You’ve seen the pictures on Instagram, you’ve watched the TikTok videos. Infrared sauna bathing is undoubtedly a wellness practice that is here to stay. But is this actually a beneficial ritual, or is it more a pseudoscience trend du jour? We’re breaking it down.
What is an infrared sauna?
An Infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses infrared heaters to induce the heat, rather than the traditional hot coals and steam found in old school Finnish saunas. They’re usually a wooden box or hut type of structure which you can sit or lay in. The temperatures inside saunas range from 45 to 80 degrees (sometimes 90 degrees if you like to live on the wild side). Infrared saunas allow you more control over the temperature inside – this is because the temperature is typically controlled by a touch panel on the side. It means you can adjust to your preference. 60-70 degrees is said to be the optimal temperature. As a weekly visitor of infrared saunas, I like mine at 63 celsius.
What are the benefits associated with infrared sauna
Infrared saunas come with a tonne of health and wellness benefits. The scientific consensus is generally that saunas ARE good for you. But exactly how good for you and who they’re good for, the agreement is that more research and study needs to be done to confirm and offer a conclusive view.
Helping with detox
Most of us know that a good sweat session helps to clear your body, but why? Hot temperatures help open your pores, plus sweat is actually made up of water and waste material from your body. So, sweating can actually help move waste out of your system. And of course, sweating out water encourages us to drink more water which helps the rest of our organs function efficiently – compared to when you’re dehydrated. There is also some evidence that says that sweating could rid very small amounts of toxins from the body.
Relaxation and improved mental health
The heat and warmth of an infrared sauna can help to relax the muscles and can feel therapeutic or even meditative for those like myself who enjoy the experience. I always get a euphoric high post sauna. It’s a very relaxing and addictive feeling!
But of course that’s just for those who enjoy the experience. If you’re like my partner and detest feeling overheated, you probably won’t get the relaxation benefits.
Then there’s the chromotherapy aspect. Most infrared saunas have a light box at the top and there is evidence that certain types of light can help with wellbeing. You may get some wellness benefits depending on the type of light you choose in your sauna. I always go for blue because it claims to be calming and promote relaxation.
Infrared saunas may help to reduce pain and inflammation, particularly for people with muscle aches and soreness. It’s especially good after intense exercise where your muscles might need some TLC! I’ve found that it helps loosen any tightness and help with the post-gym burn. But the benefits here go deeper. One study even suggested that it improved the quality of life for people with diabetes.
The heat of an infrared sauna may help to improve circulation because the heat raises your heart rate and thus blood circulation. There is also evidence that shows that the temperatures help blood vessels expand, allowing blood to pass around the body with greater ease. Of course the benefits do depend on the temperature of the sauna.
While I haven’t personally experienced this benefit, some people experience weight loss thanks to the calorie burning power of saunas. Your body has to work harder to cool itself which raises your heart rate and in turn increases calorie burn.
Improving cardiovascular health
Interestingly, it’s suggested that regular sauna use may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. One particular study in the Journal of Human Hypertension suggested that 30 minutes of sauna exposure improved cardiovascular health – although the study did note that more research needs to be done to investigate further. Another study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology noted that saunas improved cardiac function in patients with chronic heart failure.
Just remember that more study needs to be done
There are plenty of other studies that conclude that saunas could be beneficial like this one by Joy Hussain and Marc Cohen and this from the Mayo Clinic. They do all mostly say that more study needs to be done to confirm, but it’s a promising start none the less.
Mia Steiber is an editor, journalist, strategist and SEO whizz. She’s been a beauty writer, fashion journalist and finance writer for over a decade. In the past, she has written for brands like POPSUGAR, Cosmopolitan Australia, Gizmodo, Mamamia, The Daily Telegraph and Finder. You may recognise her face from her appearances on Sunrise and Channel 7 News where she’s talked about all things fashion and beauty. She has a Bachelor's degree in journalism and certification in travel writing. A slashie through and through, Mia is currently the Digital Strategy Director at RUSSH Magazine and the Editor-in-Chief at finance site RateCity. She started Redaktör with her partner Luke so she could have her own space to share her years of expertise in beauty, fashion, travel and money - reviewing the best in luxury products and experiences. In her spare time, Mia is a collector of cats, a lover of skincare, a world traveller and a passionate gardener.