Why Everyone's Obsessed With Infrared Saunas

Photo Credits: Deborah Jaffe/ Getty Images | Image Used for Illustrative Purposes Only

When licensed acupuncturist Joel Granik founded his New York spa, Floating Lotus, he had one goal: To provide a spin on typical pain management in a relaxing, mind-body-soul setting that delivered a little bit of the unordinary in wellness treatments.

The spa offers floatation therapy, a salt cave, sound therapy, yoga, meditation, reiki, various massage and facials, and, the in-house favorite, acupuncture. When they redid the space a few months back, they added something new—an infrared sauna, which the team researched for its full-body “detoxifying” benefits.

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Unlike a traditional sauna that’s associated with steam, infrared heats up the body directly, resulting in an increase in core temperature. “This brings toxicity up to the surface so that the body can either sweat it out or move it out with other excess fluids in the urine,” Granik explains. “A steam sauna heats up the room; you can feel this as soon as you step inside. It feels very nice, but generally makes you feel tired after you leave. An infrared sauna heats your body from within, and leaves you feeling energized when you finish the session.”

Besides the energy boost, Granik claims the sauna increases blood circulation, detoxifies the body, burns calories (he has seen up to 400–600 per hour!), helps lessen skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, releases endorphins and promotes feeling of stress, reduces muscle and joint pain, and brightens dull and tired-looking complexions.

Photo courtesy of HigherDOSE

“It’s become very popular. Some of our clients come regularly to deal with pain or to detoxify. Especially when the weather turns cold, the infrared is booked out most of the day.”

SaunaBar in Los Angeles has seen similar success with its infrared sauna. While the experience is a little different—they use individual pods instead of rooms and are particularly proud of the fact that there’s some crystal therapy at play via jade stones—the end goal is the same: to detox the body.

According to founder Joseph Harounian, the location (they’ve been around since 2008 but went through a rebranding in 2016) is dedicated to holistic health, and he sees the treatment as an alternative way to relieve pain associated with arthritis, muscle spasms, joint stiffness and sprains. He’s also a big believer in the beauty benefits and sells 30-day packages specifically targeting weight-loss and better skin—both of which include one-on-one coaching and tailored regimens.

“Infrared sauna has been around for years in Europe and Asia, but no one in the U.S. really heard of it until Dr. Oz mentioned it,” Harounian says. “Unfortunately, even with that mention, it’s still really under-the-radar. I would guess less than five percent of customers who come in here know what it is.”

Celebrity aesthetician and skin care expert Veronica Barton Schwartz, who uses infrared at her Malibu spa, also agrees the service hasn’t hit its stride in popularity (yet), but says it is a treatment that's suitable for anyone. “It can help improve the appearance of cellulite, ease joint pain and stiffness, boost the immune system, detoxify, and improve skin health. It’s a great natural way to detox.”

With locations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, HigherDOSE founders Lauren Berlingeri and Katie Kaps also take that holistic-detox angle when promoting their service, but point to the trend as part of a much bigger wellness craze that’s simply focused on “feeling good.”

“People are searching for healthy ways to feel good that doesn’t involve drugs and alcohol [the sauna is even billed as a destination for a date or social outing with friends] and there’s obviously a huge interest in spending money on preventative health and self-care right now. ‘Health tech’ is also huge. There's a growing number of next-level technologies—cryotherapy machines, float tanks, etc.— coming to market designed to increase well-being and the infrared sauna falls squarely in this category.”

“Plus, it’s no secret that people are obsessed with Instagram. Clients love posting selfies in these saunas.”