Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna

Saunas have long been cherished for their relaxation and health benefits, providing a sanctuary of warmth and tranquility. As the wellness trend continues to grow, more people are exploring the various types of saunas available. Among the most popular are infrared saunas and traditional saunas, each offering unique experiences and benefits.

Understanding the differences between infrared and traditional saunas is crucial for making an informed choice that aligns with your personal health goals and lifestyle. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the specifics of both the benefits of infrared saunas and traditional saunas, comparing their mechanisms, benefits, and overall experiences. Whether you're a seasoned sauna enthusiast or new to the world of heat therapy, this article will help you decide which type of traditional or infrared sauna is right for you.

What is a Sauna?


Definition and History of Saunas

A sauna room is a small room or space designed to provide dry or wet heat sessions, promoting sweating and relaxation. Originating from Finland, saunas have been used for thousands of years as a means of cleansing, socializing, and improving overall well-being. The word "sauna" itself is Finnish, reflecting the deep cultural roots and significance of this practice in Finnish society.

General Health Benefits of Saunas

Saunas are more than just a luxury—they offer a multitude of health and wellness benefits that can improve your quality of life. Some of the key benefits include:

Detoxification: Sweating induced by the high heat helps flush toxins from the body.

Cardiovascular Health: Regular sauna use can improve heart health by increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure.

Muscle Relaxation: The heat helps to relax muscles, reduce tension, and alleviate joint pain.

Stress Relief: The soothing, gentle heat of a sauna promotes relaxation and helps reduce stress levels.

Skin Health: Sweating can cleanse the pores, improving skin health and appearance.

Improved Sleep: The relaxation effects of a sauna can lead to better, more restful sleep.

Understanding Infrared Saunas

Infrared Saunas

What is an Infrared Sauna?

Infrared saunas represent a modern twist on the traditional sauna experience. Infrared saunas employ infrared lamps or heaters to emit infrared light, which is absorbed directly by your skin, as opposed to regular saunas that heat the air around you. This method allows for a lower ambient temperature while still providing a thorough and effective heat experience. Infrared saunas are known for their deep-penetrating radiant heat, which can reach deeper into the tissues compared to the surface-level heat of traditional saunas.

Types of Infrared Saunas

Near-Infrared Saunas: Utilize near-infrared wavelengths, which are the shortest and penetrate the skin at a shallow level. These are often associated with improved skin health and surface-level healing.

Mid-Infrared Saunas: Use mid-infrared wavelengths that penetrate deeper into the body, offering benefits such as improved blood circulation and muscle relaxation.

Far-Infrared Saunas: Employ far-infrared wavelengths, which are the longest and penetrate the deepest, promoting detoxification and cardiovascular benefits.

Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas offer a range of health benefits, making them a popular choice for those seeking a variety of wellness improvements:

Detoxification: The deep-penetrating heat helps to eliminate toxins from the body more effectively than traditional saunas.

Pain Relief: Infrared heat can alleviate pain and inflammation, making it beneficial for those with chronic pain conditions or injuries.

Improved Circulation: The heat promotes increased blood flow, which can improve overall blood flow and cardiovascular health.

Skin Health: Enhanced circulation and sweating can improve skin tone, reduce signs of aging, and help with skin conditions such as acne.

Weight Loss: The sweating induced by both infrared radiation and heat can help burn calories and promote weight loss.

Common Questions About Infrared Saunas

Are Infrared Saunas Safe?

Yes, when used properly, infrared saunas are safe. It's important to follow usage guidelines and stay hydrated.

How Often Should You Use an Infrared Sauna?

For general wellness, using an infrared sauna 3–4 times a week is often recommended. However, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

How Long Should a Session Last?

Sessions typically last between 20 to 45 minutes. Beginners should begin with shorter sessions and work their way up to longer ones as their bodies adjust to the heat.

What to Wear in an Infrared Sauna?

Light, comfortable clothing or a towel is usually sufficient. The goal is to minimize heat exposure and maximize skin exposure to infrared light.

Understanding Traditional Saunas

Traditional Saunas

What is a Traditional Sauna?

Traditional saunas, often referred to as Finnish saunas, are the classic form and type of sauna that many people are familiar with. These saunas heat the air around you, typically using an electric heater, wood-burning stove, or steam to create a hot environment. The high temperatures, usually ranging between 150°F to 195°F (65°C to 90°C), cause the body to sweat profusely, promoting relaxation and various health benefits.

Types of Traditional Saunas

Finnish Saunas: Known for their high dry heat and low humidity, Finnish traditional saunas rely on either electric heaters or wood-burning stoves to create the sauna environment.

Steam Saunas: Also known as steam rooms, these saunas generate moist heat by creating steam, which increases humidity levels in the surrounding air.

Wood-Burning Saunas: These traditional saunas use a wood-burning stove to heat the sauna, providing an authentic and rustic sauna experience.

Health Benefits of Traditional Saunas

Traditional saunas offer a variety of health benefits, contributing to their enduring popularity:

Detoxification: The intense heat causes heavy sweating, which helps to eliminate toxins from the body.

Cardiovascular Health: Regular use of traditional saunas can improve heart health by increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure.

Muscle Relaxation: The high heat helps to relax muscles and alleviate joint pain, making it beneficial for athletes and those with chronic pain.

Stress Relief: The soothing environment of a traditional sauna helps reduce stress and promotes both mental health and relaxation.

Respiratory Benefits: The moist heat of steam saunas can be particularly beneficial for respiratory conditions, helping to clear congestion and improve breathing.

Common Questions About Traditional Saunas

Are Traditional Saunas Safe?

Yes, traditional saunas are safe when used responsibly. It’s important to stay hydrated and avoid prolonged exposure to extreme heat.

How Often Should You Use a Traditional Sauna?

Using a traditional sauna 2-3 times a week is common for general wellness. As with any wellness routine, consulting a healthcare professional for personalized advice is recommended.

How Long Should a Session Last?

A normal traditional sauna session lasts fifteen to thirty minutes. Beginners should begin with shorter sessions, and as they get more comfortable, they should progressively extend them.

What to Wear in a Traditional Sauna?

In traditional saunas, it’s common to wear a towel or light clothing. Some prefer to go without clothing to maximize skin exposure to the heat.

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Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna: Key Differences

Heating Mechanism

Infrared Saunas: Utilize infrared heaters to emit infrared light, or infrared radiation, which directly heats the body rather than the air. This same heating method allows for a lower ambient temperature while still delivering effective heat therapy.

Traditional Saunas: Heat the air around you using electric heaters, wood-burning stoves, or steam. The heated air then warms your body, creating a hot and often humid environment.

Temperature Levels

Infrared Saunas: Typically operate at lower temperatures, ranging from 120°F to 150°F (49°C to 65°C). Despite the much lower temperatures than ambient temperature, the infrared light penetrates deeper into the skin, providing a thorough heat experience.

Traditional Saunas: Operate at higher temperatures, usually between 150°F to 195°F (65°C to 90°C). The high-heat environment promotes intense sweating and a more immediate sensation of warmth.

Energy Efficiency

Infrared Saunas: Generally more energy-efficient as they heat the body directly and require less energy to reach and maintain operating temperatures.

Traditional Saunas: Often use more energy to produce steam to heat the air to higher temperatures and maintain those levels throughout the session.

Installation and Maintenance

Infrared Saunas: Easier to install and often available as pre-assembled units or simple kits. Maintenance is typically minimal, focusing on the cleanliness of the heaters and control panels.

Traditional Saunas: Installation can be more complex, especially for wood-burning or steam saunas. Regular maintenance is required to ensure the heating elements, stones, and wood are in good condition.

Experience and Comfort

Infrared Saunas: Provide a much more gentle and consistent heat that many find more comfortable, especially for longer sessions. The lower air temperature can be more tolerable for those sensitive to high heat.

Traditional Saunas: Offer a more intense heat experience, often preferred by those who enjoy the sensation of high temperatures and immediate, profuse sweating.

Cost Comparison

Infrared Saunas: Generally less expensive to purchase and operate. Lower energy consumption can lead to reduced ongoing costs.

Traditional Saunas: Initial costs can vary widely, particularly for custom-built or high-end models. Operating costs may be higher due to greater energy requirements.

Which Sauna is Right for You?

Personal Health Goals

When choosing between home sauna, an infrared sauna, and a traditional sauna, consider your specific health and wellness goals:

Detoxification: If your primary goal is detoxification, both traditional and infrared saunas can help. Infrared saunas are particularly effective due to their ability to penetrate deeper into the dead skin cells, promoting a more thorough detox.

Pain Relief: For chronic pain or muscle recovery, infrared saunas are often recommended due to their deep tissue penetration and lower heat, which can be more tolerable for extended periods.

Cardiovascular Health: Traditional saunas may be more effective for cardiovascular health benefits due to the higher heat, which can increase heart rate and improve circulation.

Relaxation and Stress Relief: Both types of saunas provide relaxation and stress relief. The choice may come down to personal preference regarding heat intensity and experience.

Space and Installation Considerations

Assess the available space and installation requirements before deciding:

Infrared Saunas: Typically require less space and are easier to install. Many infrared models come as portable or pre-assembled units that can fit into smaller areas, such as a home gym or bathroom.

Traditional Saunas: Often require more space and may need professional installation, especially if opting for a wood-burning or steam sauna. Consider ventilation and safety requirements as well.

Budget Considerations

Your budget will play a significant role in your decision:

Infrared Saunas: Generally more budget-friendly, with lower initial costs and reduced energy consumption. They are a good option for those looking for a cost-effective way to enjoy sauna benefits.

Traditional Saunas: Can vary widely in price, particularly for custom-built or luxury models. Operating costs may also be higher due to greater energy usage, so consider both initial investment and long-term expenses.

Lifestyle and Usage Preferences

Consider how the sauna fits into your daily routine and lifestyle:

Frequency of Use: If you plan to use the sauna frequently, infrared saunas may be more comfortable for longer sessions due to the lower heat. This can be beneficial for those looking to integrate infrared sauna sessions and use them into their regular wellness routine.

Heat Tolerance: Personal preference for heat intensity can influence your choice. Infrared saunas offer a gentler heat, while traditional saunas provide a more intense experience.

Convenience: Infrared saunas are often more convenient to use and maintain, making them a suitable choice for busy individuals or those new to sauna use.

Tips for Using Saunas Safely


Before the Sauna: Ensure you are well-hydrated before entering the sauna. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prepare your body for the intense heat and sweating.

During the Sauna: Keep a bottle of water nearby and take small sips if you feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they can dehydrate you further.

After the Sauna: Rehydrate immediately after your session by drinking water or an electrolyte-replenishing beverage to replace fluids lost through sweating.

Duration of Use

Start Slowly: If you are new to sauna use, start with shorter sessions of 10–15 minutes and gradually increase the duration as your body adjusts to the heat.

Recommended Session Length: For regular users, a typical sauna session lasts between 20 to 30 minutes. Pay attention to how your body feels and exit the sauna if you start to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or uncomfortable.

Listening to Your Body

Know Your Limits: Everyone's tolerance to heat varies. Listen to your body and do not push beyond your comfort level. Overheating can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.

Signs of Overheating: Be aware of symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea, or rapid heartbeat. If you experience any of these, leave the sauna immediately and cool down.

Post-Sauna Care

Cooling Down: After leaving the sauna, allow your body to cool down gradually. You can take a cool shower or sit in a cooler environment to help lower your body temperature.

Rest and Relaxation: Give yourself some time to rest and relax after your last sauna therapy session. Avoid vigorous activities immediately after your sauna therapy to let your body recover.

Skin Care: Gently cleanse your skin to remove sweat and toxins. Moisturize your skin to prevent dryness.


Choosing between an infrared sauna and a traditional sauna depends on your personal preferences, health goals, and lifestyle considerations. Both types of saunas offer unique benefits and experiences, making them valuable tools for enhancing wellness.

Recap of Key Differences

Heating Mechanism

  • Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly.

  • Traditional saunas heat the air around you.

Temperature Levels

  • Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures (120°F to 150°F).

  • Traditional saunas operate at higher temperatures (150°F to 195°F).

Energy Efficiency

  • Infrared saunas are generally more energy-efficient.

  • Traditional saunas may use more energy due to higher heat levels.

Installation and Maintenance

  • Infrared saunas are easier to install and maintain.

  • Traditional saunas can require more space and professional installation.

Experience and Comfort

  • Infrared saunas offer a gentler, more tolerable heat.

  • Traditional saunas provide a more intense, immediate heat experience.

Cost Comparison

  • Infrared saunas are typically more affordable and cost-effective.

  • Traditional saunas can be more expensive to install and operate.

Making the Right Choice

Personal Health Goals: Choose based on the specific health benefits you are seeking, such as detoxification, pain relief, improved cardiovascular health, or stress relief.

Space and Installation: Consider the available space in your home and the complexity of installation for each type of sauna.

Budget: Factor in both the initial cost and ongoing operating expenses to determine what fits within your budget.

Lifestyle and Preferences: Think about how often you plan to use the sauna, your tolerance for heat, and the convenience of use and maintenance.

Invitation to Share Experiences and Questions

We hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights into the world of traditional and infrared saunas. Have you tried an infrared or traditional sauna? We'd love to hear about your experiences! Feel free to share your thoughts and questions about traditional saunas in the comments below.

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