Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Are infrared saunas worthy of the hype? What you need to know

What's the deal with infrared saunas? We found out for you

The wellness space is constantly evolving. There’s no shortage of trends and buzzwords. “Detoxify” is a big one, and proponents of traditional saunas have long purported that a sweat session in one could help you release toxins.

In the latter half of the 2010s, a new trend emerged in the spa space: Infrared saunas. Makers swore that the special infrared lamps that utilize electromagnetic radiation to heat your body directly lead to a better — more detoxifying, even — experience.

Related Videos

Wellness claims are a dime a dozen, though. Further, the word “radiation” may make you a little nervous. What’s the deal with infrared saunas? Here’s what to know before booking an appointment.

Howard x Higher DOSE sauna

How do infrared saunas work?

At first glance, an infrared sauna may look like a traditional sauna, though some models may look like a tent (it’s not for style points — it’s a cost-cutting design).

However, the process is the most significant difference between a traditional and an infrared sauna. A traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air. Your body gets nice and warm and sweaty as a result. On the other hand, an infrared sauna uses far infrared light, which transmits electromagnetic radiation, to cut right to the chase and heat your body. The idea is that an infrared sauna requires less heat and deeper tissue penetration, allowing the user to work up a sweat more quickly than with a traditional sauna.

inside an infrared sauna

How hot do infrared saunas get?

Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures than their traditional counterparts. An infrared sauna typically reaches 120˚F and 140˚F. Traditional saunas usually hit temperatures between 150˚F and 180˚F.

infrared sauna

What are infrared saunas good for?

Proponents of infrared saunas swear they have tons of benefits, including:

  • Detoxification
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Treatment for congestive heart failure
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Relaxation
  • Ache and pain relief, including in people with chronic pain
  • Obesity treatment
  • Anti-aging
  • Better circulation
  • Improvement in symptoms for people with chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Reduction in cholesterol levels
  • Improved mental well-being

Of course, the wellness space is filled with dubious claims. What does the science say about infrared saunas? Truthfully, not much. Infrared saunas have yet to be studied extensively.

First, let’s clear up the big one: Detoxification. Sweating has its share of benefits, including weight loss. However, you cannot sweat out toxins.

A 2009 literature found limited moderate evidence suggesting that infrared saunas could lower blood pressure and treat congestive heart failure. There was only one study on chronic pain, and the results indicated a fair amount of evidence that infrared saunas could help. There was also only one study on obesity, and the evidence supporting infrared saunas for treating the condition was also weak. The authors did not find evidence that infrared saunas could lower blood pressure.

In 2015, a small study of 10 people found that infrared saunas could help alleviate symptoms of chronic fatigue. Another one from the same year with the same sample size indicated that infrared saunas could aid recovery following strength training.

A study from 2006 noted that infrared light could reduce skin photoaging signs.

Though there might not be robust data supporting claims of medical benefits, experts do note that people experience improved mental well-being from using traditional and infrared saunas.

a male doctor talking to a male patient

Are infrared saunas safe?

Generally, yes. Electromagnetic radiation is low, and exposure to it is considered safe for humans. However, some people should avoid them or at least have a conversation with their healthcare provider before jumping into an infrared sauna. People should be cautious of infrared saunas if they have:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Had a heart attack
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Ever experienced fainting spells

Pregnant people should also avoid infrared saunas, so nix it if you’re thinking of going to an infrared sauna with a pregnant partner.

Side effects of infrared saunas may include:

  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes

Drinking plenty of water before and during your time in an infrared sauna can help reduce risks. Continue to hydrate after, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Additionally, avoid overconsuming alcohol or coffee prior to stepping into one, as both are dehydrating. People usually spend 20 minutes in an infrared sauna, but you should work your way up to that time. Start with smaller increments, like five or 10 minutes, to see how your body adapts and feels.

Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly. This process differentiates infrared saunas from traditional ones, which heat the air. The hot air then heats the body. Benefits, such as use for weight loss, lower blood pressure, and improved cholesterol, have not been studied enough for scientists to conclusively sign off on all of the purported benefits of infrared saunas. However, they do appear to improve mental well-being. That benefit alone may make it worth the shot.

Still, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons, particularly if you have certain health conditions. People prone to fainting spells or with heart disease should speak with a provider first. Drink plenty of water before and during your trip to an infrared sauna — they can be dehydrating. Look for a clean, licensed spa and read reviews before choosing one. You want it to be a stress-reducing experience, not one that induces stress.

Editors' Recommendations

12 fantastic reasons to add jumping jacks to your workout routine
These are all the reasons you should be doing more jumping jacks
Shirtless man doing jumping jacks.

Each branch of the armed forces uses a simple bodyweight exercise to keep everyone in peak physical condition - they clearly understand the benefits of jumping jacks! While exercises like squats, push-ups, and pull-ups have their own benefits, jumping jacks can take a workout to a whole different level.
It might be a decade or more since you last did a round of jumping jacks, but this childhood favorite callisthenic exercise is not just child’s play — jumping jacks have plenty of health and fitness benefits for adults as well. Jumping jacks are easy to perform and accessible from anywhere you have a mere foot of space, require no equipment, and have the unique perk of bringing back nostalgic memories, making them feel as much like play as they are a workout. Keep reading for the top benefits of jumping jacks and why you should carve out a place in your workout routine for this tried-and-true classic exercise move.

1. Jumping jacks improve cardiovascular fitness
Jumping jacks increase heart rate and respiration, challenging your cardiovascular system. Completing extended sets of jumping jacks and progressing the duration of your sets will improve your aerobic fitness and endurance. Aim to move as fast as you can with good form, completing the full range of motion with each jump to maximize your fitness gains. Start with sets of 30 seconds and build up to several minutes or more without stopping.

Read more
How to train for better posture (because your WFH habits suck)
If you find yourself slouching all day at your desk, here's how to turn things around
Man sitting at desk with good posture.

Looking your best is impossible without good posture. Sitting or standing up straight involves core strength, balance, and flexibility. If you’re suffering from muscle pain and fatigue during the day, you might need to improve your posture. Doing so with proper training will decrease stress on your muscles, reduce your risk of injury, and increase your energy.

Finding the right ways to improve your posture will also lead to better body awareness. You’ll start to notice when you hunch over while walking or sitting. Focus on your posture while exercising, and you’ll begin to recognize other imbalances. You will naturally want to work on areas where you’re tight that you didn’t notice beforehand. 
What muscles control your posture?

Read more
7 mobility exercises to strengthen your joints and increase your range of motion
These highly effective mobility exercises can help you take your health to the next level
Man doing pistol squat.

Staying active and eating a healthy diet can help prevent certain diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Exercise and diet can also reduce the risk factors of developing other serious health conditions. Another major plus of participating in regular exercise is that it helps to prevent weight gain and muscle loss and aids in the burning of calories and body fat as well.

Other noteworthy benefits of exercise are that it maintains supple and flexible joints throughout life, and this helps to prevent mobility issues as the body ages. However, there can be more to an exercise routine than just muscle strengthening, flexing, and stretching.

Read more