Infrared Saunas Are the Wellness Trend You Need to Try According to Experts

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From cold plunging to digital detoxes, a new wellness trend emerges every day. Most of them come and go, but infrared saunas have proven to have more staying power than most. For starters, major celebrities are vocal fans. Over the years, Kendall Jenner was reportedly given an infrared sauna for her birthday, Gwyneth Paltrow has claimed to sit in one every day as a part of her wellness routine, and Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez have even been spotted heading to an infrared sauna together.

All of this hype has us wondering: is the buzz really worth the buy? Our beauty team decided to investigate. Ahead, experts weigh in on the benefits of using an infrared sauna and give their honest thoughts on the practice.

Featured Experts

  • Jason Lakritz PT, DPT, is the founder of the physical therapy clinic that operates within FITloft
  • Daniel McKenna is a New York–based celebrity fitness trainer and creator of The Irish Yank Fitness App

What is an infrared sauna?

Traditionally, infrared saunas are found in wooden boxes decked out with infrared lights which heat the body without the negative effects of sunlight. “While traditional saunas heat the air first to make you sweat, infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly,” explains Daniel Mckenna, a New York based celebrity fitness trainer and creator of The Irish Yank Fitness App.

The high temperatures are supposed to set off a series of reactions within your body. “Your core body temperature increases, which sends a signal to your body to increase blood flow, heart rate, metabolism, and decrease oxidative stress that causes inflammation as well as a decreased blood pressure,” explains Jason Lakritz PT, DPT, the founder of the physical therapy clinic that operates within FITloft.

However, thanks to the increasing popularity of infrared saunas, they are becoming available in different formats. For example, HeatHealer now sells an Infrared Sauna Blanket ($598), so you can experience all the benefits of infrared light in your home. 

What are the benefits of infrared saunas?

Infrared saunas owe their buzz in part thanks to the myriad of benefits they boast. Some of said benefits include an improvement in sleep, a boosted immune system, improved heart health, increased muscle repair, an increased metabolism that leads to an increase in fat burning, and much more, according to Lakritz.

  • Detoxification: A 2017 study found an increased calorie burn during an infrared sauna session. However, weight loss on account of the sauna has yet to be proven.
  • Pain relief: A 2022 study found that IR therapy can help treat certain musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.
  • Improved heart health: Heart health is one of the major benefits boasted by infrared light therapy users. A 2023 study proves that IR may be linked to slowing cardiovascular aging.
  • Stress relief: People seek out saunas of all kinds for stress relief, and IR saunas are no different. A 2021 study backs this up. They found that IR therapy helped promote relaxation.
  • Improved sleep: Sleep and relaxation are closely related, but a 2018 study found that improved sleep function was a welcome side effect of IR therapy.

What are the risks of using an infrared sauna?

Infrared saunas boast a variety of benefits, but they are not without risk. Both Lakritz and Mckenna agree the benefits of infrared saunas far outweigh the risks, however, risks are still involved.

According to McKenna, the most important risks associated with infrared saunas are potential overheating and dehydration. If you feel like these could be an issue for you, Lakritz suggests talking with your doctor before going into an infrared sauna. Also, both of our experts recommend that pregnant women avoid using this treatment.

How to prepare for an infrared sauna

If it is your first time trying an infrared sauna, McKenna recommends starting at a lower temperature (starting under 140 degrees fahrenheit). He also suggests sitting in the sauna for a short period of time. 10-20 minute increments is a good place to start. “You can increase the temperature and length with each session to allow your body to adjust to it,” he says.

Beyond just paying attention to the temperature and the time, make sure to drink plenty of water before your appointment. “You will sweat a lot during your sauna session which may cause dehydration, so it is crucial to hydrate before and after,” says McKenna. “Also, avoid alcohol before using an infrared sauna.”

Lakritz’s recommendations surround what to wear to your appointment. He suggests keeping it comfortable. “General guidelines for comfortable clothing consist of swimwear and workout clothes like a light top or sports bra with shorts,” he says. “Heavy clothing can lead to hygiene issues due to the buildup of bacteria. Light clothing, on the other hand, allows your body to breathe.”

Infrared saunas may be a wellness trend, but they boast a variety of benefits from improved sleep to cardiovascular health. McKenna would recommend it to people who suffer from high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, headaches, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. However, both of our experts stress the importance of checking with your healthcare provider before trying for the first time. “Remember, your healthcare provider has a comprehensive understanding of your medical history and can provide personalized advice,” says Lakritz.

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