*Disclaimer: The written article is based on a summary of existing 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. 54 scientific references back the claims in the article. All references are numbered. You can access the text of the reference by clicking on the number.
This blog post is mainly about treatment protocols and how to optimise your sessions for different goals. I’ll cover goals such as increasing your collagen and elastin production in the skin, countering skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne, and tell you the differences between using a traditional sauna for skin health versus an infrared sauna.
And if you’re short on time then I’ve added a summary on how long to use an infrared sauna for skin health below. So let’s get started:
How Long Should You Stay Inside A Sauna For Clear Skin?
What Are The Benefits Of Saunas For The Skin?
First up, I’ll consider the general benefits of saunas for skin health. The research on this topic is extremely exciting as tons of people suffer from skin conditions worldwide.
And you may also think: “I don’t know a person older than 30 who doesn’t want to look younger again”
In that case you’re correct! So let’s dig deep into this fascinating topic:
Skin Health Basics
The skin is your largest organ. That skin also provides the biggest interface between your body and the outside world. Skin problems, however, are present way more than you’d intuitively think.
In the UK, a whopping 60% of people either currently has a skin condition or had one in their livetimes (1; 2; 3; 4). And 20% of UK children currently have eczema and a third have a skin condition. Living with a skin condition isn’t easy as it often psychologically affects you.
Skin conditions, for instance, influence your mood, the acceptance you get from others sometimes, your sexual life, and other areas. And people with skin conditions also frequently experience less happiness than those without.
But what can you do? Well, fortunately the science of lifestyle interventions on skin health is developing rapidly (5; 6; 7; 8; 9). Being overweight or obese, smoking, drinking alcohol, excessive exposure to artificial blue light (especially at night) and sleep deprivation all have massive impact on skin quality. And, exercising, sweating, eating a healthy diet, and other lifestyle interventions accomplish the reverse.
This is also where saunas - especially infrared saunas - come in. Infrared saunas can be a massive tool in the toolbox to counter skin conditions and make your skin look healthier, especially when applied correctly.
Do Saunas Tighten Your Skin? The Effects On Collagen, Elastin, And More
You may think: “but how does spending time in a sauna tighten my skin? Don’t I just start sweating and doesn’t that sweating then dry out my skin?”
Absolutely not. In fact, the opposite is true. Here’s why:
Infrared saunas emit so-called infrared light. You feel that infrared light in the same way you feel heat if you’re standing in the sun. To be more precise, it’s exactly the infrared light that makes the sun feel hot on your skin.
And, that infrared light doesn’t just hit your skin. Instead, infrared light enters your body and affects you at a cellular level. The light can penetrate several millimetres and up to several centimetres, depending on the type of infrared light and it’s strength (10; 11; 12: 13: 14: 15: 16; 17).
That infrared light then acts as a nutrient in your cells. Energy production is increased, for instance. And with increased energy availability, your body can better maintain its skin health.
And, with exposure to different types of infrared there’s also an increase in the amount of collagen created (18; 19; 20; 21). Different types of cells, such as fibroblasts and keratinocytes become more active and promote results such as improved wound healing and better beauty of the skin.
Unfortunately, mostly animal studies are available on this topic although some human studies exist as well. The body also increases Nitric Oxide (NO) production in the skin. That increase in NO subsequently leads to greater blood flow in the skin.
As little as 45 minutes of far infrared exposure already improves collagen production in the skin.
The research on near infrared light is also extremely promising (22; 23). Many different mechanisms exist by which near infrared light improves skin health. Examples here are that it also improves energy production just like far infrared does. Then, near infrared light activate signalling pathways and stem cells that both promote skin repair and health.
These results already occur after a few minutes, potentially. As a result, near infrared light has a huge influence on scars from different origins, wrinkles, and the quicker healing of burns. Even autoimmunity can be managed with near infrared light in some cases - some skin conditions have their origin in autoimmunity such as psoriasis.
Fortunately human studies exist in great quantities on near infrared light. In study on the long-term effects of near infrared, study participants received daily near infrared treatments (22). After six months, all 20 study participants reported good improvements in their skin quality. Those same participants also noted fair improvements in the colour of their skin at the same time.
Now here’s what’s most interesting: The researchers independently came to the same conclusion. The laxity and roughness of the skin also improved. The very strong implication of this study is that the near infrared light improves collagen and elastin production of that skin.
The question then becomes: how can you best experience these skin health promoting effects of far and near infrared?
Simple, to begin with, you start with a far infrared sauna or a full-spectrum sauna. A full-spectrum sauna emits both far and near infrared light so you get more overall benefits. But don’t worry, if you opt for a far infrared sauna you can always upgrade it later with addons to make it full-spectrum.
Are Infrared Saunas Healthy For The Skin? And Why Do Collagen And Elastin Matter For Skin Health?
So now I’ve concluded that different types of infrared light are amazing for skin health - specifically the elastin and collagen in your skin. Other mechanisms are influenced as well, such as the body’s use of stem cells to make your skin look prettier.
Now here’s where I’m going: Remember when you were 18 years old? If you’d compare your skin quality at that age to how you’re looking right now, there’s probably a difference. And even if you have amazing skin at 30 years old or 60 years old, you couldn’t achieve that amazing skin as easily as when you were young.
There’s plenty of evidence showing that the amount of collagen in your skin goes down with ageing (24; 25; 26; 27; 28). Collagen makes up the bulk of your skin and elastin a tiny amount. Collagen gives your skin firmness while elastin gives it elasticity, as the names already imply. And then there’s another problem: elastin levels also go down with ageing, as does hydration.
The end result is simply that your skin looks slightly worse, decade after decade. However, lifestyle interventions such as infrared saunas (and a healthy diet or collagen protein supplementation). Also, incorporating sauna Gua Sha, or sauna dry brushing could potential improve the overall sauna skin benefits.
Next up, let’s consider what the best sauna for skin health is:
What Type Of Sauna Is Best For Skin Health Benefits? Infrared Saunas Versus Traditional Saunas
Sweating, by itself, is extremely helpful for skin health. And both traditional saunas and infrared saunas are a great tool for making you sweat. In this section, I’ll first explore the benefits of sweating and then tell you why infrared saunas are superior for skin health.
Sweating cleans out the pores of your skin, for instance (29; 30; 31; 32). Basal sweating is also important for maintaining skin hydration. Some extremely recent evidence from 2022 actually suggests that sweating is important for preventing dry skin in the first place.
But let’s take a step back:
When you’re heating up your body significantly, your body starts sweating to lose heat. Your heart starts pumping more quickly and blood vessels open up in your extremities. Blood flow to most of your skin therefore also increases.
That temporary overheating of the body and sweating comes with many all-round health benefits. For instance, extremely strong evidence exists that regular intense sweating improves heart and blood vessel health, reduces your risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, helps detoxify your body through your skin, and aids in sustainable fat loss.
Many of these domains are also associated with skin health directly.
Let’s take one example, that of stress. There’s tons of evidence that psychological stress is very detrimental to skin health (33; 34; 35: 36; 37). And, there’s tons of evidence that spending time inside a sauna massively improves your stress levels. Hence, through such indirect mechanisms, spending time inside a sauna aids skin improvement.
Stress negatively affects the microbiome on the skin, for instance. And stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can decrease the blood flow to the skin, making it appear worse. And, everyone how much worse your skin looks after lots of stress and a night of sleep deprivation.
Sleep is yet another area in which many people experience massive benefits from saunas. So by sweating heavily, you improve sleep quality. And by improving sleep quality - such as the amount of deep sleep you get each night - you improve skin quality.
So theoretically, both a traditional sauna and an infrared sauna can help your skin quality massively because they both make you sweat like crazy, right?
But here’s the deal:
A traditional sauna only heats up the air around you. That hot air then heats up your body. Infrared saunas expose you to infrared light. That infrared light moves through the skin and influence you at the cellular level as a nutrient.
So you won’t get the full skin improvements benefits of far infrared and near infrared light by using a Finnish sauna or a steam room. Sure, the benefits of Finnish saunas and steam rooms are still great, but they’re not as amazing as an infrared sauna.
Also, you could upgrade your infrared sauna with an accessories to get even more skin health promoting benefits. I’m talking about red light therapy here, using our Red Light Therapy Tower. That red light therapy product can be added to any of our infrared saunas.
Why would you?
Lots of evidence exists red light therapy promotes skin health at many different levels (38; 39; 40; 41). Skin appearance improves, for instance, while you get more collagen in the skin, wound healing accelerates, scar tissue becomes less prominent, and your skin will have an overall more youthful appearance.
Such a red light therapy product cannot be added to a traditional sauna, right now. The reason is that the indoor sauna temperatures would damage the product.
Are Saunas Good For Facial Skin?
Yes, saunas are absolutely good for skin health of the face. As long as your face gets some of the exposure to the infrared light, the skin of your face receives benefits too.
For the best results though, I do recommend using a Red Light Therapy Tower. That red light therapy tower emits red and near infrared light that directly hits your face and influences the skin at a cellular level there.
How Saunas Cause Improvements In Blood Flow? And How Does Blood Flow Influence Skin Health?
Saunas massively improve blood flow (42; 43; 44; 45; 46). Ageing also decreases blood flow to the skin. Hence, saunas can be a great aid in at least lessening the age-related decrease in skin blood flow. Some skin conditions, such as dermatitis and ulcers are even related to decreased blood flow in the skin.
Nevertheless, more research is needed into the exact effect of increasing circulation on skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, atopic dermatitis, and others. Anecdotally, however, many people report great benefits from infrared saunas on their skin health. And, the benefits I described in earlier sections of this blog post are still valid for everyone, regardless of potential skin conditions.
Next up, let’s consider how often you should sauna for the best results:
The Best Sauna Session Frequency For Skin Health
Let’s now consider the ideal sauna frequency for skin health. In other words, how many sauna sessions per week should you use to optimally improve your skin?
First off, I quote the study where participants had massive improvements in their skin quality over a 6-month period (22). In that study, participants used near infrared on a daily basis.
Seven days a week is a bit extreme though. Of you consider the health benefits of infrared saunas in many other cases, such as heart health or diabetes prevention or losing body fat, four to seven weekly sessions almost universally gives the most health benefits across the board.
So in this case too, I recommend using a sauna four to seven times per week. The exact sauna session duration depends on your overall health.
If you’re in poor health you should start very slowly, with a 10-15 minute infrared sauna session to begin with. Both during and after your sauna session you should feel good. And, in case of a medical condition, always consult your physician on whether you an safely use an infrared sauna in the first place.
If you’re in good health, you can start with a 20-30 minute session and work your way up from there. The end goal is to do a 40-45 minute session four times weekly for the best skin health results.
And, as stated before, you can add a Red Light Therapy Tower to gain even better results in the same amount of time. Red light therapy can be used at the same time you’re using the infrared sauna.
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Saunas And Skin Health Conditions: Cellulite, Acne, Eczema And More
In the section below, I’ll consider the research for different skin pathologies. These pathologies include cellulite, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and others. As always, if anything is known about a validated treatment protocol, I’ll surely mention it:
Does An Infrared Sauna Counter Cellulite?
Cellulite is a really impactful condition as 80-90% of women are unhappy with it. Fortunately, infrared saunas benefit cellulite, and specifically infrared light can help in this case (47; 48; 49).
Far infrared light, unfortunately, doesn’t necessarily help although the study setup of the researchers wasn’t perfect. The researchers applied far infrared to only one of the legs of participants, but didn’t take into account the widespread systemic effects that light has on the body. Frequently, when even one limb is treated, the other receives an equally-sized effect.
Near infrared light has good track record in the scientific literature. In a study, women who used near infrared light besides training received significant improvements in their cellulite appearance. The women were treated three times per week for 45 minutes.
Other studies confirm that treatment protocol roughly with three weekly sessions of 30 minutes. Another study used three treatments per week for three months, 15 minutes at a time. Overall, we can thus clearly say that near infrared counters cellulite.
For the best results, you probably need to use a red light therapy product inside the sauna. Use that red light therapy 15-45 minutes per day, three times per week, inside the sauna to counter cellulite.
And there’s more:
Does An Infrared Sauna Reduce Fat? And Does An Infrared Sauna Therefore Break Down Cellulite?
Frequently, weight loss can improve cellulite (50; 51; 52). I won’t take a deep dive into the sauna and fat loss research - if you’re interested in that topic just consider my earlier guide on the infrared sauna health benefits that considers it in great detail.
But here’s the short version:
Infrared saunas help you burn many calories. As a result, people who are overweight or obese might lose 1-2% of their body fat per month using an infrared sauna. Also, infrared saunas activate the parasympathetic nervous system - also called the rest and digest system - that makes you feel more relax. And, finally, the detoxification of harmful compounds such as BPA, heavy metals, and prescription medicine or drugs can increase your fat loss quantities.
The fat loss, in turn, helps some but not all people with their cellulite. Unfortunately, it’s not yet possible to predict who responds well to fat loss for cellulite and who doesn’t.
For the best results, use an infrared sauna three times weekly for 30 minutes.
During two sauna sessions of 15 minutes, the skin sebum levels went down on the forehead. Sebum is an oily and waxy substance that’s found in great quantities on the face, where acne is also most problematic.
Sebum also plays a proven role in acne. In fact, in teenagers, the ducts of the sebaceous glands get blocked. Many different types of oils and fats inside the sebum can then no longer be removed and start to inflame the skin.
By removing this sebum, saunas are an ideal candidate to counter acne. In the study, the barrier function of the skin also improved, as did its hydration.
As stated before, near infrared light has similar benefits. The skin sebum levels decrease with both red and near infrared light exposure. And in both inflammatory and non-inflammatory types of acne, symptoms are decreased with just one session per two weeks.
Does A Sauna Deal With Dead Skin Cells? And What Is The Role Of Dead Skin Cells And Acne
Exfoliation is a great way to remove dead skin cells. And, that exfoliation is ideally combined with a sauna visit.
Saunas remove oils such as the sebum from your skin. And, by sweating heavily toxins are also removed from your body. Plus blood flow increases with sauna visit. Ideally, you’ll use a sauna before exfoliation. Make sure the exfoliation is performed by a professional though, as side effects can occur if it’s not done properly.
Unfortunately, there’s not much direct evidence on using saunas for dead skin cells. So I can’t say with certainty right now, although many people have excellent experiences with this strategy.
Hence, I just recommend you follow a common sense protocol if removing dead skin cells is your choice. And make sure to shower with lukewarm water afterwards to remove toxins from your skin.
How Does A Sauna Influence Eczema?
I previously wrote a very extensive blog post on infrared saunas and eczema. I’ll repeat three of these arguments I made in that blog post briefly:
There’s a link between stress and eczema. And saunas are a great tool to lower stress, thereby impairing eczema. With stress, inflammation levels in the skin will be higher, for instance, and the eczema is more prone to be affected by an allergic response. Also, with stress you might be more prone to scratch.
Spending time inside a sauna lowers inflammation big time. The link here is extremely clear: more frequent sauna visits have a linear relationship with impeding inflammation. So, four sauna sessions per week or more yield superior results to one or two weekly sauna sessions.
Different parts of the infrared spectrum, such as near infrared and far infrared, have a big impact on skin health. I’ve discussed this dynamic before in this blog post but it’s worth pointing out that these benefits are extremely important for eczema too.
Overall though, these results of infrared saunas for eczema, acne, and other skin conditions is really promising.
In case of eczema, I recommend four 30-minute sauna sessions per week, as the science on inflammation shows that frequent sessions work best for that goal. The same is true for lowering stress.
Does A Sauna Age Your Skin Quicker?
No, quite the contrary. And although the effects of saunas on heart disease, diabetes, neurological diseases, stress, and other domains are far better studied, there’s no reason to believe that saunas age your skin quicker.
Rather, because saunas seem to be supportive against many skin conditions, and because infrared light makes your skin much younger, the opposite is true. I wouldn’t be talking about the fascinating effects on collagen and elastin making you look younger earlier if saunas increased the ageing process.
Should You Moisturise Your Skin After Using A Sauna?
I don’t necessarily recommend moisturising your skin after a sauna session, although you can. For skin health, other strategies are of far greater importance.
I recommend showering with lukewarm water to remove as many toxins as possible. Cold water isn’t productive for this goal as it will reduce blood flow and close your pores. Also make sure to hit all affected areas, such as your armpits, scalp, chest, and groin - these areas often have more fatty sweat that contains more toxins. After this process you can moisturise. Make sure to use natural moisturiser though - you don’t want to add more toxins to your system that you later need to detoxify again. One great example here is organic beef tallow as a moisturiser that has taken over the natural beauty industry by storm.
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