Can Saunas Actually Help Clear Up Your Skin?

To anyone who has never tried saunas but is considering starting, they may seem like torture chambers that offer you a glimpse of what it would feel like to be in the pits of hell. But experts have long touted the benefits of using a sauna regularly, especially after a grueling workout. While being inside one feels like you're bread in an oven, the minutes of sacrifice apparently result in a number of health benefits, including pain relief, better blood flow and circulation, and total relaxation.

"The heat has shown the ability to reduce inflammation, relax muscles and decrease blood pressure," Dr. Barbara Bawer, a family medicine physician, shared with HuffPost. "For individuals with arthritis, heat can penetrate muscle tissue and relieve stiffness of the joints to help make you more limber, decrease inflammation and therefore reduce pain." Saunas are reportedly good for the brain too, with Dr. Jari Laukkanen, a cardiologist, telling Prevention that saunas "may actually reduce the risk of mental disorders, but further studies are needed to confirm that."

But as it turns out, aside from aiding in improving both heart and mental health, saunas also help in clearing your pores.

Staying in a sauna helps with opening your pores

Saunas, at their core, primarily work to force you into sweating. And when you sweat, your body automatically ramps up your heart rate and blood circulation, as well as opens up your pores. The result? Your skin gets to absorb all the good stuff better, leading to a healthier-looking complexion. "The heat from the sauna increases blood flow, which in turn leads blood pressure to drop," Dr. Marina Peredo, founder of Skinfluence NYC, explained to GQ. "The heart beats faster and more efficiently. As with exercise, the increased circulation means that more nutrients are being delivered to the skin." And since your pores are open during a sauna session, your skin will push out the stubborn dirt inside of them. What's more, Dr. Denise Millstine, internist at Mayo Clinic's family medicine office, shared with Women's Health that "regular sauna use makes the skin more robust, meaning it sort of firms it up and makes it more elastic, which is good for aesthetic reasons, but also because the skin acts like a general health barrier."

It should be noted, however, that in order to maximize these benefits, it's recommended that you first take a shower to kickstart the process of opening up your pores, Peter Tobiason, founder and CEO of LIVKRAFT Performance Wellness, told Shape. And once you're out, make sure to take a cool shower, too, so you can "close" them. "This stops you from sweating and reabsorbing toxins you just released," he added.

What about steam rooms?

If you're not fond of how saunas make you feel, you may want to consider steam rooms instead. They work similarly to saunas, except that they don't give you the "dry" feeling, and instead offer a "moist" experience. The benefits they can provide to your skin are more or less the same, too. "Steam opens the skin's pores and clears out any congestion," Dr. Rupert Critchley, a general physician, shared with Byrdie. "Have you ever noticed that warm and healthy glow when you step out of the steam room? That's because hot steam therapy increases peripheral blood flow, thereby improving your overall skin complexion."

And given how they open up your pores, steam rooms also help in clearing the gunk in them, which can result in clearer skin. But a word of caution: people with oily skin may want to steer clear of these rooms, as heat can apparently make your skin more susceptible to collecting oil. Meanwhile, Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist, told PureWow that those with rosacea may want to avoid them, too. "[Steam rooms are] not good for someone who has rosacea," she noted. "A steam room will aggravate this condition."