infrared sauna

What Is an Infrared Sauna? Uses, Benefits, and Dangers

Are you in for a detox, sweat, relaxation, and recovery? Infrared saunas have been quite popular in this regard, and guess what? You don’t have to endure the uncomfortably high temperatures as with a traditional sauna, but you still get the benefits. Today, we’ll check out everything you need to know about infrared saunas, including uses, benefits, pros, and cons, how it compares to a traditional sauna, what is infrared light, the history of saunas, etc. Enjoy!

What is Infrared Light?

Each light has a specific range it falls under, in terms of wavelength. For example UV or ultraviolet light is around 100 – 400 nm, violet around 400 – 500nm, blue light is at 450 – 500 nm and yellow and orange are between 570 – 630 nm. The shorter the wavelength, the more intense the light emitted is on the body. Guess what comes next? Your favorite, red and infrared.

Red light has a shorter wavelength of 620 – 700 nm, used for skin repair, wound healing, muscle recovery, energy boost, detox, and regeneration. Now infrared light has a range between 700 nm to 1 mm. Our eyes can only see what is within the optical spectrum, which is 380 to 750 nm, meaning the majority of infrared light we can’t detect with our eyes, but we can feel as heat.

The potential benefits of infrared light extend beyond relieving muscle soreness and relaxation. Infrared sauna may also improve blood pressure, reduce joint main, accelerate muscle recovery, help you detox, and improve circulation.

Fun Fact

Infrared light is emitted in abundance around you. With special cameras, this infrared radiation can be seen around. It is emitted by the earth, by sunlight, hot charcoal and even reflected by chlorophyll-rich plants. Most warm or hot objects will emit infrared light, although we can’t see it.

What is an Infrared Sauna?

Infrared Sauna is a special type of sauna that uses infrared heaters or lamps that emit infrared light, which produces heat that penetrates your skin. How deep the infrared light will penetrate your skin depends on the wavelength, whether it is infrared or near-infrared. This light is then converted to heat, and warms your body, without having to withstand very hot temperatures.

Infrared saunas are heating up to around 48 to 65 ˚C, approximately around 120 to 150 ˚F. This means it is easier to sit down during an infrared sauna session, but the effects are still there. Most of the heat targets your body, while less heat is used to warm the air.

There are special infrared radiating or infrared light emitting panels or heaters that can generate infrared light. You can even buy those individually if you’re creating your sauna. But generally, these types of panels are used in an infrared sauna system.

What is an infrared sauna and how is it different from a traditional sauna?

Instead of warming the air surrounding the body, infrared heaters in an infrared sauna emit radiant heat that is directly absorbed by the body. Compared to typical saunas, this allows for a more intense sweat at a temperature that some individuals may find more pleasant. Additional health advantages of infrared saunas involve improving skin health, enhancing skin repair and structure, and lowering inflammation.

Can using a sauna be dangerous?

While most people consider saunas to be safe, there are some concerns to be aware of. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke can be caused by prolonged exposure to the heat, especially in those who already have health issues or are using certain drugs. It’s crucial to drink plenty of water, keep sauna sessions short, and steer clear of them if you have any health issues.

The Origin of Infrared Sauna

Saunas originate from Finland, and it is one of the most characteristic inventions of the Finnish culture. Think of getting into a hot sauna with steaming hot air accompanied by the wood smell while watching the snow outside. Love that, that’s Finland, for sure.

The first saunas were very large and burned up many more trees for longer periods to heat up larger spaces. In Finnish, sauna means bathhouse. You know how cold and snowy it is in Finland, so they needed a warm place to enjoy, heat up and bathe. First saunas had large rocks over which water was poured, to increase air humidity and give an even hotter impression.

As technology advanced, the first infrared sauna was invented in Japan, around 1965. Creating a cleaner, more resourceful, practical sauna that used infrared light. It was more comfortable, portable, and easier to make. It became the new trend, the new tech sauna. It uses solar panels that radiate infrared light, potentially providing many similar benefits to a traditional sauna.

benefits of sauna

Key features of an infrared Sauna

There are different types of infrared saunas out there, but the key characteristics of a high-quality, good infrared sauna include:

  • No steam or humidity, but dry heat generation
  • High-quality, one-piece wood cabin with seats
  • Features infrared light emitting panels or heaters
  • Is energy efficient, doesn’t spend so many resources as a traditional sauna
  • Heats up around 120 to 150 °F or 48 to 65 °C
  • Includes a setup device where you can adjust settings like time, heat, or humidity

The production and use of infrared sauna have advanced to a level where anyone can nowadays buy his sauna, and place it at home. While saunas were something spectacular people traveled to Finland to experience, with the development of technology the production of pre-made infrared saunas has increased. Nowadays saunas are in many fitness facilities, health resorts, or wellness centers too, pretty convenient.

Traditional Sauna vs Red Light Therapy

Infrared sauna benefits range somewhere in-between a traditional sauna and red light therapy benefits. The use of infrared light has both the heat advantage of a sauna, as well as red light’s penetration mechanisms.
Traditional sauna has been shown effective for improving relaxation, relieving musculoskeletal pain (1), promoting cardiovascular and cognitive health, improving stress resiliency, and potentially expanding lifespan. (2)

Red Light Therapy on the other hand mainly targets skin repair, wound healing, and wrinkle reduction, exerting anti-aging effects. (3) (4) (5)

It was also shown to aid in muscle recovery, regeneration, joint health, and act anti-inflammatory. (6) (7) (8)

6 Potential Benefits of Infrared Sauna

From muscle recovery and detox to cardiovascular health and fatigue reduction, the sky is the limit. Many of these benefits are potential, and not final. There are studies with weak, moderate, and solid evidence, so make sure you check them out for yourself.

Fatigue Reduction

Far infrared sauna at 60 °C for 15 minutes once daily, performed for 5 days a week, 4 weeks led to reduced perceived fatigue. It also had a positive impact on mood elevation, reducing anxiety and depression along with fatigue. (9)

Muscle Recovery

In both endurance and strength-trained athletes, deep penetration of infrared heat at temperatures of 35 – 50 °C showed positive effects for neuromuscular recovery. (10)

Improves blood flow

Research shows that far-infrared therapy may increase nitric oxide levels, an important agent which acutely increases blood vessel diameter, leading to vasodilation and better blood flow. (11)

In patients with diabetes, far-infrared radiation also improved endothelial vessel function, dilation, angiogenesis (creation of new blood vessels) and reduce atherosclerosis. (12) By increasing body temperature, the sauna improves blood flow as more blood shifts toward the skin surface to allow dissipation of heat. Dry sauna bathing can also increase NO bioavailability, stimulate hermetic stress response and increase heat shock protein-mediated metabolic activation. (13)

Lowers Blood Pressure

By improving blood flow, it is logical that an infrared sauna can reduce blood pressure. In hypersensitive rats, it significantly reduced systolic blood pressure. (14)

Far-infrared sauna may have anti-hypersensitive effects for systolic BP, plus it penetrates deeper into the skin, heating our body which stimulates sweating. (15)

Another study shows a reduction of systolic blood pressure from 130.5 to 124 using a far-infrared sauna. (16)

Joints and arthritis pain

Red light and infrared light treatments were shown effective for pain reduction, by an impressive 50%. On top of this, there were functional improvements in both groups. (17)

In people with knee osteoarthritis, adding pulse laser therapy to exercise and glucosamine chondroitin supplementation was more effective in improving synovial and cartilage thickness, and pain, than without it. (18)

Skin Health

Near-infrared light or IR-A might be beneficial for our skin with proper exposure. It can aid in photoprevention, getting the skin ready for sunlight exposure, and it improved collagen metabolism and UVR damage. (19) Excessive exposure has shown detrimental effects in vitro, but this is way more than what we get from sunlight or infrared sauna.

Why is infrared sauna good for you?

Infrared sauna can increase your body’s core temperature without heating up the environment to uncomfortable levels. Infrared light penetrates your skin, improves circulation, and facilitates regeneration and rejuvenation. It can also alleviate joint inflammation and pain, aid in relaxation and improve skin health

Which is better infrared sauna or a traditional sauna?

Traditional sauna works by increasing external temperature and humidity, which forces your body to turn on thermoregulation, increase circulation and flush toxins out. Infrared sauna, on the other hand, is more comfortable as it is not as hot, and infrared light penetrates into your skin, heating the body up from the inside. The benefits are pretty similar. A Traditional sauna is more known for detox, weight loss, and cardiovascular health while they both alleviate muscle and joint pain, have potential anti-aging effects, improve skin health, lower blood pressure and reduce fatigue.

Will infrared sauna help me lose weight?

Not a substantial fat loss, if that’s what you mean. Saunas will increase blood flow for heat dissipation, to regulate your temperature. Although pre and post-sauna might show lower weight values, most of the weight loss is water loss. And proper hydration is crucial to avoid unwanted side effects. The calorie-burning effect is still there, and sauna can increase your metabolic rate, but these might not significantly affect your fat loss.

3 Types of Infrared Sauna

Based on the wavelengths of infrared light, the light emitted can be either near, mid, or far infrared light.

  • IR-A or Near-infrared light is the shortest wavelength (750 to 1.500 nm) of infrared light, visible to the human eye. It produces more intense light that is better at heating the body, plus it penetrates deeper into our skin.
  • IR-B or Mid-infrared is somewhere between near and far infrared (1.500 to 3.000 nm), out of the optical spectrum. It can penetrate into soft tissues and improve our blood flow, which helps nourish cells with nutrients and oxygen
  • IR-C or Far-infrared sauna uses heaters that produce the longest infrared light( 3.000 nm to 1 mm), known to increase our core temperature, which makes us sweat and consequentially flush out toxins, leading to detox.

Pros and Cons Of Infrared Sauna

  • increased sweating and detox
  • reduced perceived fatigue
  • neuromuscular recovery
  • increased NO leads /better blood flow
  • reduced systolic blood pressure
  • improved collagen metabolism
  • functional improvement in arthritis
  • increased synovial and cartilage thickness
  • reduction in joint pain
  • Dehydration
  • Problems with thermoregulation
  • Lightheadedness, nausea, or dizziness
  • interaction with blood pressure medication
  • potential EMF radiation (probably very low to have an impact).

Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna

Traditional sauna

The traditional sauna is the primary type of sauna that originates from Finland. You have a wooden cabin (mini-room) where fire warms the whole cabin and the rocks. Then people pour water over the rocks which increases air humidity and makes it pretty hot (hard and uncomfortable). This makes us sweat, and improves blood flow which helps us flush toxins out. Traditional sauna is hotter, up to 195 °F or 90 °C, plus the humidity is higher.

Infrared sauna

Infrared Sauna on the other hand is the tech-version of sauna, invented in Japan. It uses infrared heaters or IR panels which radiate infrared light that penetrates deep into our tissues to heat the body up from the inside, without heating the whole cabin. What a breeze. Near-infrared has more intense and deeper-penetrating rays, which act to support muscle recovery, detox, energy, and circulation. An Infrared sauna isn’t as hot, aiming at 120 to 150 °F or 48 to 65 °C, plus the humidity is way lower.

Dangers and Side effects of Infrared Sauna

The Infrared sauna is considered likely safe if properly used. Make sure you consult a doctor or an expert in this field for proper guidance. As with everything, overdoing it, or too much infrared light exposure can have detrimental effects on your health. Here are a couple of things to watch out on:

  • Dehydration
  • Heart Problems
  • Medication Interference
  • EMF
  • Eye and Vision

Dehydration and Hypotension: Saunas can easily lead to dehydration without proper fluid intake. This can make you feel weak, lightheaded, nauseous, dizzy, and even low-energy. Dehydration may mess with your ability to regulate temperature.

Cardiovascular Problems: Saunas heat up the body, which means the cardiovascular system will work harder to sweat, flush toxins, and increase circulation. For people with cardiovascular or cardiopulmonary problems, heart events or angina it’s best to avoid saunas and consult with a doctor.

Medication Interference: people who take blood pressure-regulating medications, or barbiturates, beta-blocker, diuretics, or other fluid-controlling medication may not have the proper ability to sweat, which can have detrimental effects. So, consult your doctor before using sauna therapy.

EMF Radiation: some cheaper saunas use such materials or heating which produces higher levels of EMF radiation, which may disrupt our natural processes and frequencies. However, this is debatable as infrared saunas, as your electronic devices mostly use non-ionizing, low-level radiation, unlike x-rays which use ionizing radiation where you’d have to put on protective gear.

The bottom line is the level of EMF emitted from saunas is so low, that is unlikely to cause significant damage. Emitting EMF is part of red or infrared light. The sun has EMF, your microwave, a power outlet, and your phone all emit it.

Eye and Vision: there is a misconception about eye damage due to IR light, because of one weak study with poor control. Infrared radiation is highly unlikely to cause damage to the eye. On the other side, thermal eye damage is another possibility, mainly in workers exposed to high IRR levels (20) but again highly unlikely in saunas as the temperatures aren’t so high.

When it comes to light, as with sunlight, you shouldn’t stare directly into the IRL heaters or panels, and you can choose to wear eye protection too. Check out BeVividYou for deeper insights. (21)

Disclaimer: Who Should Avoid Infrared Sauna?

Always consult your doctor before using an infrared sauna. Especial caution needs to be practiced in people who take beta-blockers, barbiturates, diuretics, blood pressure regulation medication, and those with thermoregulation problems. Pregnant women and children should stay avoid using a sauna, and consult with a doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will infrared sauna help me lose weight?

Not a substantial fat loss, if that’s what you mean. Saunas will increase blood flow for heat dissipation, to regulate your temperature. Although pre and post-sauna might show lower weight values, most of the weight loss is water loss. And proper hydration is crucial to avoid unwanted side effects. The calorie-burning effect is still there, and sauna can increase your metabolic rate, but these might not significantly affect your fat loss.

How much does an infrared sauna cost?

Infrared saunas can cost from 70 0$ up to 8000 $. You don’t want to buy the cheapest sauna, as the materials used are important to reduce EMF or toxic gases. While Premium saunas are over 3.000$, there are solid deals at 1.500 to 2.500 $ for single infrared sauna cabin units.

How does infrared sauna work?

Infrared sauna works by emitting infrared light which penetrates into your skin heating the body up from the inside. This activates nitric oxide, increases blood flow, and makes you sweat and detox. Optimizing mitochondria function and improving blood flow can lead to reduced pain and tissue repair.

How often should you use infrared sauna?

The unofficial dose many centers/salon recommended is 3-4 times a week for sessions that last 10-30 minutes. Always consult your doctor before using an infrared sauna. Some people use it daily, for 30-40 minutes with proper hydration, but this can be too much for beginners or people with contraindications, so always consult your doctor. The hotter the temperature and shorter the infrared wavelength, the more intense it will be, and the shorter you should stay.


Infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses infrared light emitting heaters or panels, which produce light with a wavelength of 700 nm – 1 mm (infrared) known to penetrate in our skin. The benefits of infrared sauna sessions include muscle recovery, fatigue reduction, improved circulation, lower blood pressure, skin health, and reduced arthritic pain. The two types of infrared saunas are near-infrared, with a shorter wavelength tat penetrates deeper, and IR-C, or far-infrared saunas which can improve circulation and help us detox. Proper hydration is very important to stay away from most of the unwanted side effects like dehydration, nausea, dizziness, and lightheadedness.

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