Is Sweating in an Infrared Sauna Good for You?

BY: Colleen Loggins |Apr 4, 2017

Celebrities such as LL Cool J and Selena Gomez love chilling out, or rather, heating up, at Shape House, an "urban sweat lodge" that uses far infrared heat to induce sweating. Owner Sophie Chicke actually first discovered the benefits of infrared heat using a Groupon and became so enamored with the way it made her feel that she opened her own place, which soon gained a cult following. People seem to love hopping into an infrared sauna (or a bed like the ones at Shape House), but why would they willing force themselves to sweat buckets?

As it turns out, spending time in infrared saunas can be good for your health. We take a look at how infrared heat affects the body and how it differs from other sauna treatments.

What is an infrared sauna?

It's a type of sauna that heats up your body without heating the air around you. Because it raises your core temperature, you sweat profusely while in one of these saunas and your heart rate increases.

The difference between infrared and traditional saunas

When you think of a sauna, you probably think of a wood-paneled room outfitted with long wooden benches and a pile of heated rocks in the middle. Perhaps you think of people occasionally pouring water over the rocks to create steam. This is a traditional Finnish steam sauna, and it's heated to about 176°F–194°F. Most people spend 5–20 minutes in a Finnish sauna, then hop in a cold pool or shower or hug a snowman to cool down. They may repeat the cycle a few times. Dry-heat saunas are basically the same thing, but they don't produce steam.

Infrared saunas, on the other hand, typically reach temperatures closer to 100°F–140°F, so walking into an infrared sauna doesn't feel as hot as walking into a traditional sauna. Despite the lower air temperature, people tend to stay in infrared saunas for about the same amount of time as traditional saunas.

Pro Tip: Want to try out all of the types of saunas? Head to a Korean spa, such as King Spa in Dallas or Chicago, Spa Castle in Queens, or Spa Palace in Los Angeles. Be sure to read our Korean spa tips before you go.

Infrared sauna benefits

Not a lot of research has been done on the benefits of using one of these saunas, but according to the Mayo Clinic, a few studies have found some evidence that they can improve chronic health problems such as congestive heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, and high blood pressure. More studies utilizing higher numbers of people are needed to confirm the results, but at the very least, no adverse effects have been reported with infrared saunas.

Other benefits may include relaxation, lowered stress levels, and relief from aching muscles and joints. Your skin might look glowy, too, after all of the sweating.

Using an infrared sauna for weight loss

There is a possibility that you can lose weight if you frequently use infrared saunas. A lot of people feel slimmer after their sauna session because they've just sweat out a lot of water weight. Most of that weight is gained back after rehydrating, but saunas still burn some calories. Exactly how many depends on the individual. If you're trying to lose weight, try incorporating infrared-sauna sessions into an exercise routine.

What is a far infrared sauna?

There are two types of infrared saunas: infrared and far infrared (FIR). Infrared saunas elevate the body's internal temperature with incandescent infrared heat lamps, whereas FIR saunas elevate it with ceramic or metallic heating elements. The heat lamps primarily emit near infrared wavelengths, and the ceramic or metallic heating elements primarily emit far infrared wavelengths.

Is an infrared or far infrared sauna better?

Again, not a lot of research has been done on infrared saunas, including how infrared and far infrared differ, but according to the peer-reviewed Alternative Medicine Review, a 1930s study did reveal that near infrared wavelengths penetrate deeper into the body than far infrared wavelengths. Yet the journal concluded that FIR saunas may still be beneficial. 

How to sauna:

  • Drink a glass of water before you enter the sauna and bring some water or a drink with electrolytes into the sauna with you.
  • Bring a towel to sit on; this helps protect your skin from a hot bench.
  • Eat a light meal beforehand.
  • Don't drink alcohol beforehand.
  • Step out of the sauna if you begin to feel lightheaded.
  • Use the time to meditate if you need to relax and de-stress.