Infrared vs. Traditional Saunas: Choosing the Perfect Sauna for Your Wellness Journey

by Global Viewpoint
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Are you looking for simple ways to take your wellness journey to the next level? It might be time to turn up the heat! Whether you’re an athlete, powerlifter, yogi, or simply trying to improve your well-being, saunas are a great way to step up your health and wellness game this year. If you’re ready to start your sauna journey, keep reading to learn the benefits of infrared vs. traditional saunas! 

While sweating can be a bit uncomfortable (and sometimes embarrassing), it is actually great for your body. And saunas are an excellent place for intentional sweating. Saunas have become increasingly popular in recent years as people recognize their immense benefits for relaxation, detoxification, and overall well-being. They’re also fairly approachable – many gyms, fitness clubs, wellness centers, and resorts have saunas you can use. 

And if you’re looking for the benefits of a sauna at home, you’re in luck! Modern sauna technology has made incorporating this wellness tool into your home or backyard easy. They even make portable saunas if space is an issue. So, there is no reason to sit on this amazing wellness tool any longer! 

In this guide on infrared vs. traditional saunas, we’ll look at the different types of saunas on the market today so you can choose the best one for your lifestyle and wellness goals. Happy sweating! 

infrared vs traditional saunas text overlay above a photo of a traditional sauna
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The benefits of traditional and infrared saunas

Before we launch into a comparison of infrared vs. traditional saunas, I want to dig deeper into the benefits of saunas as a whole. Saunas have been used for centuries as a means of relaxation, rejuvenation, and overall well-being. So, their known benefits are not a new revelation. However, as saunas become more accessible, their many benefits are becoming more widespread. 

Whether you opt for an infrared sauna or a traditional sauna, both variations offer a range of benefits that can enhance your physical and mental health. Now, let’s explore the numerous advantages of saunas and how both types can contribute to your wellness journey!

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Detoxification and Cleansing

One of the primary benefits of saunas is their ability to promote detoxification. As you sit in the sauna, the heat causes your body to sweat, aiding in the elimination of toxins and impurities. This natural detoxification process helps cleanse your skin, reduces the workload on your kidneys and liver, and promotes a healthier internal environment!

Relaxation and Stress Relief

Saunas are renowned for their relaxation properties. The heat and steam help relax your muscles and soothe your body, releasing tension and stress. Sauna sessions can provide a tranquil and meditative environment, allowing you to unwind and respite from daily life’s demands. This relaxation can positively impact your mental health, promoting better sleep and reducing anxiety.

a traditional sauna with towels and aromatherapy candles
Spending time in a sauna is as relaxing as going to the spa.

Improved Circulation

The heat generated in saunas causes your blood vessels to dilate, improving circulation throughout your body. Enhanced blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, organs, and tissues more efficiently. This increased circulation can help alleviate muscle soreness, promote faster recovery after workouts, and contribute to overall cardiovascular health.

Here are my favorite saunas in 2023:

Cheap: $Sun Home Infrared Sauna Blanket
Mid: $$Dynamic Andora 2-Person IR Sauna
Luxury: $$$Clearlight Full-Spectrum Sauna

Pain Relief and Muscle Recovery

Saunas can be highly beneficial for individuals with muscle pain, joint stiffness, or arthritis. The heat helps relax muscles and joints, relieving aches and pains. Regular sauna sessions can also aid muscle recovery by increasing blood flow to damaged tissues, reducing inflammation, and speeding up healing. It’s very popular to spend time in a sauna after a strenuous workout

Skin Health

Regular sauna use can significantly improve the health and appearance of your skin. The increased perspiration helps to cleanse your pores and remove dead skin cells, resulting in a clearer complexion. Additionally, the heat promotes collagen production, which can enhance skin elasticity, reduce the signs of aging, and improve the overall texture and tone of your skin.

Respiratory Health

Saunas, especially traditional saunas with steam, can benefit individuals with respiratory issues. The warm, humid environment can help open airways, reduce congestion, and alleviate asthma symptoms, bronchitis, or sinusitis. Deep breathing in saunas can also promote lung capacity and improve respiratory function.

Weight Loss and Metabolism Boost

Saunas can be a valuable complement to weight loss efforts. While they are not a substitute for exercise and a healthy diet, regular sauna use can aid in weight loss by increasing your heart rate, promoting sweat production, and boosting your metabolism. The heat generated in saunas can also help reduce water retention and bloating, leading to temporary weight loss.

What are infrared saunas?

In our quest to understand the difference between infrared saunas and traditional saunas, let’s start by delving into the world of infrared saunas. Unlike traditional saunas that rely on heated rocks or stoves, infrared saunas use infrared light to directly heat the body. This type of light penetrates the skin and generates heat within, providing a deep and soothing experience. 

Infrared saunas are renowned for their numerous health benefits, making them popular among wellness enthusiasts.

infrared saunas vs. traditional saunas use a different source of heat
Infrared saunas heat the body using infrared light, creating a soothing experience.

Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas offer a wide range of health benefits. One of the most notable advantages is detoxification. The deep penetration of infrared heat stimulates the sweat glands, facilitating the release of toxins from the body. This natural detoxification process can leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized. Additionally, infrared saunas improve blood circulation, leading to enhanced oxygen flow, better nutrient delivery, and accelerated healing.

Stress relief and relaxation are other significant advantages of infrared saunas. The gentle heat helps relax muscles, relieve tension, and promote a sense of calm and tranquility. Regular sessions in an infrared sauna can reduce stress levels, improve sleep quality, and boost overall mental well-being.

Furthermore, infrared saunas are known for their skin benefits. The heat stimulates collagen production, improving skin elasticity and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. The increased blood flow also enhances the delivery of nutrients to the skin, resulting in a healthy and glowing complexion.

What are traditional saunas?

While infrared saunas have gained popularity in recent years, traditional saunas have a long-standing history and cultural significance. Traditional or Finnish saunas employ heated rocks or stoves to raise the air temperature within the sauna room. This dry heat creates a unique sauna experience that has been enjoyed for centuries.

traditional saunas use hot rocks or stoves for heat, vs infrared saunas
Traditional saunas, also known as Finnish saunas, use hot rocks or stoves for heat.

Health Benefits of Traditional Saunas

Similar to infrared saunas, traditional saunas offer a multitude of health benefits. The high temperatures in traditional saunas induce profuse sweating, promoting detoxification and flushing out toxins through the skin. This deep sweating can also help relax muscles, reduce muscle soreness, and improve joint flexibility.

Traditional saunas have been linked to improved cardiovascular health as well. The heat increases heart rate, dilates blood vessels, and improves blood circulation throughout the body. Regular use of traditional saunas can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and improve overall cardiovascular function.

Furthermore, the intense heat of traditional saunas can provide a therapeutic effect on both the body and mind. The sauna experience can induce a state of relaxation, reduce stress, and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Many sauna enthusiasts find traditional saunas to be invigorating and energizing, providing a sense of purification and rejuvenation.

Infrared vs. traditional saunas: what’s the difference?

When it comes to saunas, there are two main types that dominate the market: infrared saunas and traditional saunas. While both types of saunas have a similar purpose and share many of the same benefits they vary in terms of heating mechanisms, temperatures, and overall experience. Understanding the differences between these two options is essential before making a choice.

Now that we’ve done a deeper dive into infrared and traditional saunas, let’s look at the primary difference so you can decide between an infrared vs. traditional sauna: 

Comparison of Heating Methods

One of the primary differences between infrared and traditional saunas lies in their heating methods. Infrared saunas utilize infrared light to directly heat the body, while traditional saunas rely on heated rocks or stoves to raise the air temperature. These contrasting approaches create distinct sauna experiences.

Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures compared to traditional saunas, typically ranging between 113°F (45°C) and 140°F (60°C). The infrared light penetrates the body, generating heat from within. This lower temperature range makes infrared saunas more tolerable for longer sessions, allowing individuals to enjoy the benefits of the sauna for extended periods without feeling overwhelmed by excessive heat.

On the other hand, traditional saunas are known for their higher temperatures, often ranging between 158°F (70°C ) and 194°F (90°C). The hot rocks or stoves in traditional saunas heat the air in the sauna room, creating a dry heat that warms the body through convection and conduction. The high temperatures in traditional saunas can provide a more intense sweat and a unique sauna experience for those who enjoy the sensation of heat enveloping their body.

When it comes to personal preference, some individuals prefer the gentle warmth of infrared saunas, finding them more comfortable and relaxing. Others appreciate the intense heat of traditional saunas, believing it to be invigorating and purifying. It’s important to consider your tolerance for heat, sensitivity to temperature, and desired sauna experience when choosing between infrared and traditional saunas.

The biggest difference between infrared vs. traditional sauna is the source of heat
The biggest difference between infrared vs. traditional sauna is the source of heat

Energy Efficiency and Environmental Considerations

In today’s world, energy efficiency and environmental sustainability are crucial factors to consider when making any purchasing decision. When comparing infrared and traditional saunas, energy efficiency plays a significant role.

Infrared saunas are often more energy-efficient than traditional saunas. They consume less electricity to generate the desired heat because the infrared light directly heats the body, resulting in lower energy consumption. This not only reduces your carbon footprint but also translates into potential cost savings in terms of energy bills.

Moreover, if environmental sustainability is a priority for you, it’s worth exploring eco-friendly sauna options. Look for saunas made from responsibly sourced wood or those constructed with low-emission building materials. By choosing environmentally conscious sauna products, you can enjoy the benefits of heat therapy while minimizing your impact on the planet.

Installation and Maintenance

Another aspect to consider when comparing infrared and traditional saunas is the installation process and ongoing maintenance requirements.

Infrared saunas are typically easier to install compared to traditional saunas. They come in various sizes and designs, including portable options that require minimal assembly. Infrared saunas often require a power source for the infrared heaters, proper ventilation, and a sturdy surface to place the sauna on. With straightforward installation instructions, many individuals find it manageable to set up an infrared sauna in their homes.

Traditional saunas, on the other hand, may require more extensive installation. They often require a dedicated space, proper insulation, ventilation systems, and specialized wiring for the heating elements. The construction of traditional saunas may involve building walls, installing benches, and creating a vapor barrier. Due to these additional requirements, the installation process for traditional saunas can be more complex and time-consuming.

When it comes to maintenance, both infrared and traditional saunas require regular care to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Proper cleaning is essential to prevent the buildup of bacteria or other contaminants. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance, which often involve wiping down the surfaces and disinfecting the sauna regularly.

Additionally, ensuring proper ventilation and air circulation is crucial for both types of saunas. This helps maintain a fresh and comfortable sauna environment and prevents mold or mildew growth. Regularly inspecting the sauna’s components, such as heaters, controls, and wiring, is also important to promptly identify and address any potential issues.

Other types of saunas

While infrared and traditional saunas are the most well-known options, various other types of saunas are available to suit different preferences and needs. In this section, we will briefly explore the other types of saunas, including indoor, outdoor, and portable, to help you make an informed decision.

Indoor Saunas

Indoor saunas are designed to be installed within the confines of your home. They provide a convenient and private sauna experience, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of sauna therapy without leaving your house. Indoor saunas come in various sizes and designs, from pre-built saunas to customizable modular units. They can be integrated into existing bathrooms, basements, or dedicated sauna rooms.

Outdoor Saunas

Outdoor saunas provide a unique and refreshing sauna experience. These saunas are usually located in a separate structure or cabin within your outdoor space, such as a backyard or garden. Outdoor saunas allow you to connect with nature while enjoying the therapeutic benefits of sauna therapy. They provide a serene environment and the option of cooling off in fresh air or immersing yourself in cold water after a sauna session, such as in a nearby pool or a cold plunge. This method is called hot-cold therapy.

a traditional outdoor sauna in the woods
Outdoor saunas are a great choice if you have a lot of property or a vacation rental.

Portable Saunas

Portable saunas offer flexibility and convenience, allowing you to enjoy sauna sessions wherever you go. These compact and lightweight saunas can be easily set up and dismantled, making them ideal for those who travel frequently or have limited space at home. Portable saunas often utilize infrared heating technology and come in the form of foldable enclosures or personal sauna domes.

Steam Rooms

Steam rooms, also known as steam saunas, operate on a different principle than traditional saunas. These enclosed spaces are filled with moist, steamy air, creating a highly humid environment. Steam rooms are typically made of non-porous materials such as tile or glass to retain the steam effectively. The warm, humid conditions in steam rooms can promote relaxation, respiratory health, and skin rejuvenation.

Sauna safety considerations

Saunas, regardless of the type, should always be used with caution and consideration for safety. 

Here are some important safety considerations to keep in mind:

  • Temperature regulation: Maintaining a comfortable temperature and avoiding overheating is crucial. Start with lower temperatures and gradually increase as your body acclimates. Listen to your body’s signals and take breaks when needed.
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated is essential when using saunas. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session to replenish the fluids lost through sweating.
  • Duration of sessions: Limit your sauna sessions to a reasonable duration. Start with shorter sessions, typically around 10-15 minutes, and gradually increase the time as your body adjusts. Avoid prolonged sessions that may lead to dehydration or overheating.
  • Precautions for specific health conditions: Certain health conditions, such as cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, or pregnancy, may require extra caution when using saunas. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using a sauna to ensure it is safe for you.
  • Personal comfort and well-being: Always prioritize your personal comfort and well-being. If, at any point during a sauna session, you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or unwell, exit the sauna immediately and seek medical attention if necessary.

These safety considerations will ensure a positive and enjoyable sauna experience while minimizing potential risks.

a personal sauna in a bathroom
Whether using a sauna at home or in public, ensure you prioritize your comfort and well-being.

Infrared vs. traditional saunas: choosing the right sauna for you

Are you ready to take the plunge and invest in a sauna to boost your health and wellness? When it comes to choosing between infrared and traditional saunas, there are several factors you should consider before making a purchase. Here are some things to keep in mind before making your decision: 

  • Personal preferences: Think about the type of heat you find most appealing and enjoyable. Some people prefer the gentle warmth of infrared saunas, while others prefer the intense heat of traditional saunas.
  • Health considerations: If you have any underlying health conditions or concerns, consult with a healthcare professional before deciding on a sauna type. They can provide personalized advice based on your specific needs.
  • Installation requirements: Assess the available space in your home and consider the installation requirements for each sauna type. If you have limited space or prefer a portable option, an infrared sauna might be more suitable. However, a traditional sauna could be a great choice if you have ample space and are willing to invest in a more extensive installation.
  • Maintenance: Consider the level of maintenance you are comfortable with. Infrared saunas generally require less maintenance, while traditional saunas may involve more upkeep due to additional components like heating elements and ventilation systems.

By carefully evaluating these factors, you can make an informed decision and select the sauna that aligns best with your preferences, lifestyle, and wellness goals!

Final considerations for infrared vs. traditional saunas

Both infrared and traditional saunas offer unique experiences and a multitude of health benefits to boost your wellness. Infrared saunas utilize infrared light to directly heat the body, offering gentle warmth and numerous therapeutic advantages. On the other hand, traditional saunas rely on heated rocks or stoves, providing intense heat and a more traditional sauna experience.

Consider factors such as personal preferences, health considerations, installation requirements, and maintenance when making your decision. By doing so, you can choose the sauna type that suits your needs and enhances your wellness journey.

Remember, whether you opt for an infrared or traditional sauna, always prioritize safety, stay hydrated, and listen to your body. Enjoy the soothing heat, relaxation, and rejuvenation that saunas can bring to your life!

a rustic traditional sauna
Saunas come in all shapes and sizes, from modern to rustic.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about infrared vs. traditional saunas

Now that you know the similarities and differences between infrared and traditional saunas, you may still have some questions. Here are the most popular questions (and answers) regarding infrared vs. traditional saunas. 

How long should I stay in a traditional sauna?

The duration of a sauna session can vary depending on personal preference and tolerance. A typical session ranges from 10 to 20 minutes, but it’s important to listen to your body and not exceed your comfort level. Remember to take breaks and stay hydrated throughout your sauna experience.

What should I wear in a traditional sauna?

Traditional sauna etiquette suggests going in naked or wearing a towel. However, it ultimately depends on your comfort level and the specific sauna environment. If you prefer to wear something, a bathing suit or a towel wrapped around your body is a common choice.

How often should I use a traditional sauna?

The frequency of sauna use depends on individual preferences and overall health. It’s generally safe for most individuals to use a traditional sauna a few times a week. However, it’s important to listen to your body and not overdo it. If you have any underlying health conditions or concerns, consult with a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations.

the interior of an infrared sauna
The inside of a small infrared sauna.

What is the biggest difference between infrared and traditional saunas

The biggest difference between infrared and traditional saunas lies in their heating mechanisms and the way they heat the body. Infrared saunas use advanced technology to emit infrared light waves, directly heating the body and providing a focused, deep-penetrating warmth. On the other hand, traditional saunas heat the air within the sauna room, gradually warming the body through conduction and convection. This fundamental distinction results in varying temperature ranges, heat penetration levels, and overall sauna experiences.

Are infrared saunas safer than traditional saunas due to their lower operating temperatures?

Infrared saunas are generally considered safe, as they operate at lower temperatures compared to traditional saunas. The lower temperatures make them more comfortable for individuals who may find intense heat challenging to tolerate. However, it’s essential to follow manufacturer guidelines and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any specific health concerns.

Do traditional saunas provide a more intense sweating experience?

Typically, traditional saunas provide a more intense sweating experience compared to other types of saunas, including infrared saunas. Because traditional saunas tend to reach higher temperatures (ranging from 160°F to 190°F or even higher), they can induce profuse sweating.

The intense heat in a traditional sauna stimulates the sweat glands, which lead to a significant increase in perspiration. Pouring water over hot rocks or stoves increases humidity within the sauna, further contribute to the sweating process.

In contrast, infrared saunas provide a more gentle and penetrating heat that primarily targets the body directly, resulting in a different sweating experience. While you will still sweat in an infrared sauna, the intensity and amount of sweat may be less pronounced compared to a traditional sauna. Infrared saunas typically range in temperature from around 120°F to 150°F.

The choice between a traditional sauna and an infrared sauna depends on personal preference, comfort level with higher temperatures, and specific wellness goals. Some individuals may find the intense sweating experience of a traditional sauna invigorating, while others may prefer the milder heat and longer duration of infrared sauna sessions.

an older couple sitting in an infrared sauna
Saunas can be enjoyed alone or with a friend or partner.

Are there any benefits to using a sauna after a workout?

Yes! There are many benefits to adding a sauna session after a workout. Many athletes find saunas help with recovery and overall well-being. Here are some of the biggest benefits of using a sauna after a workout: 

  • Muscle relaxation
  • Improved circulation
  • Accelerated muscle recovery
  • Increased flexibility
  • Enhanced detoxification.
  • Mental relaxation
  • Stress reduction
  • Lower blood pressure 

What are the best infrared saunas on the market?

Fortunately, there are many great infrared saunas on the market today at various price points. This means that just about everyone can afford to boost their wellness at home with an infrared Sauna! 

Here are some of my favorite infrared saunas on the market today: 

#1 Overall Infrared Sauna: Clearlight Sanctuary 1-Person Full Spectrum

Top Outdoor IR Sauna: Clearlight Sanctuary 5-Person Full-Spectrum Sauna

Best Infrared Sauna Blanket: Sun Home IR Sauna Blanket

Favorite 2-Person Infrared Sauna: Dynamic Andora 2-Person IR Sauna

Top Portable IR Sauna: SereneLife One-Person Indoor Sauna Kit

Most Luxurious Infrared Sauna: 3-Person Low EMF Wooden Sauna

Best budget-friendly IR Sauna: Zonemel Portable Full-Size Home Sauna

Most Durable Infrared Sauna: LTCCDSS Outdoor Far Infrared Sauna

Best IR Sauna Design: HeatWave Hemlock IR Sauna

Top Low EMF Infrared Sauna: Maxxus Low EMF Far IR Sauna

Conclusion: infrared or traditional sauna?

There you have it! In the debate of infrared vs. traditional saunas, you now have all the information you need to make an informed decision. With so many fantastic benefits to using a sauna, there’s no reason not to add one to your wellness journey. And frankly, you can’t really go wrong with either type!

Whether you’re a fitness guru, lifestyle coach, or just an average Joe trying to make improvements to your wellness routine, I highly recommend sauna sessions. And if you can’t invest in your own home sauna, I’m sure you’ll find a gym or rec center with a sauna closer than you might have thought.

For more on health and wellness, read next:

– Guide to Infrared Light Therapy

– How to Recover Quickly from Workouts

– 25 Scientific Benefits of Doing Cold Immersion

– Wim Hof Ice Bath Technique: Tips + Method

– Top Health Benefits of Taking Ice Baths

– Why Cold Showers Are a Good Idea

– Ice Bath Recovery Tips & Tricks

6 Benefits of a Sauna After a Workout: the Pros of a Sauna at the Gym

infrared vs. traditional saunas text overlay above a photo of an infrared sauna
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