What is an Infrared Sauna & How Does it Work?

Saunas have been popular for years now. At home, in gyms, and all over media. Perhaps you’ve personally experienced the healing sensation of the heat after a workout, or as a way to relax after a stressful day. When you think of saunas, you may think of steam, humidity, and high, sometimes stifling temperatures. However, infrared saunas aren’t quite like their traditional cousins. 


What is an infrared sauna?


An infrared sauna, used for infrared therapy, is a type of sauna that uses infrared heaters to give off light rays. These far infrared light rays deeply penetrate your skin to help ease pain within muscles and nerves. Because infrared saunas use light to warm the body from the inside, they operate at lower temperatures – as low as 110°F – than traditional saunas, which use heat and humidity to warm the body by heating the air, and can exceed 200°F.


Infrared saunas use heat technology for pain relief, relaxation, and other areas around body (and mental) wellness. It’s essentially using heat to “sweat out” illnesses and toxins, and help cleanse and rejuvenate your body. There’s so much infrared light can do without forcing you to endure high temperatures, making them a more comfortable alternative to traditional saunas.


What Does an Infrared Sauna Do?


Infrared saunas provide tremendous benefits without much effort. Let’s break down some of the main benefits an infrared sauna brings:


1. Increase Blood Flow


Because your core temperature is rising from the heat of the sauna, your blood vessels naturally dilate and increase blood circulation. This helps speed up the body’s natural healing and recovery process, whether that’s soothing aches and pains or reducing muscle tension and reducing or eliminating lactic acid after an intense workout.


2. Pain Relief 


The increased blood flow allows the infrared heat to penetrate muscles deeper, helping to relieve pain and tension. Increasing your blood circulation also helps red blood cells carrying oxygen reach your muscles for a faster recovery. It’s perfect to help soothe aches and pains from an injury or a hardcore workout.


3. Burn Calories 


While, no, sitting in your infrared sauna isn’t an alternative to a good work out, it’s a great addition to help increase your metabolism and burn some extra calories. By raising your core temperature, it forces your body to work overtime (and increase sweat production) to bring your temperature back down to normal. This is also considered a “passive aerobic workout”, since you’re not only getting all the benefits of sweating and making your body work harder, you’re also in a more relaxed state.


4. Stimulate Collagen


Collagen is the largest form of protein in the body. We often think of skin benefits when we think of collagen, but it’s found in a lot of areas of the body – bones, tendons, muscles, etc. Collagen supports us in so many places! The lights that infrared saunas use are a natural way to help enhance collagen production, which is a major benefit to your skin, especially. The boost in collagen helps improve circulation, increase elasticity, and revitalize and, soften, and smooth your skin. Not only is it a benefit to your health, but also your complexion.


5. Increase Immune System


Increasing your body temperature has a number of positive effects on your body, a main one being increasing your immune system. When you raise your core temperature, you’re creating an artificial fever, which triggers an immune response, strengthening your overall immune system. The heat also helps to open nasal passages, so if you do have a cold or allergies, you’ll get some relief from the pressure and congestion.


6. Reduce Stress


Ultimately, being able to relax, lessen stress, and get the proper amount of sleep helps keep our bodies (and minds) healthy, able to fight off sickness, and simply gives us a better perspective on our day. Being able to create space for ourselves, take a breath, and recharge not only helps our mental state, but also allows our bodies to heal and restore themselves. The relaxing warmth from an infrared sauna puts the body in a restful state, helping to rejuvenate and rehabilitate.


How do infrared saunas work?


Rather than using steam or higher temperatures to warm the air around you to then warm your body, infrared saunas use light to heat your body directly from the inside. Because your body is being heated from within rather than from the air, it’s much more comfortable than sitting in higher and more humid temperatures. While many infrared saunas use infrared heat lamps or panels to emit far infrared waves, you can also find full-spectrum infrared saunas that emit near, mid, and far infrared waves. However, the most effective wavelengths are far infrared, as they penetrate farther and give you the most benefits of heat. 


Infrared saunas can also use chromotherapy, or color therapy. Chromotherapy uses colors to adjust body vibrations and frequencies for physical and mental well-being. Each color is associated with different areas of the body or different needs. For example, the color blue is used to promote relaxation and calm, as well as relieve headaches, migraines, colds, stress, etc.


Are infrared saunas safe to use?


Yes! Infrared saunas are completely safe to use. Infrared heat occurs naturally, like when you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, or the heat of a bonfire, or even a toaster. These infrared waves should not be confused with harmful UV rays, like what you’d find in tanning beds. So many things around us emit infrared heat – even our own bodies! Infrared saunas naturally warm the body and come with many health benefits, without the extremely hot and uncomfortable air that comes with a traditional sauna. The infrared heat lamps can get hot, so touching them before they’ve cooled is likely the only real danger of an infrared sauna!