Rather than using a traditional sauna at the gym, people are now flocking to the Finnish version: the infrared sauna. While traditional saunas use heated water to warm the air through the release of steam, infrared saunas use IR light to create the heat, similar to how to the sun heats the earth (minus any harmful UV radiation). This infrared energy heats the body from the inside out, and thus has a different effect on the skin, tissues, and muscles. Studies comparing the two show that the infrared variety delivers a deeper detoxification – not just the loss of water weight -- but the benefits don’t stop there. Here, a list of reasons why you should book an appointment at your nearest infrared sauna, stat. I did and noticed the difference right away!
Since the infrared rays have longer wavelengths, the heat reaches much further inside of you. These waves travel deep into the skin to clear out the toxins underneath surface level sweat. During my first appointment, I noticed it took some time for a good sweat to get going, and once it did, the perspiration was oilier than I was used to. Rather than the salty sweat that occurs during exercise, this kind comes deep from within the body, bringing heavy metals with it. Also nice? Since the heat penetrates the body at such a level, according to one study, you also can burn up to 600 calories in a single 30-minute session. Keep in mind that showering after is important, as you want to rinse the released toxins off your skin and not allow them to reabsorb into your body.
An infrared sauna session can also have serious benefits for your skin. At the surface level, sweating from infrared heat can help unclog pores for a clearer complexion while the light waves improve blood circulation for a healthy glow. A few sessions in infrared light can help decrease the look of acne scars as well, and because infrared heat has been shown to reduce inflammation, it may even help lessen acne flares in the first place. There’s also evidence to show that infrared heat boosts collagen and elastin, resulting in smoother, plumper, and more even toned skin.
While your body absorbs the infrared heat, circulation is improved and muscles become more relaxed, relieving tension throughout the body. Infrared saunas can also help balance the body’s level of cortisol, aka the primary stress hormone, resulting in a calmer feeling. A session can also serve as a meditation site, even if unintended, as your mind gets a minute to rest. Most infrared saunas have an aux chord, so you can play relaxing songs, sounds or mantras while you sweat it out.
After my first session in an infrared sauna, I will admit that I felt similar to how I do after a traditional sauna visit. There was no “high” that other people have claimed, but I did feel clearer-headed and refreshed. I showered immediately after my session and scrubbed my skin, which was indeed glowing. More than one person asked what I was doing to look so rested. If you’re looking to upgrade your next spa experience, I would recommend giving an infrared sauna a try.