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Infrared Saunas vs Steam Rooms Explained

What’s the differences between a Sauna vs Steam Room, and how do they stack up against each other. 

July 17,2020

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8 min read

Alexi

Clearlight would like to remind users that this should not be taken as direct advice, and encourages users to consult a medical professional before prolonged use.

With personal saunas now emerging into the mainstream, it’s worth taking a step back to analyse the debate between saunas vs steam rooms, and whether or not one offers more health benefits for the user.

While the end result for the user is similar, the means of achieving this result differs dramatically, so let’s jump inside and find out.

How Do Infrared Saunas & Steam Rooms Work?

Steam rooms use a steam generator in an enclosed environment to circulate hot, humid air (around 43C, or 110F) to trigger a sweat response in the user. Temperatures inside, however, can seem higher to the user due to the humidity.

Infrared saunas take the opposite approach, using infrared rays that penetrate the skin with a dry heat that causes the body to sweat. Infrared saunas don’t require high temperatures to trigger a response from the body, instead, these infrared rays penetrate 3cm (1.5-inches) and heat the body extremely efficiently.

Rather than warming your body from the outside in, like a steam room, an infrared sauna warms you from the inside out, making it by far the most efficient means of working up a sweat.

Benefits of Infrared Saunas vs Steam Rooms

As we’ve just discovered, steam rooms and infrared saunas work in completely different ways. Steam rooms offer the user a wet heat, while infrared saunas produce a dry heat.

Infrared technology is extremely efficient in heating the body without the need for high ambient temperatures, and offers proven health benefits when it comes to easing muscle and joint pain, increasing the immune system, encouraging detoxification, as well as the metabolic response which can help with weight loss and the targeting of toxins within skin tissue.

Click here for a comprehensive look at the health benefits of infrared saunas.

Steam rooms are also widely recognised for their improvement of cardiovascular health, and the lowering of blood pressure. The hot, humid air is beneficial to the respiratory system, as well as the sinus cavities, as the mucous membrane is warmed up.

In comparison between the two, steam rooms have been shown to contribute to cardiovascular & respiratory benefits, skin health, muscle & joint pain.

On the other hand, infrared saunas have been shown to promote an increased metabolism & weight loss, cardiovascular benefits, muscle & joint pain relief, immune system boost, detoxification, reduces appearance of cellulite, reduces stress & fatigue and improves skin. 

Infrared Saunas vs Steam Rooms for Weight Loss

The way your body soaks up the infrared light and begins warming from the inside-out can have a dramatic impact on the metabolism, and offers considerable weight loss benefits for users.

While the ambient heat in a steam room causes the body to lose water weight, infrared light targets underneath the skin, which has proven more effective when it comes to losing weight than a steam room.

A two-phase weight loss study from Binghamton University, New York shows that an increase in core temperature causes the body to decrease its body fat. When we take a closer look at how steam rooms and infrared saunas cause the body to heat up, the efficiency of infrared technology means steam rooms are limited when it comes to use targeted at weight loss. Infrared saunas target underneath the skin, which includes the toxins stored in your fat cells. By targeting these cells, infrared light helps you sweat-away these fats and toxins, while also increasing your cardiovascular, lymphatic and immune system health.

Steam rooms are beneficial when it comes to weight loss, although they’re most effective when it comes to an individual losing water weight, rather than the targeted approach of infrared saunas.

Due to the infrared heat actively working directly on fat tissues underneath the skin, they’re believed to be better when it comes to losing weight than time in a steam room, which is predominantly from losing water weight. 

Infrared Saunas vs Steam Rooms Post-Workout

Studies have shown that applying heat to muscles and joints after a workout helps massively when it comes to reducing inflammation and pain. Both steam rooms and infrared saunas are believed to decrease the amount of force needed to move a specific joint by up to 25%.

The Myths of Saunas vs Steam Rooms

One common myth prevails. That is, that higher temperatures in a sauna equate to greater health benefits. So far, there’s been no conclusive link between higher ambient temperatures and greater health benefits. The human body operates at a temperature of 37C (97F), and temperatures even slightly above this will trigger a sweat response from the user.

Long exposures to a traditional sauna or steam room can cause dehydration in the user, rather than trigger health benefits. We’ve covered this exact topic, which you can read here.

Steam rooms and infrared saunas are arguably the most enjoyable means of taking care of yourself, but which is better? Of course, it’s a highly subjective topic, dependent on whether the user enjoys dry, or wet heat.

In terms of health benefits, they’re evenly stacked, although science suggests that the nature of skin penetration from infrared saunas can stimulate a more powerful response from the body, and more effectively target toxins, as well as assist in weight loss more than steam rooms.

If you're looking at infrared saunas, this video explains the differences in the market, and what you should look for when tossing up which is the right sauna for you.

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