What Is an Infrared Sauna?

Saunas use heat or steam to create an atmosphere that will raise your core body temperature. You’ll sweat and your heart rate will increase to pump more blood to your skin. This is your body’s way of cooling you down. The idea is that this process mimics the effects of exercise and provides similar health benefits.

Where traditional saunas use heating elements to raise the temperature of the air inside, infrared saunas use infrared light to heat your body while the air around you stays unchanged. The result is your core temperature rising without having to sit in a room where the ambient temperature is close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people find this more comfortable than traditional saunas.

How do you use an infrared sauna?

Many people will do infrared sauna treatments at a health club, spa, or doctor’s office, while others will purchase and build one in their homes. If you decide to give an infrared sauna a try, it’s important to know that they don’t come with universal instructions.

There are guidelines you can follow, but ultimately, how you choose to use an infrared sauna is up to you. Here are some tips to get you started.

Drink water. Make sure you’re hydrated before going into an infrared sauna. Drink a glass of water before your session. You can also bring water into the sauna, especially if you’re sensitive to higher heats.

Choose the temperature. The average temperature for an infrared sauna ranges from 100˚F to 150˚F, with beginners starting out at the lower end and more experienced users at the higher end. If this is your first time, start with 100˚F. You may want to stay at this temperature for a few sessions. You can always increase the temperature each session until you reach 150˚F.

Length of time. For first-time users, start with 10 to 15 minutes. You can add time to each session until you reach the suggested time of 20 to 30 minutes. Saunas come with a timer, so make sure to set it. You don’t want to stay in there too long and risk becoming dehydrated.

Clothing. How you dress is your choice. Some people will wear bathing suits, while others prefer to go in naked.

What you can do while in the sauna. Relax, read, meditate, listen to music, or visit with friends. Just don’t go to sleep.

After the session is over. When your session is done, it’s suggested that you take your time and let your body cool down. Once cooled down, feel free to take a shower or bath. Just make sure you are drinking plenty of water.

A number of sessions per week. Most facilities that offer infrared sauna treatments recommend using the sauna three to four days per week. If you are healthy and tolerate the four days, you can use the sauna daily.

What should you know before you try an infrared sauna?

There are a few things you should know before indulging in your first session.

Avoid using an infrared sauna if you’ve been drinking alcohol.

If you feel ill or have a fever, it’s best to wait to use the sauna until you’re feeling better.

Using an infrared sauna will cause you to sweat a lot, so you may feel lightheaded when you stand up. If this happens, make sure you get up slowly and sit down once you leave the sauna. Drink water immediately after finishing your session and wait for your body to cool down before doing anything else.

In extreme cases, some people may experience overheating (heat stroke and heat exhaustion) or dehydration.

If you have any health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems, or are under medical care, get cleared by your doctor before your first session. Even though infrared saunas have been found to be fairly safe, you don’t want to take any chances when it comes to your health and safety.

TYPES OF INFRARED SAUNA HEATERS

  1. CARBON HEATERS

Carbon heaters produce long-wave infrared heat and they’re known for their safety, efficiency, and emit gentle yet powerful heat. The heat is evenly distributed throughout the sauna and tends to provide the body with even heat exposure.

Carbon fiber heaters (like the one used in this Maxxus 2-person sauna) offer 40% more efficient than ceramic heaters. In general, they are more durable with a significantly lower risk of damage or breaking because carbon panels are not as fragile as ceramic. This also allows carbon heaters to endure the high-temperature environment and offer a longer lifespan.

While infrared saunas that use carbon heaters are energy-efficient and offer a longer lifespan, they are not as affordable as their ceramic counterpart.

  1. CERAMIC HEATERS

Ceramic heaters heat ceramic rods until they get red hot. Ceramic heaters are known for their immediate efficiency in heating your sauna as they can produce a high quantity of heat in such a short time span.

However, because of ceramic heaters’ efficiency, they can also reach high temperatures very quickly. Ceramic heaters tend to offer a shorter lifespan than other options (though still decades-long), due to the possibility of shattering or cracking the ceramic material.

These heaters are efficient at conserving energy and offer lower purchasing costs in comparison to carbon heaters. This TheraSauna 2-person sauna is a great example of a ceramic heater infrared sauna.

  1. CARBON/CERAMIC COMBINATION

The carbon/ceramic combo heaters can offer the best of both worlds. They provide the safety and durability of carbon and the quick-heating capability and affordability of the carbon-ceramic infrared combo.

Are infrared saunas better than traditional ones?

Infrared sauna advocates say that these types of saunas can aid in weight loss and detoxification. These claims are controversial, to say the least.

While both traditional and infrared saunas make you sweat like crazy (that’s really their main purpose), this doesn’t necessarily translate to long-lasting weight loss since what you’re losing is actually water, not fat.

Additionally, although the high temperature inside saunas can cause a slight increase in heart rate (much like walking at a slow to medium pace), it’s not enough to make you lose fat.

Their detoxing benefits are also the subject of ongoing debate. Proponents believe that since infrared light can penetrate the skin, it’ll lead your body to sweat out toxins more effectively.

At the same time, infrared saunas are safe for most people and have no reports of causing adverse effects.

Like all saunas, infrared units are generally enjoyable, relaxing, and even pain-reducing if used for appropriate time lengths at comfortable temperatures. To lower the risk of dehydration, dizziness, or feeling excessively overheated, it’s best to keep sauna sessions between 10 to 20 minutes long at temperatures of 120˚ or less. You can slowly increase the session time and temperature as long as you feel comfortable.

Do note that if you’re prone to dehydration, have any type of heart or blood pressure condition, or are pregnant, you should consult a doctor before using any sauna.

What To Look For In An Infrared Sauna

Materials and Build Quality

For many years only high-quality far infrared saunas dominated the infrared sauna market. Craftsmanship, for the most part, was very high. Woods used were Western Red Canadian Cedar and quality white woods such as Basswood, Spruce, and Aspen.

The majority of infrared heaters produced used ceramic and metal, with ceramic being the preferred type because of higher infrared efficiency and infrared output. There were rigid quality control standards for the woods, glues, and electrical safety used.

As options over the internet have expanded, low-quality overseas manufacturing spawned numerous upstart sauna companies with little to no understanding of the therapeutic benefits of infrared therapy.  They were selling a wooden box with heaters, offering low cost and in turn low-quality saunas on the internet and at big box stores.

Models from these manufacturers can lack quality of materials, construction, and safety down to even the basic wiring including substandard controls and heaters. Beware of any noxious odors from toxic glues being used in the manufacturing process or smells from the wood itself. Subpar saunas can also have wood that has not been finished or sanded and is rough to the touch as you pass your hand over it.

Heater Positioning

Saunas with heaters positioned above the head are not effective as it is the infrared wavelengths coming off the heaters directly that offer the benefits in an infrared sauna.

Positioning heaters above the head wastes infrared energy that could be better used in the front of the sauna, or by the calves and sides of the body. The ideal infrared therapy directs heat at your body with the proper wavelengths so it is important it targets your front, back, and sides. Without proper heater placement, you will only receive partial benefits.

Look for heaters kept low to keep the infrared heat aimed at your body and completely surround you with infrared heat.  There is no wasted energy up over your head & you will receive benefits faster through the maximum amount of infrared heat.

Sauna Size 

Infrared saunas made for home or commercial uses can be built to accommodate between 1-6 people depending on your intended usage:

One Person Saunas – Require the smallest space to install and are adaptable to either a business or home environment.

Two Person Saunas – Combine the optimal balance of size and comfort allowing extra room for individual use or the ability to use the sauna with another person.

Three Person Saunas – Provide additional room to stretch out and are ideal for multi-person use with infrared heat spread evenly throughout.

Four to Five Person Saunas – Provide additional space & allow you to remove the benches for exercises or hot yoga.

Health Risks And Precautions To Take While Using An Infrared Sauna

  • As a beginner, it is safe to start with 15-20 minute sessions and allow your body to acclimatize to the sensation over time. You can gradually increase your time in the sauna to 45-60 minutes.
  • Restrict using the sauna to a maximum of three times a week to allow your body to rest and adjust between treatments.
  • Keep the temperature settings to low-medium to avoid overheating or injury.
  • Make sure to drink lots of water before a session to keep your body well hydrated. Excess sweating may cause dehydration if you use the sauna after low fluid intake.
  • If you have any health conditions you are concerned about or are pregnant, make sure to consult with your GP before opting to use an infrared sauna at home.
  • People with skin disorders, heat sensitivity, fever, implants, or undergoing prescription medication should avoid using the infrared sauna without professional medical advice.