allows me to relax. And sometimes I set my phone on the shelf and don’t pick it up again. Point being– you do you. If you need a phone break, take one. If you need to be productive, do it. Your body is going to sweat the same way regardless.
- Lights: For the love of all that is good, turn the lights off. During my first sauna session, the “reading light” was on the whole time. I didn’t realize I could turn it off. NOT relaxing. Take it from me now– the lights turn off. And it’s way better that way.
- Books/ reading material: I don’t take any in with me. Keep in mind that you’re going to sweat all over the pages if you do. And you may need the reading light in order to see to read. And you’re already aware that the reading light is not relaxing.
- While inside: Make yourself as comfortable as possible. I like to lay my large towel on the bench and lie down on my back, with my legs up the wall. Legs Up the Wall is a great restorative pose on its own, and I find it twice as nice inside the infrared sauna. Don’t be afraid to take up space! You’re the only person in there, so allow yourself all the space you want. Move slowly. I also like to take a little stretch break about halfway through my session. By then, my muscles are all warm and stretchy, so stretching feels extra nice. Drink water. If you get too hot, just open the door for a minute. Let a little cool air in. If you’ve had enough but there’s still 10 minutes left on the timer, go ahead and get out. There’s no rule that says you have to endure the infrared sauna any longer than you want to.
- Contraindications: Yes, there are some. Pregnant women should not use the infrared sauna (or any type of sauna). Those with hemophilia, hyperthyroidism, or recent injuries should not use the infrared sauna. If you have any health issues of any kind, please, please consult with your doctor before using an infrared sauna.
Still have questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them for you!
ps- If you’re in Lexington and want to try out an infrared sauna, check out Centered on North Ashland Avenue. Mention this post for $10 off your first sauna session! You can call to book an appointment or go to centeredlex.org. Enjoy!
Want more suggestions for relaxing and pampering yourself? Check out this post: Ten Ways to Pamper all Five Senses