A Sceptics Guide to Infrared Saunas (Inc. Benefits, Tips and FAQ)

We get it.

An article about how great infrared saunas are, from a website that sells infrared saunas, might not seem like the most reliable content.

Coming across as genuine is difficult when we have personal gain attached to you believing us, because did you know that we sell saunas here and here and over here, too.

That's why everything we're about to say is backed by scientists and professionals that have nothing to gain from whether you buy a sauna from us. So, we mean it when we say...


...actual research shows that if you're trying to improve your
- saunas can help.

mental health​​​

We're not promising that two minutes in a sauna can transform a flabby belly into knife-sharp abs; any website that tells you so are dealing in not-very-white lies. We respect our readers, and our industry, too much for that.

We prefer science-backed fact to clickbait myths. Hopefully, you do too:

What Actually is an Infrared Sauna?

An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses (perfectly healthy!) infrared light to create heat. These saunas are sometimes called far-infrared saunas because it’s describing where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum. Most traditional saunas work by heating the air around you, in turn heating your body, whereas an infrared sauna works by heating your body directly.

For this reason, people generally prefer being inside an infrared sauna to a traditional sauna, with people often describing the former as "less intense" and generally more enjoyable.

This means there's hope for people that have found non-infrared saunas too uncomfortable in the past, as they offer the same (and additional) benefits as more traditional saunas but at a lower temperature.

Variations of saunas have been used for centuries, but recent leaps in technology mean that they are now more beneficial than ever - and more affordable than ever, too. Another benefit of this shift in technology is that saunas can now fit inside our homes, so there's no need to sort a babysitter or jump in the car anymore when you want a cleanse.

On the subject of benefits...

What Are Some Infrared Sauna Benefits?

Below, you can find a list of infrared sauna benefits broken down in to categories for easier browsing. You can either scroll down to read them all, or click on the icons below for that specific information:

Improves mental health

Clears skin

Promotes health cells

Oxygenates tissue

Improves immune system

Helps heal wounds

Has cancer fighting traits

Develops growth hormones

Lowers blood pressure

Helps with weight loss

Provides cardio exercise

Improves mental wellbeing

When it comes to relaxing and maintaining a healthy state of mind, infrared saunas have been proven to do just that. For anyone to maintain a state of positive mental health, proven forms of relaxation are required.

The special form of light waves projected helps to penetrate the core of the body, which naturally promotes an overall healthy body and mind.

For those who are seeking alternative methods for treating anxiety and depression, infrared sauna therapy is an effective method of helping reduce symptoms to these conditions, according to Dr. Lawrence Wilson.

Clears skin

Speaking broadly, if using a sauna makes you happy, then you will generally look better anyway because the physical benefits of good mental health include clearer skin and less break outs (Little et al, 2010).

In terms of direct benefits of infrared sauna use, the profuse sweating achieved after just a few minutes of a session removes deeply embedded impurities and dead skin cells, leaving the skin glowing and cleaner. Increased circulation draws your skin’s own natural nutrients to the surface. You’ll see improved tone, elasticity, texture and fresh colour. Increased blood circulation has also been shown to relieve acne, eczema, psoriasis, burns, lesions and cuts. In addition, open wounds heal more quickly, reducing potential scarring.

Speaking to Byrdie, dermatologist Whitney Bowe said the following:

"We often think about the benefits of exercise in terms of fitness and weight control, but we don't usually think of its key role in keeping skin looking young and firm. Surprising new research shows that exercise not only does keep your skin healthier, but it can actually reverse skin aging in people who begin an exercise regimen even later in life!"

- Whitney Bowe

Promotes healthy cells

Increasing energy at a cellular level is crucial to increasing your levels of immunity. Whilst your body is being flushed of toxins, the increase in circulation allows cells to rise to the skins surface and help the muscle recovery process; while also contributing to a stronger immune system.

An excerpt from a recent infographic we made on infrared saunas.

Dr Frank Lipman, a pioneer in functional and intergrative medicine, wrote the following for Be Well: “Because the infrared’s radiant heat will stimulate circulation, rev up the production of white blood cells and rally your immune system’s response to invaders. All that action will make your body a much less hospitable environment for germs to grow – and a great place for them to die.”

Oxygenates tissue

Our body runs on oxygen and runs better when optimal levels are reached, but we often lose oxygen when it passes through our body. As this study by Zinchuk and Zhad'ko shows, sauna use "decreases haemoglobin binding capacity to venous blood oxygen, thus facilitating oxygen transport into body tissues".

Since this deals with highly complex matters (and was also translated from Russian), what it basically means is that the thermal exposure of the sauna facilitates the bodies ability to carry oxygen and therefore its ability to absorb it, too. 

Improves the Immune System

The heat from infrared saunas causes a raise in core body temperature, this induces an artificial fever. Fever is the body’s natural mechanism to strengthen and accelerate the immune response, as seen in the case of infection.

This enhanced immune system, combined with improved elimination of toxins and waste products via intense sweating, increases your overall health and resistance to disease.

Helps heal wounds

No matter how small or severe your wound is, the heating technology within infrared saunas has the ability to heal up wounds while minimising signs of scarring.

Obviously, these won't close a gaping wound or cover the blemish of a bruise, but they definitely speed up the bodies natural healing process. This is important, as it also helps lower the chances of infection and reduces the possibility of visible scars remaining.  This is completely unique to infrared saunas and isn’t a feature of any other type of sauna. How does it work, though?

Well, it’s fairly similar to the pain relief process. The increase in oxygen circulation simply speeds up the healing process, along with the skin rejuvenating benefits of infrared sauna therapy. This study (Whelan et al, 2001) looking at the benefits of near-infrared light therapy on wound healing supports this, concluding that it "will greatly enhance the natural wound healing process".

Has cancer fighting traits

You may be pleasantly surprised to know that the majority of top hospitals and cancer treatment facilities around the world recommend the use of infrared sauna therapy, for recovering patients and for overall disease prevention.

Cancer cells die at a heat of 109 degrees. So, if you take part in a sauna therapy programme or use it regularly, cancer cells become weaker, tumour cells die out and of course, your immune system becomes notably stronger.

Find out the full cancer fighting benefits of infrared saunas in the video above with Dr. Sahni.

According to a study held by Dr. Jari Laukkenen and his colleagues from the University of Eastern Finland revealed that regular sauna use - regular is considered 4 to 7 times per week - reduces incidences of Alzheimer's by 65% (Lee et al, 2017).

Develops growth hormones

If you're in a physical profession or just wanting to get/stay in good shape, then growth hormones are an important element to consider. While there are several methods to increase the amount of growth hormones in your body, few are as successful and efficient as using an infrared sauna.

A recent study conducted by SpringerOpen (Mero et al, 2015) confirmed what earlier studies suggested, which is that infrared sauna use can increase our growth hormone production by up to 60 times.

As it is highly insulin sensitive, it is also ideal for those with diabetes. 

Lowers blood pressure

The statistics show that the number of people suffering from poor blood pressure are rising year on year, so more and more people are looking for non-medicinal alternatives to help.

In a recent study held in Finland, where they examined 102 asymptomatic participants who had at least one cardiovascular risk factor and the effects of single sauna sessions, the following was deduced:

"This study shows that pulse wave velocity, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, left ventricular ejection time and diastolic time decreased immediately after a 30-minute sauna session. Decreases in systolic blood pressure and left ventricular ejection time were sustained during the 30-minute recovery phase." - (Lee et al, 2017)

Helps with weight loss

Of course, you can’t rely on only infrared saunas to lose weight, as the healthy life style must also follow. However, you’ll be happy to know that they are clinically proven to aid weight loss. We even put together an infographic comparing the weight loss to other sports.

A study held by Binghamton University that looked into the effect of saunas on weight loss revealed the following (McLeod, Kenneth; 2012) also found that sauna therapy produces significant changes in body weight within just two weeks of use. He said the following:

"Participants who had high compliance (used the sauna regularly) had a greater loss in body fat. Participants measured up to a 4% drop in body fat over the four months. However, interestingly, those that came in late in the day or evening lost significantly more body fat than those using the sauna in the morning. The change in body fat was confirmed by measurements of serum glucose levels."

- Kenneth McLeod

Did you know that an average 150-pound man can burn more calories sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes than cycling or playing tennis for the same amount of time?

Provides cardiovascular exercise

In a study titled "Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events" (Laukkanen et al, 2018), the researchers followed 2,315 Finnish men for over 20 years and found that "Finnish men reported an increase in sauna bathing habits (frequency and duration) to be associated with a reduced risk of SCD" - which stands for Sudden Cardiac Death .

A similar study (Kunutsor et al, 2018) found that, after an analysis of 1,628 men and women over a 15 year period, regular sauna sessions (which is considered 4 to 7 sessions a week) was associated with an approximately 62% reduced risk of stroke .

So, What Are Some Good Sauna Tips?

Drink water to help with the benefits of infrared sauna use

We actually wrote a detailed piece about sauna tips, where we go into more detail - but below you can find a few we selected that we think will be particularly helpful. 

Stay Hydrated

The most important advice when using a sauna is to always stay hydrated, as most people don’t drink enough water during the day anyway, so if you’re using a sauna be sure to get those vital few litres. Many of the benefits of a sauna come with sweating, which your body isn’t able to do if it’s dehydrated. It’s recommended that you drink a pint to 3 pints before, during and after your session.

Wait After Eating

You should wait at least 1-2 hours after eating before you begin your sauna session. This allows the body to allow the best results as blood will no longer be being diverted for digestion.

Ease Into the Heat

You should set your infrared sauna to around 115-140 °F to begin infrared sauna warm up. When the sauna reaches 90-110°F is a good time to start your session.

Cool Down & Shower

After your session, it’s important to cool while your body continues to perspire. Find somewhere quiet and sit quietly with a towel around you for about 10 minutes or until you finish perspiring. Then take a warm shower to exfoliate and wash the sweat residue off your skin as well as all the old skin cells and toxins you have flushed out. Once you have washed, cool the shower and relax, this closes all the skin pores.

An Easy Way to Maintain Your Sauna

Vacuum your sauna once per week or even after every use, it’s totally up to you to decide. Using a damp sponge or cloth with some diluted vinegar and baking soda mixture will help cleanse and disinfect any area that has collected sweat. Using towels during your sessions will reduce the need and time spent cleaning your sauna.

Saunas provide similar benefits and are a great alternative if there are no salt rooms/caves near you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas are not a completely new technology, but they have only recently begun to make their way into the health and wellbeing mainstream. However, many people are still unsure of how they work, what the differences are compared to a traditional sauna, and what the benefits of using them are. We at UK Saunas have therefore put together a few FAQs to answer the most common queries we get about infrared saunas.

"How long have saunas been around for?"

Heat has been used as a health treatment for centuries, with sweat lodges and steam baths being used by ancient civilisations to improve overall health and aid relaxation. More recently, saunas we are familiar with have been those heated by hot stones, with the interior being made of wood to absorb steam and remain a comfortable enough temperature for you to relax on whilst the 80 degree heat permeates your skin.

Around the beginning of the 20th century advancements were made in sauna therapies when infrared lamp sauna treatments were created. Since then this technology has undergone a great deal of development, and over the last few decades have been moving into the mainstream of health and well being spheres, with many health professionals now advocating the benefits of infrared light treatment.

These saunas use heat and light to help relax and detoxify the body by emitting infrared light waves, which create heat within the body causing you to sweat. This process has a healing effect on the body, and provides a number of health benefits.

"How do they work?"

These saunas work by emitting infrared light waves which penetrate the body, heating it from the inside out. This means it takes longer for the body to start sweating than in a usual sauna as the process is more gradual and directed at the inside of the body rather than just the skin and pores.

This can be an unfamiliar experience to new users, as the infrared light is directed at warming the body rather than the air around you; it is not as overwhelming as the heat experienced in traditional saunas. The experience is similar to sunbathing, as the rays penetrate your skin encouraging a natural heating sensation.

"How are they different from traditional saunas?"

Traditional saunas are a high heat low humidity environment, with temperatures kept above 80 degrees Celsius through the use of hot stones, and the heat can be intensified by pouring water over the stones. In contrast, infrared saunas provide a much milder environment, using infrared rays to heat the body from the inside-out, and the surrounding air heats secondarily, but nowhere near to the degree that it does in a traditional sauna.

The experience of these saunas is very different in that a traditional sauna will cause the body to sweat almost instantly, whereas the body requires around 12-20 minutes of exposure to infrared rays before it begins to sweat. The benefits from infrared saunas are based on the effects of the light rays within the body, and the way this gradual warming effect can aid with various ailments; whereas traditional saunas revolve around the sweating process and the cleansing of the skin.

"Who should use them?"

In reference to the question above, those who would benefit most from infrared sauna therapy are people who wish to try an alternative treatment to one of the ailments mentioned. However, the proven impact on overall health and the impacts not directly related to illness or injury, such as assisting with weight loss and detoxifying the body, can benefit everyone.

This technology is not growing in popularity for no reason; the resulting health benefits from infrared therapy are something which everyone should pay attention to, whether you are looking to help a particular issue or not. This technology is also perfectly safe for children to use, as long as they are supervised at all times.

"Are there any dangers of using them?"

Infrared saunas are perfectly safe as long as they are used properly and that users are aware of the risks of improper use. Some things to be careful of, many of which are the case for several temperature-based therapies, include dehydration, not using the sauna after drinking alcohol, not using the sauna too soon after acute injury, checking that it is suitable to use alongside any medication you are taking, and obviously not to use the sauna for an overly long period of time.

Infrared light rays will never cause any kind of burning effect on the skin, so it is completely safe and healthy for all living things, so much so that it is used in hospitals to warm newborn infants. Any retailer of these saunas should be able to advise on how to use them properly so that the experience is beneficial and enjoyable.

We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into infrared saunas, and that it provided everything you were looking for. This guide was initially put together to educate, and not sell, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the fact that we do have some great saunas for sale that should fit any budget (and any home).

Hopefully you can find what you're looking for through our main site, but if you have any trouble - or any questions about saunas at all - then please contact us and we'll be more than happy to help.