You’ve probably heard of a popular trend in the sauna world, called infrared saunas. If you’re someone who likes to take advantage of the health and relaxation benefits that time in the sauna has to offer, then infrared saunas are definitely something you want to learn more about.
What is an Infrared Sauna?
An infrared sauna is a sauna that creates heat by using light. The light used by infrared saunas produces heat by warming your body directly, rather than the air surrounding you. Like all saunas, infrared saunas provide you with similar effects to having exercised, such as sweating and increased heart rate.
Infrared Saunas vs. Traditional Saunas
The main difference between the traditional saunas that you may be used to using and infrared saunas, is the way that they produce heat. As previously mentioned, infrared saunas create heating by directly warming your body. Traditional saunas, on the other hand, heats the air around you, which eventually causes your body to warm up.
Traditional saunas and infrared saunas differ in other ways, as well, including:
- How Hot They Get: traditional saunas tend to reach heats as high as 195 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas infrared saunas usually only go up to 150 degrees at highest. This is because the type of heat used by infrared saunas produces the same results at lower levels.
- Use as Wet or Dry: traditional saunas can often be used as both dry or wet. When a sauna is wet, it means that water is used to heat the stones and create steam. Infrared saunas are used only as dry saunas.
- Humidity: because infrared saunas are for dry use only, you will not experience the humidity that may be present in a traditional wet sauna.
- Heat Source: traditional saunas use natural gas, electric, or wood-burning heaters, whereas infrared saunas use radiator elements for their heat generation.
- Power Needed: traditional saunas need a lot more power to run than infrared saunas, almost three times as much. This means that they are also more expensive to operate.
These differences are significant and should be considered when you make your choice between using a traditional or infrared sauna.
Are Infrared Saunas Effective and How Do They Work?
Infrared saunas are very effective in providing the same type of results you would get from traditional saunas and doing so in an even more comfortable way. The reason they are so effective and practical for use is because of the way they work and the light they use to generate heat.
Think about being outside on a sunny, Fall day. Although the temperature is not particularly warm, your body will still feel the hug of heat. Why is that? It is because the type of heat generated from the sun heats your body directly, instead of the air around you. Sound familiar? That’s because the infrared light used in infrared saunas is part of the full spectrum of light given off by the sun.
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You will definitely notice the difference in feeling between traditional and infrared saunas. While traditional saunas remind you of when the heat has been turned up too high in the metro system, infrared saunas feel like stepping into a clear patch of sunlight.
Infrared Saunas Throughout History
Saunas date back to ancient times and were in use as early as following the Ice Age. They originated in Finland as simple earth pits that people covered with animal skin to retain the heat. People even in ancient times used them regularly and understood some of the benefits they offered including cleansing, relaxation, and aiding in healing illnesses. They were even used as places for birth and death thousands of years ago.
While infrared rays and their heating uses were first discovered by William Herschel in the 1800s, the first infrared sauna came into play around 100 years ago when Dr. JH Kellogg from Battle Creek Michigan invented what he called an electric light bath. This was the earliest form of what we now know as an infrared sauna.
In was in 1965 that a Japanese doctor secured the first patent for a ceramic far infrared heater, and for the next fourteen years, Japanese doctors were the only ones with access to the technology. Eventually, infrared technology reached the United States in the 1980s, and from that point on, there was much more research and discovery about the potential use of infrared saunas.
Types of Infrared Saunas
Not all infrared saunas are created equally. There are three main types of infrared sauna:
- Far Infrared Sauna
- Near-Infrared Sauna
- Mid Infrared Sauna
Each type of infrared sauna employs a different wavelength of infrared light to produce heat and provide unique benefits to your body.
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Differences Between Far, Near, and Mid Infrared Saunas
The reason that three types of infrared saunas were created is because each utilized wavelength works differently and provides varying benefits after using it. Here is more information about each type:
Near Infrared Saunas
Near infrared waves have a shorter frequency range and are able only to penetrate the epidermis, or outer, layer of your skin. Near infrared wavelength is 0.76 microns. The shorter frequency range and affect on your outer layer of skin makes near-infrared rays good for overall skin health and healing wounds.
Benefits of Near Infrared Saunas
- Cell health and immunity.
- Cut and wound healing.
- Skin rejuvenation.
- Aiding in pain relief.
Mid Infrared Saunas
Mid infrared waves can penetrate slightly deeper into your body than near infrared waves. Their wavelength is usually around 1.5 microns. Their ability to go further into the skin makes mid infrared waves helpful in increasing and improving circulation. You can think of using an mid infrared sauna like doing a mild cardio workout, such as a walking session. It gets your blood moving and keeps it moving after your time in the sauna.
Benefits of Mid Infrared Saunas
- Helps with pain relief.
- Works to improve overall circulation.
- Can aid in weight loss efforts.
Far Infrared Saunas
Far infrared waves go deepest into your body of the three types of infrared saunas, with a wavelength of near 5.6 microns. Using a far infrared sauna will raise your body’s core, cellular temperature, which will leave you sweating and feeling like you’re getting a real detox. Since most of your body’s toxins live at the cellular level, far infrared sauna is the one to choose when you are looking for serious cleansing.
Benefits of Far Infrared Saunas
- Supports weight loss efforts.
- Provides deep detoxification.
- Helps reduce blood pressure.
- Ideal for overall relaxation.
Now that you’ve read the differences between the types of infrared saunas, you’re probably asking yourself which one is best? Whichever type of infrared sauna you are researching, you will find claims that it is the best one, obviously. This is standard marketing. The real best comes down to your specific wants and needs.
Near, Mid, and Far Infrared Saunas all offer specific benefits to your body. If you’re interested in the deepest possible penetration or a serious sweat session like you would get with traditional saunas, then your best bet is a far infrared sauna. That being said, there is no one type that is better than the other because they all offer different benefits with varying purposes.
Whether you choose to use indoor infrared saunas or outdoor infrared saunas, you will still need to make the decision about the wavelength you prefer. Think about what your specific reasons are for using an infrared sauna, and then match those reasons with the function and benefits of one of the three types. If you really can’t decide, look into using full-spectrum infrared saunas, which are created to provide all three types of infrared light in one sauna.
Heater Choice: Carbon or Ceramic?
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One detail you want to pay attention to when looking into what infrared sauna you will use is the type of heaters employed. Infrared saunas are typically made with either ceramic or carbon heaters. Ceramic heaters have been used longer and were the original heating source for infrared heaters, but over time, popularity has shifted to carbon heaters.
So which type of heater is better in an infrared heater? While ceramic heaters are known to last longer than carbon heaters, carbon heaters offer more benefits than ceramic heaters, including:
- Evenly Distributed Heat: ceramic heaters are known for leaving hot and cold spots throughout an infrared sauna, but carbon heaters heat the whole sauna evenly.
- Low Surface Temperature: one of the biggest advantages of carbon heaters over ceramic heaters is that they do not produce as much surface heat. Ceramic heaters often make the surface too hot to safely touch.
- Better Heating Coverage: overall, carbon heaters provide more and better quality than ceramic heaters throughout the infrared sauna.
- Infrared Ray Type: carbon heaters tend to produce rays closer to far infrared, which means that you’ll be getting deeper treatment during your sauna time.
- More Affordable: carbon heaters are more energy-efficient than ceramic heaters so you will save money in the long run.
While you will still be able to reap the benefits of your infrared sauna with both ceramic and carbon heaters, choosing carbon heaters is the safer, more cost-efficient, and more beneficial way to go.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Using Infrared Saunas
Just like everything in life, there are both benefits and disadvantages to using infrared saunas. Before making your decision about trying an infrared sauna, or simply to know what’s in store, it is advisable to educate yourself about both the benefits and disadvantages. As they say, knowledge is power.
Overall, using an infrared sauna will prove to be much more beneficial than disadvantageous. There exists a large collection of reasons to use infrared saunas. Here are some of them:
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Benefits: How Infrared Saunas Can Help You
- Burns a lot of calories and increases your metabolism.
- Rids your body of heavy metals and other dangerous toxins.
- Promotes anti-aging and overall skin health.
- Keeps your body young at the cellular level.
- Helps with stress reduction and relaxation.
- Aids in easing of pain and discomfort in muscles, joints, nerves.
- Better cognitive functioning, including focus.
- Keeps your heart healthy and your blood pressure down.
- Immune system works more smoothly.
- Will help you get more deep sleep each night.
Though the possible disadvantages of infrared saunas are not as many, and less likely to be experienced by everyone, it is still important that you are aware of what they are:
Disadvantages: Possible Side Effects and Dangers
Possibility of high electromagnetic fields (EMF): EMF is produced by technology and even your own body, but technology production is always more intense. When EMF is too high, it can cause risks to your health without your knowledge, as EMF is invisible. Choose low EMF infrared saunas.
- Dehydration or overheating when not used properly.
- The risk for those with heart disease and high blood pressure must be advised by a doctor before use.
- May aggravate eczema and cause additional itching.
- Complications with silicone implants.
What it comes down to is that there are always possible risks involved in doing most things. If you are uncertain about how your health will be affected, it is best to speak with your doctor before using an infrared sauna. If your doctor clears you for use, go ahead and enjoy the many health benefits infrared saunas have to offer!
Tips for Best Use of Infrared Saunas
To give yourself the best-infrared sauna experience possible, there are a few helpful tips you can follow:
- Drink Up: make sure that you hydrate your body with enough water before, during, and after your infrared sauna session.
- Wait After Eating: don’t go into your infrared sauna right after eating, give your body at least one or two hours to digest your food properly.
- Clean Skin: you don’t want any oils or lotions on your skin when you go into the infrared sauna because they will block your pores so your sweat will be inhibited.
- Stick to a Good Time: to get the most of your infrared sauna, you want to use it regularly. So pick a time that works for your schedule and pencil in your sauna time.
- What to Wear: the truth is it’s better to wear nothing, but if you’re not comfortable in the nude, choose a light bathing suit or light active wear.
- Don’t Skimp on Towels: you will probably sweat quite a bit, so be prepared by bringing multiple towels into the infrared sauna with you.
- Temperature Signs: it’s best to set your infrared sauna from 125-150 degrees F, but wait until it reaches at least 110 degrees to get inside.
- Get Moving: don’t be shy. Stretching and massaging your body are the best things to do while you’re enjoying your infrared sauna, as it will help keep everything flowing.
- Cool Off for a Few Minutes: after you finish your time in the sauna, you want to allow your body to cool back down to its normal temperature by sitting and relaxing before moving on to the rest of your day.
- Strategic Shower: when you’ve cooled down, get into a warm shower and exfoliate your whole body very well to open pores and clear dead skin cells. End your shower on a cooler note to close pores.
- Body Reactions: it’s not uncommon to experience some unexpected symptoms such as headaches or fatigue after using the sauna because your body is engaged in many healing processes. There’s no need to panic, simply sit or lie down a bit and drink more water.
- Don’t Sweat It: your first few infrared sauna sessions may be a lot drier than you’d expect because your body needs time to adjust to the process and allow the detox to take place. You’ll see the waters running after a few sessions, no worries.
- No Need to Push It: beginning a sauna practice may come as a shock to your body so listen to what it needs. If you start to overheat or feel nauseous, do not push yourself to stay in the infrared sauna. You will be able to stand longer times as you go along.
Keeping these things in mind will help you get the most out of your infrared sauna experience.
Do It Yourself (DIY) Infrared Sauna
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If you’re interested in reaping the benefits of infrared saunas, but can’t afford to buy an already made home version or to go to a salon or clinic for sessions, you’re still in luck. You can actually build your own DIY infrared sauna for around $150, sometimes even less.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Space: you can use a small room, closet, tent, or use a canopy to create a sheltered space in a larger room.
- Infrared Heat Bulbs (Near Infrared bulbs are safer for DIY purposes): you’ll want to use anywhere from two to four infrared heat bulbs for your sauna.
- Lamp Clamps: these are needed in order to house the bulbs and must be strong enough to handle the power and heat.
- Support System: you need to brace the lights somewhere sturdy. Think something like a wire shelf or standing shoe rack.
- Power Strip: you’ll need a heavy-duty power strip, preferably with a long cord, where you will plug in all lights.
- Eye Coverage: just to be safe, it’s a good idea to use a pair of goggles like you would at a tanning salon when in your DIY infrared sauna.
- Thermometer: make sure you keep track of how hot things are getting in your sauna.
- Extra Heat Source: if sweating is your main goal, you may want to add an extra heater inside of your sauna, just stay aware of EMF levels.
Once you’ve set up your DIY infrared sauna, make sure that you create a seating position at least one foot away from the heat bulbs, and position the bulbs so that they are facing your body, but not directly at your head. Get hydrated, gather some towels, and start using your DIY infrared sauna.
How to Choose the Right Infrared Sauna
Let’s face it, while a DIY sauna may be the cheapest option, it isn’t the same as having a professionally made infrared sauna. Considering investing in an infrared sauna for your home is a big deal. There are many things that you want to to sit down and think about before beginning your search. You will find it helpful to use pen and paper to write down your unique needs so that you can identify necessary features.
Here are some things to consider before you begin your infrared sauna search:
Brands: it’s important to do research about infrared sauna manufacturers. You will be able to learn about the reputation of companies and find many customer reviews about their products. A few popular infrared sauna brands are:
- Sunlighten: good customer service, widely recommended brand.
- HealthMate: good reputation with customers, 25-year company history.
- Heavenly Heat: good warranties and customer service, almost 30 years in business.
- Clearlight: started by a doctor, lifetime warranties.
- SaunaCore: good warranties, the company running more than 30 years.
Number of People: consider what your home sauna purposes are and think about how many people you need to fit into your infrared sauna. You will find options ranging from fitting 1 to 4 people readily available on the market for home use.
Each infrared sauna is made with a slightly different design. Think about small features that may have a big impact on your satisfaction with your infrared sauna experience.
- Heating Time: when comparing different models, find out how long it takes each one to heat up so you know how long you’ll have to wait before stepping into relaxation.
- Heater Type: Ceramic or Carbon: remember what we said — carbon is probably your best choice. Either way, pay attention to what type of heater is used so you know what to expect.
- Power: you need to know how much power your infrared sauna will require so that you can ensure that your home is able to facilitate its needs.
- Maximum and Minimum Temperature: don’t assume that temperature is standard across all infrared models and brands. Learn the minimums and maximums of each model you explore to make the most informed decision.
- Timer: it’s easy to get carried away with relaxation while you’re in your infrared sauna so having a built-in timer might be something important for your safety, and also simple convenience.
- Negative Ions: some infrared saunas also emit negative ions. Negative ions are helpful because they purify the air, can increase sweating, and fight against fatigue after sauna sessions.
- Easy Storage: not everyone has a lot of extra space to spare in their house for an infrared sauna. If that sounds like you, then you may be interested in investing in an infrared sauna that can be folded up for storage when not in use.
- Foot-Pad: many infrared saunas come with a food-pad which not only heats your feet during your sauna session but also serves as a good way to absorb some of your sweat.
- Head and Hands Extension: if you choose a portable infrared sauna, it is likely to be a bit smaller, and you may find that you get bored just sitting inside the box. Having head and hand extensions means you can keep your head and hands out of the actual to stay cool and read a book or play with your phone.
- Pre-Set Heating Options: while it’s always nice to have full control over your temperature in your infrared sauna, you may find that sometimes you want to simply hit a pre-set option and relax.
- Automatic Shut-Off: this is an important safety feature. If something goes wrong with your infrared sauna, you want to know that it will turn off before overheating or becoming a fire hazard.
- Tourmaline: Tourmaline is a natural mineral that enhances detoxification and relaxation on many levels. When tourmaline is used in infrared saunas, the penetration, transfer, and absorption of infrared waves are more effective.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t I sweat in an infrared sauna?
Unless you are using a far infrared sauna, you are unlikely to sweat too much because the technology is dry, meaning that no steam is created in the sauna. Near and Mid Infrared saunas produce many beneficial effects, but simply do not penetrate deep enough to provoke sweating like far infrared waves do.
How often should you use an infrared sauna?
The frequency of your infrared sauna use will depend on your specific goals with the technology. In the beginning of use, you may need to start slowly to allow your body to adjust to the effects. Generally, using an infrared sauna on a daily basis is safe, and even recommended. Depending on your specific purposes, you may even want to engage in more than one session per day. If you do not want to use your infrared sauna every day, but still want results, aim for three or four times per week.
How long should I stay in an infrared sauna?
This is something that will change slightly as your body becomes more acclimated to the infrared sauna experience. When you first start, listen to your body and do not push yourself to stay in longer than you can comfortably withstand. After a few sessions, when your body starts to sweat during sauna time, you can try to stay in for anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. When you have built up tolerance for the process, it is advisable to stay in your infrared sauna for up to 45 minutes per session.
What is the best temperature for an infrared sauna?
The majority of infrared saunas can reach temperatures of up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, but you do not have to raise the heat to that level. The ideal temperature range tends to be from 110 to 130 degrees. However, what really determines the best temperature is your purpose in using the infrared sauna. If you are looking to sweat, then you will need to raise the temperature higher for optimal results. Whereas, if detoxification is your main goal, then enjoying sessions at lower temperatures is more advisable.
Do infrared sauna blankets work?
Infrared sauna blankets are an alternative that has been created to provide a more convenient option for those who cannot afford to buy an actual infrared sauna, do not have space, or want to travel with their infrared sauna benefits. While an infrared sauna blanket will not give you the same intensity of benefits or results as you would get from using an actual infrared sauna, it does provide a practical option for continuing your infrared treatments while you’re traveling, or simply acting as a very warm blanket during the cold months.
What is the difference between infrared and steam saunas?
The main difference between infrared and steam saunas is that steam saunas are wet, while infrared saunas are dry. This means exactly what it sounds like. In a steam sauna, water is sprinkled on the stones to create steam, causing humidity and increased sweating. Whereas in infrared saunas no water or steam is employed.
Are infrared saunas safe for your skin?
Although infrared saunas produce a heat that feels the same as being warmed by the sun, the light that they use is not the same as the ultraviolet rays from the sun that can cause damage to your skin. Using an infrared sauna is completely safe for your skin. The only thing you want to do is make sure your eyes do not come too close or stare too long at the lights, if it is a near-infrared sauna.
Can children use infrared saunas?
In general, infrared saunas are safe to be used for shorter periods of time by children over the age of 12. Children who are prepubescent are unable to effectively and properly regulate their body temperature through the function of sweating so it is not safe for them to use infrared saunas. If you are unsure whether your child should use an infrared sauna, consult your doctor.
When is it unsafe to use an infrared sauna?
The use of infrared saunas is not safe for children under the age of 12, or who are prepubescent. It is also inadvisable for pregnant women to use infrared saunas. Those who suffer from hemophilia cannot use infrared saunas, along with anyone who has a fever, is insensitive to heat (might overheat without knowing), cannot handle extreme temperatures, and those who have are under the influence of alcohol or regularly abuse alcohol.
How should I clean my infrared sauna?
Cleaning an infrared sauna is a simple process that does not need to be complicated. It’s a good idea to vacuum the floor of your infrared sauna, fairly regularly just for overall neatness. In terms of cleaning the inside and outside surfaces, you want to stick with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Make sure not to use too much water so that you don’t damage any materials that they infrared sauna is built with. Never use chemical cleaners, finishes, or paint on your infrared sauna because the combination with the heat could cause the emission of irritating and toxic fumes.
If you are using planet fitness red light therapy for fat burning and want to switch to infrared saunas. Read out post on Planet fitness cancel membership: How to cancel planet fitness membership?