What You Need To Know Before Stepping Into An Infrared Sauna

Saunas are a go-to place for relaxation and recovery for many. Apart from stress relief, the small, heated room gives many more health benefits to its users. Some personal trainers even urge clients to use the sauna as it has positive effects on the body after a workout.

Saunas have been around since the olden times, but researchers still have not distinguished the actual year of creation. However, many believe that the idea of the sweat-room came from Northern Europe around the 20th century B.C. The cold countries like Finland, Russia, Estonia, and Latvia have included using saunas in their cultural life (via Medium). No surprise there, as two of the countries lie within the arctic circle with bitterly cold temperatures. Meanwhile, Latvia and Estonia were part of the Russian Empire many moons ago — meaning their former rulers influenced their culture.

Saunas have also evolved throughout the years. Infrared saunas are now a thing, created for added benefits that their ordinary counterpart cannot produce, while some people prefer to use infrared sauna blankets for convenience. "It makes the body sweat at lower temperatures than the ones needed for regular convection heated saunas, so people tolerate it better," Dr. Alejandro Junger, a cardiologist based in California, told Goop. "Because IR penetrates deeper—up to three inches—it mobilizes and burns fat, which not only helps with weight loss but with detoxification as well, since many of the toxins we absorb are surrounded and trapped by fat."

The importance of drinking water before using the infrared sauna

As you may know, the high temperatures inside an infrared sauna make you sweat profusely. Toxins and water weight come out of your body when hitting the small heated room. It is imperative to drink lots of water before the sweat session to combat possible dehydration. Don't risk your health. Drink water — your body will thank you for it.

Infrared saunas use less temperature than regular dry saunas. "These saunas use infrared panels instead of conventional heat to easily penetrate human tissue, heating up your body before heating up the air," Vivian Eisenstadt, a physical therapist based in Los Angeles, said (via Healthline). If you like drinking water throughout the day, you can bring a bottle with you during your sweat session.

According to Healthline, infrared saunas have average temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Avid users are experienced and like to use the higher temperatures since their bodies have adjusted and are used to the heat. The lower temperatures might be ideal for new users to let the body adjust gradually to the warmth. Dr. Alejandro Junger shared in an interview with Goop that he uses the sauna almost daily for about 15 minutes. He also suggests using the heated room no longer than 30 minutes for three to four times weekly if one likes longer durations.

What to wear to your infrared sauna session

When thinking of saunas, a picture of men and women with their bodies wrapped in towels comes to mind. Wearing little clothing is optimal for the sweat session. However, anyone can wear anything they like as long as it is not so tight on the skin that it blocks pores. A heavy sweating session requires breathable clothes for better results. Of course, towels are the best option, but you can opt to wear loose, cotton clothes if you want more coverage. Sauna suits, yoga clothes, and swimwear are also other options (via Infrared Living).

If you have your own infrared sauna, you don't have to worry about the clothes you wear, as opposed to entering public heated rooms. Again, wearing less clothing is advisable for the sweat session. You can opt for a towel or nothing at all if you're comfortable with that option. One important thing to also take note of is to wear light-colored clothing. Dark garments can block the sauna's infrared light — which can hinder its effects on the skin and body. As for jewelry, remove the accessories. The heat can be harmful to wearables like smartwatches. The same goes for makeup. Cosmetics can clog up pores when used in the gym and sauna, which can hinder your skin from breathing properly. Also, melted makeup on the face can be gross.

Should you take a shower before or after an infrared sauna session?

Public saunas require their guests to be clean before entering their infrared sauna rooms for sanitary purposes. Showering may be necessary before hitting the sauna. However, if you own the infrared sauna, then showering before the sweat session is entirely up to you. Although, washing away the dirt and the oily film from the body can make for better results when using the infrared sauna (via Infrared Living).

It is also advisable to shower after the session to get rid of the sweat and toxins. "We recommend a five to 15-minute cool down and a cold shower depending on how long your session is," said Lauren Berlingeri, one of the founders of the Higher Dose spa in New York City (via Nutritious Life). When you have access to a swimming pool or a jacuzzi, take advantage of it after your time (or between sessions) at the infrared sauna. Your body will thank you for it.

Drinking alcohol before hitting the infrared sauna room

While drinking water is important to replenish the body from the loss of fluids when using infrared sauna, consuming alcohol is definitely not an option. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), there are sauna-related deaths in Finland with alcohol consumption as the contributing factor. Using the infrared sauna while ingesting alcoholic beverages can alter the body's ability to maintain blood pressure levels. There are too many health complications, including cardiac arrhythmias and heat stroke. So, it's best to skip the sauna after happy hour.

For people with colds, the sauna can help alleviate symptoms as the heat promotes drainage. Although, the heated rooms do not treat colds. High temperatures are beneficial for people with asthma, arthritis, and chronic fatigue. Finland has used the sauna method since ancient times (via The New York Times). While infrared saunas can help some people with several health problems, doctors still advise taking extra caution, especially for those who have heart problems.