Johannes
April 29,2021
10 min read

How Hot Is A Sauna?

Differences Between Dry Saunas, Finnish Saunas, Steam Rooms, And Infrared Saunas

*Disclaimer: The written article is based on a summary of existing scientific literature on the topic of infrared saunas. The article is for educational purposes and the information provided below cannot be taken as a promise to help with acute health problems or diseases.

The claims in the article are backed by 10 scientific references. All references are numbered. You can access the text of the reference by clicking on the number.


As the founder and CEO of Clearlight Infrared Saunas International®, I frequently get the question: “how hot should a sauna be?”

The answer to that question is complex because many saunas are different from each other. Also, not everyone needs the same temperature in the sauna!

If you’re an 80-year-old with 2 pre-existing conditions and visiting the sauna for the first time, you’ll probably want to take it very easily at first! If you’re 25, however, and want to build up heat tolerance for your athletic background, the answer is completely different.

So, let’s break the different possibilities down:

“How Hot Is A Sauna”: The Impossible Question!

Let’s start with the basics - different saunas have different biological effects upon you and use very different temperatures.

So, there’s not even a 1-sentence answer to the question “how hot is a sauna”. As an analogy, the answer “how fast is a car” is equally impossible to answer. Cars vary so widely from each other that the question “how fast is a car” is non-sensical.

Let’s thus talk about different types of saunas. I’ll broadly distinguish between 4 types:

  • Dry saunas, which have very low humidity and heat you through the air.
  • Finnish saunas, which use higher humidity and also heat your body through heating the surrounding air.
  • Steam rooms, which have very high humidity and heat you through the air as well, at lower temperatures. Steam rooms are yet another sauna that heats your body by heating the surrounding air around you.
  • Infrared saunas, which heat you from the inside out, because infrared light emitted by the heaters penetrate your body. After going through your skin, the infrared light warms your cells from the inside. Due to high temperatures in the cabin, you might also experience a heating effect through the air, although, much more limited than the previous options.

See the difference?

The infrared sauna is wildly different from the earlier 3 options!

How Hot Is It In A Traditional Sauna - Dry Saunas, Finnish Saunas & Steam Rooms

So, now that I’ve defined some terms and helped you understand that there are different saunas on the market, let’s consider some “how hot is a sauna in celsius”, specifically, traditional saunas:

  1. First, the dry sauna, with low humidity, uses temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees Celsius.
  2. Secondly, in the Finnish sauna, temperatures range between 70 and 100 degrees Celsius (1). In extreme cases, temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius are used. Above 110 degrees, your health might be endangered, as people have become unwell and even died during the World Sauna Championships (2). Due to safety reasons, I only recommend using a Finnish sauna up to 90 degrees Celsius.
  3. Thirdly, the steam room uses temperatures of around 40 to 45 degrees Celsius. Keep in mind that humidity is maximally high, usually at 100%, meaning that breathing in this air can still feel very hot to your nostrils, lungs, and skin!

The most important lesson?

None of these temperatures is set in stone! As I’ve stated earlier, your context matters a lot when choosing a sauna.

Also, you might be able to handle very high temperatures in a Finnish sauna, such as 90 degrees Celsius, for 5 minutes, but, you might have a problem if you’re staying in for 30 minutes!

So, temperature alone, without proper context, can be highly misleading!

Next, let’s move on to the last type of sauna, the infrared one, which we’ve specialized in at Clearlight Infrared Saunas®:

How Hot Is It In An Infrared Sauna

You might think: “does an infrared sauna feel hot?”

My answer is: “yes, but the feeling is different from a traditional sauna!”

Let me explain:

Infrared saunas use infrared light. Remember that infrared light heats your body from the inside out.

The most common infrared sauna temperatures are around 45 - 60 degrees Celsius (3; 4).

If you’ve ever tried an infrared sauna, you will know that it feels totally different from spending time in a traditional sauna. The temperatures are far more gentle, and, the biological effects are very different.

Why?

Well, infrared light has a healing effect in and of itself (5; 6; 7)!

Let’s take 1 part of the infrared light spectrum as an example: far-infrared.

Far-infrared, for instance, has been shown to increase blood flow in animal studies, affects overall blood vessel health and creates new ones (8). It’s presumable that humans experience the same benefits as found in these studies.

Many people who were exposed to far-infrared also report they’ve got reduced pain, deeper sleep, feeling blissfully relaxed, better muscle tone, faster recovery, and more benefits.

Depending on the type of infrared light, it can penetrate up to several inches into your body (9; 10). For that reason, infrared light affects many biochemical and electromagnetic processes inside your cells.

Why do I state this information?

Simple: If you merely focus on temperature as the modality that you’re applying, you’re missing the forest for the trees. The biologically beneficial effects of infrared light penetrating your body are just as important if not more important than the effects of heating!

Also, core body temperatures might go up more in an infrared sauna than a Finnish sauna! So, the detox effect you get and the buildup of heat tolerance might be even better in an infrared sauna than in a traditional model. So, if you only focus on air temperature, you're missing the forest for the trees!

So, an infrared sauna might not feel as hot, but it nevertheless has advantages that traditional saunas don’t have!

“How Hot Is A Sauna Supposed To Be?” - Conclusion: It Depends

So, if you’re asking “how hot a sauna should be”, you know right now that the answer is “it depends”!

There´s no one-size-fits-all answer!

“How hot a sauna is supposed to be” all depends on your goals! If you wish to support your general health, then the 45 - 60 degrees Celsius temperature of an infrared sauna is absolutely perfect.

If you’re a young guy and want to build heat tolerance - while not aiming at maximum health benefits - then visiting a traditional sauna is your best bet.

For most people, however, and especially our customers, staying healthy for decades to come is their prime goal. In such a case, you simply cannot beat a premium infrared sauna that is easy to operate from the comfort of your home while offering lifetime warranty.

Yes, you can attain higher temperatures in a Finnish sauna, but what’s the point?

Lastly, I will also tell you that hotter temperatures are not always better. That’s right! Why? Because there’s a golden mean regarding the amount of infrared light on which your biological systems work best.

Either too little or too much infrared light, therefore, don’t lead to an optimum outcome. So, just as with consuming food or exercise, both too much and too little aren’t great. The same is true for infrared light exposure.

Frequent, gentle, infrared sauna sessions promote health while making you feel absolutely amazing. No 80 or 100 degree Celsius temperatures required!

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