Saunas, sweat lodges, and steam baths of different kinds have been in use all over the world for centuries. Archaeological records state that first Finnish saunas date back to the Viking age. Native American tribes of Mexico and Central America used sweat lodges called “temazcals” in pre-Columbian times. Banya, the traditional Russian steam bath, originated during the age of Kievan Rus and remains the place of bathing rituals for many Slavs today. Turkish bath or hammam dating back to the Ottoman Empire is also known all around the world. It is believed that people used the benefits of natural geysers and heated stones long before that, possibly starting with the Stone Age. Wikipedia can offer more information on history and technology of traditional and modern types of sauna, if you are interested.
However, the wheel is turning round and round, and new types of sauna are invented to meet the needs of modern people. Best steam showers, for one, allow you to discover the benefits of steam bathing without visiting a public sauna.
Another useful invention is the infrared sauna. The best saunas can offer multiple benefits even for people with serious health problems. If you do not know what is best for you, steam shower vs sauna, look through our article. Our tips point out the advantages of the main types of saunas that work on infrared lights and our reviews can help you to make the right choice.
What is an Infrared Sauna and How Does it Work?
People tend to think that such saunas are a recent invention. However, that is not entirely true. The first sauna that used light to heat the body appeared at the end of the 19th century, more specifically in 1893. It is the so-called “radiant heat bath” or “incandescent light bath” invented by John Kellogg, an American medical doctor. It creates heat with the help of incandescent bulbs. Such baths are still used in many hospitals to treat different health conditions. You can read about other inventions of Dr. Kellogg on the UT Health Science Center website.
Modern units work on a different technology. As the name suggests, they use infrared light. It is a part of the natural light spectrum with a specific wavelength. Humans cannot see it, although we are susceptible to the heat it radiates.
Infrared saunas come with generators or heaters that emit infrared light. This allows raising the temperature of the body without raising the temperature of the room. The rays penetrate the body and heat it up from the inside out. That, in its turn, increases the perspiration levels to a high extend and creates the effect similar to steam bathing. However, there is no steam so the air doesn’t get humid. That is why such saunas are also known as “dry heat saunas”.
Types of Infrared Saunas
There are two main types of saunas working on infrared lights based on the length of light waves. The variations in the wavelength result in different levels of EMF, or electromotive force. The longer the light waves are, the higher is the EMF level. Frequent exposure to high-intensity EMF can be dangerous and may cause serious health problems.
Far infrared saunas are the most popular. They are available in a wide array of models and designs. Such units can be either stationary or portable. Their heaters produce long rays and, consequently, offer high EMF levels that can be harmful if you overindulge.
Near infrared saunas are less popular than the other type. Their selection on the market is much narrower. Their design usually comprises a frame with a fabric cover that resembles a tent, a stool, and a panel with infrared lamps. Near infrared lamps emit short waves of light that produce a gentle effect on the body.
Both near types of saunas have their admirers who state that one type is better than the other.
Health Benefits of Infrared Sauna
Saunas that produce heat with the help of infrared lights come with all the health benefits of the traditional saunas and steam baths. Positive health changes happen due to the effects of the heat on the body including perspiration and improved blood circulation. The main benefits are:
Pain relief. High temperatures are known to relax the body and soothe sore muscles. The deep heat eases muscle pains even better than steam bathing. That happens thanks to the fact that infrared rays penetrate the skin without wasting heat to warm up the air.
Detox. Increased perspiration levels help the body to cleanse from toxins and heavy metals that would otherwise deposit in your liver and kidneys. Too many toxins in the body can cause fatigue, constipation, bad breath, skin problems, and even weight gain.
Relaxation. Infrared rays affect the body and raise its temperature. Even a slight increase causes multiple and complex physiological reactions such as a boost in endorphin production. Known as a “happy hormone”, it proves very useful in reducing stress.
High endurance. Long exposure to high temperatures improves muscular strength and joints flexibility. It also offers some cardiovascular benefits and heightens the general body endurance. This is a great alternative to cardio training, especially for people unable to exercise due to their health condition.
Improved immune system. Infrared rays provoke complex bodily responses that help the immune system to work more effectively. Increased blood and lymph circulation, enhanced mitochondrial function, and improved white cells production all contribute to that effect.
Lower blood pressure. One of the great benefits of improved circulation is lower blood pressure. Two ten-minute sessions a week are enough to somewhat decrease the numbers on your blood pressure monitor and make you feel much better in general.
Healthier skin. Regular sauna sessions greatly improve the condition of the skin. This is another positive side effect of high temperatures and sweating. Heat opens the pores and sweat flushes out dirt and skin fat. As a result, skin becomes clean and its tone gets much healthier.
Weight loss. Such saunas will help you to lose weight without dieting and overexhausting yourself in the gym. According to Healthy Focus, a 30-minute session can make your body burn up to 600 calories depending on your metabolic rate. That happens thanks to the fact that the body spends a great amount of energy to lower its temperature and keep it at a constant level. The same amount of calories can be burned by one hour of jogging.
Cancer cure. Near infrared saunas have been clinically proven to prevent cancer cells from developing and even kill already existing tumors. You can find out more information about the results of this research on the University of Massachusetts Medical School website.
Dangers of Infrared Saunas
Such saunas should be used very carefully, despite all their benefits. Such negative effects as overheating and dehydration are the most common consequences. If you feel thirst, headache, or dizziness during a sauna session, you should drink more water or reduce the temperature.
If you are a healthy person, you should be able to endure the impact of infrared rays without any side effects. However, if you have some chronic or acute diseases, you should consult your doctor before using such a sauna.
Health Physics Society can offer more information on the possible risks of such saunas.
Sauna Tips for Beginners
It may sound strange, but sauna has its rules. To benefit from it, please follow the next steps:
- Drink a lot of water directly before the sauna session. The perfect amount is two to four glasses, depending on your weight.
- It is best to get into the sauna naked and barefoot. However, if going nude is not comfortable for you, you can wrap yourself in a towel. Make sure that the towel is clean and fresh.
- Makeup is not the best idea when you go to sauna. The same is true for jewelry.
- Wait at least one hour after your meal before starting a sauna session. If the meal was especially substantial, it would be best to give your body at least two hours to digest the food.
- Do not go into the sauna alone, especially if it is your first time. Bring your friend or partner with you. You will have a great time detoxing together and there will be someone to help you in case something goes wrong.
- Don’t overexhaust your body. Start with lower temperatures. The duration of the session shouldn’t be more than 10 minutes at first. With time and practice, you’ll be able to increase the duration and temperature without harming your body.
- After the session is over, take a shower and have some rest. You should also drink the same amount of water as prior to the session and perhaps eat a healthy snack to give the body some energy.
How to Choose the Best Infrared Sauna
Wavelength. Both near infrared and far infrared saunas come with multiple health benefits. If you are cautious of the high EMF levels of the far infrared models or if you have serious health problems it will be best to choose a near infrared sauna. If you are a healthy person and want to experience the effects of infrared light to the fullest, a far infrared unit will be a better choice.
Type of installation. Decide if you want a built-in sauna or maybe a portable one will work better for you. Both types have their advantages. Stationary models are durable and can hold more people than portable ones. Portable saunas, in their turn, are compact, lightweight, and easy to install. They also come for a comparatively low price. However, portable saunas can accommodate one person at a time. That is not a problem if you plan to use it alone. Otherwise, you will have to purchase a separate sauna for each member of your family, or use one in turns.
Material. Infrared saunas are made of different sorts of wood. The most popular ones are red cedar and hemlock.
Red cedar looks striking and chic. The best infrared sauna brands use it to create products of the highest quality. Red cedar is relatively lightweight but durable sort of wood. However, it is not the best choice for asthmatics and highly allergic individuals. Red cedar is an aromatic wood and its oils may irritate lungs and cause allergic reactions. On the other hand, cedar can offer the benefits of aromatherapy for people who do not suffer from allergies.
Hemlock is less durable than red cedar. However, it has its own benefits. It is naturally antibacterial and resistant to mold and mildew. It has no specific odor and cannot cause allergies. Saunas made of hemlock are generally cheaper than red cedar ones. The quality of such units is no worse than that of red cedar ones.
Some cheap saunas are built with glue. Make sure that the construction of the model you choose is glue-free. Glue is toxic and it produces harmful fumes when heated. Inhaling toxic fumes as part of a detoxing sauna session is counterproductive to say the least.
Heater type. There are several types of infrared heaters based on the material. The most popular ones are ceramic and carbon.
Ceramic heaters are the most traditional. They come in two types of construction, rod heaters and block heaters. They warm up to high temperatures and can heat up the body in just a few minutes. However, such heat results in shorter wavelength compared to carbon heaters. The heat produced by ceramic infrared emitters is not distributed evenly throughout the sauna. Besides, ceramic rods and blocks are fragile and can be difficult to replace.
Carbon heaters have appeared only recently. They have a larger heating surface than ceramic heaters for an extra-even heat spreading. Such heaters warm up to lower temperatures than ceramic ones so it takes them quite some time to heat up the body. However, they produce longer rays of infrared light for deeper skin penetration. Infrared saunas with carbon heaters do not require expensive maintenance and they will not affect your energy bills overly much.
Size. There are saunas of different sizes on the market today. They can accommodate one person or an entire four-person family. Make sure to choose the sauna with regards to your needs. If you prefer to use it alone, a one-person sauna will be enough. If you’d like to enjoy sauna sessions with your partner, consider purchasing a two-person model. If you want to bring your family of a couple of friends into the sauna, a three- or four-person model will be a great choice.
Top Three Best Far Infrared Saunas
This sauna will be a perfect choice for any couple. It is large enough to accommodate two people at a time and offers a high level of comfort. It comes with seven strategically situated highly efficient carbon heaters. They are placed on all the inside surfaces of the sauna to warm the body evenly and offer all the benefits of infrared light. You can regulate the temperature and the duration of sauna sessions on the digital control panel.
Made of two layers of Canadian hemlock, this sauna from JNH Lifestyles is ETL and FSC approved. The construction of the sauna contains no chemicals or plywood. Double wooden walls and the safety glass door ensure perfect heat retention. In addition to all these advantages, this sauna comes with some high-tech features. It has a built-in AUX control, an excellent sound system with two speakers, and LED lighting to help you create a special mood.
This sauna can offer you all the benefits of heat therapy, as well as high convenience. This unit can hold two people so that you can enjoy your time with a special someone. This model comes with a deep bench and two backrests to create more sitting space and offer the highest level of comfort for both users. It is equipped with six carbon heaters placed on the back, side, and calf areas for even heating. The maximum temperature of the unit is 141 °F.
The Deluxe from Radiant Saunas comes with many extra features including chromotherapy lights that offer seven colors, built-in exterior lights, a hook for towels, a rack for magazines, an oxygen ionizer, and a CD and MP3 player. This sauna has touch control panels both on the inside and on the outside of the unit for ease of use. The unit is compact and can fit a bathroom of any size.
This stylish corner unit can become the focal point of any bathroom. It is designed to accommodate two to three people. It comes with two wide benches and five large carbon heaters to offer comfort and efficiency. Just as other models from this brand, this sauna has been certified and approved according to the ETL standards. This product is safe and guaranteed to serve you for many years.
The unusual design and the light hemlock wood of this sauna from JNH Lifestyle can enhance the style of any bathroom. This unit is perfect for a modest-sized bathroom as its shape allows it to fit into the corner and take up as little space as possible. It comes with a standard pack of features including a digital control panel, LED lights, and a built-in music device with two loud speakers.
Top Three Best Portable Infrared Saunas
This unique sauna can be used by anyone, even by people with serious health conditions. It is safe due to the minimal EMF emissions and the absence of negative ions that are characteristic of all stationary saunas. It comes with three cost-effective infrared heaters that generate heat and save the energy at the same time. The interior of the sauna is inlaid with thin tourmaline panels. This mineral from Japan has many benefits, one of them is that it helps the body to cleanse and detox.
The design of this portable unit from DIF-5000 comprises the sauna itself, two neck collars, and a foldable chair. This portable sauna is easy to set up and break down. It is very compact when folded and can be stored virtually anywhere. This model comes with a remote control to set the time and temperature. It also has a built-in heated footpad for an even deeper level of relaxation.
The design of this portable sauna from idealsauna allows your head and hands to stay outside of the unit. You can enjoy the deep relaxation and detox, and watch your favorite movie or read a book at the same time. Just get into the sauna, sit on the foldable chair, place your feet on the footpad with a heating element, zip the sauna up, activate the heaters through the remote control, and discover all the benefits of an infrared sauna in the comfort of your home. If you wish, you can get into the sauna completely, but you will need to remove the chair and sit on the floor of the unit to do that.
This portable sauna comes with high-quality carbon heaters that prove very efficient in producing high wavelength infrared lights. This unit also comes with a negative ion detox feature that helps to draw toxins out of the body and improves general well-being. Negative ions have multiple positive effects on the body. The main one is their ability to improve metabolic processes in the cells of the body and fortify the immune system.
This practical unit is easy to use and maintain. Made of moisture-repellant polyester fabric, it is mildew-free and easy to clean. The design of the sauna features a three-layer construction. The exterior of the unit is made of satin polyester that looks nice and is pleasant to the touch. The interior is made of a reflective fabric that helps to direct the infrared rays. The third layer comprises a cotton insulation inserted between the first two layers for extra padding and heat retention.
This portable sauna from Radiant Saunas has a durable construction. It comes with a sturdy frame made of beech hardwood. The set includes a foldable chair with a comfortable Oxford canvas fabric seat. The high-efficiency carbon infrared emitters can heat up to the maximum of about 150 °F. They emanate low EMF rays that have no negative effects on the body. This portable sauna is one of the best products you can get for the price.
Near Infrared Light Panel
If far infrared saunas come in a wide choice of models, near infrared saunas are not so easily accessible. Even if you can find one, its price is sure to be unreasonably high. However, there is an option for those who want to discover the benefits of this part of the light spectrum without spending a fortune. You can purchase a near infrared light panel.
This Near Infrared Light Panel from SaunaSpace comes with four bulbs emitting short wavelength infrared rays. The lamps are secured to a sturdy panel made of hypoallergenic basswood. The panel comes with all the necessary mounting hardware so that you can attach it to any wall. You can even hang it on the interior wall of your far infrared sauna to get a versatile unit with both near and far infrared rays.