Now that dark and cold winter days are happening on the reg, it’s time to seek some heat. Although a high-intensity workout session also gets your heart rate up, the newest way to sweat is unwinding in infrared saunas.
This form of detoxification claims to do everything from improving skin, increasing weight loss, boosting the immune system, and providing muscle recovery and pain relief. But are infrared saunas really worth the hype and high price tag?
How Do Infrared Saunas Work?
Traditional saunas and infrared saunas are very different means of getting sweaty.
Regular saunas use either wood stoves or electric heaters to heat the air to 158–194 degrees Fahrenheit. The air typically has a relative humidity of 10 to 20 percent, and spa-goers spend about five to 20 minutes inside its steamy walls.
Infrared saunas, also called far-infrared saunas or near-infrared saunas, heat their chamber or pods to only 104–140 degrees Fahrenheit. This provides, as many claim, a more relaxing and therapeutic experience.
Infrared saunas work by producing infrared light waves that create heat in the body, as opposed to heating the room around you. This in turn raises your internal temperature, and causes you to sweat (like crazy!), releasing stored up toxins.
According to a study, “as infrared heat penetrates more deeply (approximately 3–4 centimeters into fat tissue and muscles) than warmed air (only a few millimeters), infrared sauna users develop a more vigorous sweat at a lower temperature than they would in traditional saunas within fifteen or so minutes.”
Infrared Sauna Benefits
Various studies have shown that infrared heat therapy improves muscle endurance and recovery, helps to lower blood pressure, reduces chronic pain and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, improves circulation and blood flow, and boosts mood.
“Infrared sauna therapy is believed to have a parasympathetic healing effect,” according to Dr. Axe, which means a sweat session helps the body to adequately deal with stress.
Cardiologist, Alejandro Junger notes that beyond the incredible relaxation effect it has, infrared therapy has been shown to increase endorphin levels even after a sauna session. “It’s proven to be beneficial for musculoskeletal ailments, heavy metal detoxification, increased blood flow, and boosting the immune system’s cell activity” he notes.
Another reason to try out infrared therapy? A session may reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A recent study found that “exposing skin to heat from infrared lamps can mimic the effect of antidepressants by stimulating the production of serotonin, the hormone linked to mood regulation.”
Infrared Sauna Dangers
If you’ve never experienced an infrared sauna therapy session, prepare to get sweaty – but don’t expect anything much worse. No pain or negative side effects have been reported with infrared saunas, even in those who normally cannot tolerate other types of saunas or heat therapy.
Some people may feel lightheaded afterwards, but drinking plenty of water (or electrolyte-rich coconut water) before and after each session can counter this. According to Dr. Axe, “most people don’t feel any different otherwise, although in some people with high levels of pain, they report they feel an improvement almost immediately.”
Of course, it is important to talk with your general practitioner about infrared sauna therapy if you have questions, are pregnant or nursing, have high blood pressure, a history of heart problems or fainting, or take medications.
Where Can You Find Infrared Saunas?
If you’d like to try sweating it out in an infrared sauna therapy session, look for a spa, boutique sauna studio, wellness center, or doctor’s office that offers the service near you.
A single therapy session usually costs around $50, while installing an infrared sauna in your own home costs upwards of a thousand.
Each sauna session is uniquely different to the studio or center that offers it. Some offer Netflix, while others offer group classes, space-age lighting, and tranquil music in pod-like settings. Finding an infrared sauna therapy session that works for you all comes down to personal preference.
Home Infrared Sauna Options
If you’d like to get sweaty with infrared light daily, a good option (and splurge!) is to install an infrared sauna in your own home. Here are a few of our favorites:
Health Mate: This infrared sauna company has been in the sauna and wellness world for 35 years and offer a variety of collections, sizes, shapes, price points, and targeted relief from head to toe. Why we’re obsessed: Health Mate personally selects cedar trees and transforms them into infrared products. With every inch of cedar being used, “Health Mate’s superior commitment to quality adheres to a strict certified process from beginning to end, creating a 100% green product.”
Sauna Ray: Using pure ceramic heaters and non-allergenic wood, SaunaRay infrared saunas are handcrafted under strict environmentally controlled conditions in their Canadian factory. Unlike lower quality alternatives, SaunaRay uses materials that are free from formaldehyde, toxic glue, chemical fire retardants, and plastic or fiberglass heaters. Each sauna has a lifetime guarantee and a cult following in Canada for detox-enthusiasts, naturopathic doctors, fitness trainers, chiropractors, and massage therapists.
Clearlight: These infrared saunas are constructed from eco-certified sustainably harvested cedar and Nordic spruce. They offer high performance carbon-ceramic heaters with a lifetime warranty. Clearlight infrared saunas were designed by a doctor with a focus on healing the body and promoting detoxification.