*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.
The claims in the article are backed by 4 scientific references. All references are numbered. You can access the text of the reference by clicking on the number.
What To Wear In A Sauna: A Short Guide
I am frequently asked the question: “what do you wear in a sauna, Johannes?”
As the CEO of Clearlight Infrared Saunas®, I always tell people that the answer is highly personal. So, knowing that different people are reading this website for different reasons, I cannot give you a one size fits all answer.
You might be buying an infrared sauna for home use to relax at night while listening to a podcast. In that case, you probably don’t want to wear anything!
Or, instead, you might be investing in a premium infrared sauna for your gym, for added value to your wonderful customers. In that case, the answer may be very different.
So, in this blog post, I’ll answer the question “what do you wear in an infrared sauna?” Let’s start with the basics:
Sauna Wear 101: Why Naked Is Best
Overall, the principle for sauna wear is this: the less you wear to a sauna, the better. Hence, going completely naked is best. But, many times you simply have to wear something due to etiquette.
In many saunas, for instance, you might need to wear a sauna suit or swimwear, or, use a towel around your lower waist, hips, and private parts.
But there’s more to the story:
No matter what clothes you’re wearing, I do very strongly recommend removing any jewellery, watches, makeup - basically anything that covers your bare skin!
The different parts of infrared light are either partially or fully blocked by clothing and other coverings of your skin (1; 2). So, wearing a towel around your hips ensures that less of the infrared light penetrates into your body.
The more bodily coverings in an infrared sauna, the less your body will heat up from the inside.
And there’s more:
Objects such as rings or watches can also be heated themselves by the infrared light, making them uncomfortable to your skin during a sauna visit. I, therefore, recommend removing accessories before your sessions.
Even makeup and other coverings of your skin should be removed, ideally. The reason is that not only will it become a mess while sweating, makeup is also a covering of your skin that prevents a slight amount of infrared from penetrating.
Frequently Asked Questions: Contact Lenses, Physio & Kinesio Tape, Sauna Suits, And More
In the section below, I answer a few questions regarding what you can wear in a sauna, such as contact lenses, physio tape or Kinesio tape, sauna suits, and more:
Can You Wear Contact Lenses In A Sauna?
I’ve got good news for you:
Infrared saunas don’t get as hot and humid as traditional saunas do. Therefore, if you’re wearing contact lenses inside an infrared sauna, it’s less of a problem.
First of all, infrared light is mostly heating you from the inside out, because the light penetrates your body. As a result, contact lenses will closely mimic your own body’s temperature.
Secondly, infrared saunas are not very humid. Lower humidity ensures lower temperature exchange through the air, which ensures that your lenses won’t heat up too quickly.
So, you might think: “can you, therefore, wear contacts in a sauna?”
But the real question is whether you should!
My answer is “no”. Even though infrared saunas are not extremely hot, and very gentle, the higher than normal temperatures might not be optimal for your lenses. So, while the risk of eye irritation and damage to your lenses is far lower in an infrared sauna, I’d still not recommend doing so if you can.
Moreover, the answer also depends on what materials your lenses are made of: soft lenses might dry out earlier than those made of harder materials. The best recommendation I can give you is to consult your optician regarding the effect on your eyes and the durability of your lenses.
And, before you have that information, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Here are another few questions I frequently get:
Can You Wear Physio Tape In A Sauna?
I get it...
You’ve trained very hard lately, despite that injured knee or shoulder, and now you want a nice relaxing infrared sauna session, correct?
But, you don’t want to contact your physical therapist to apply new Kinesio tape…
I hate to be the bearer of bad news: if you’re sweating heavily, the tape is going to come off quickly. The problem is that the sweat emerges from below your skin and that the tape actually makes your skin sweat more, thereby loosening it.
Bottom line: you can wear physio tape in a sauna, but, you’ll lose it quickly!
A Sauna Suit - Not Useful And Even Counterproductive In An Infrared Sauna!
Sometimes, people like professional athletes and celebrities also wear “sauna suits”. Sauna suits allow you to dramatically increase sweating because they increase your body temperature even further.
Here’s a simple analogy:
Imagine wearing your winter clothes on a hot summer day!
With your winter jacket on, a shawl, some gloves, and other clothing to keep you warm, you can imagine that you’ll be sweating buckets in no time!
Sauna suits are best used in traditional saunas. In a traditional sauna, the air around you is heated. That hot air then indirectly heats your body from the outside.
Recall that infrared saunas are different though. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye, nevertheless penetrates deeply into your skin (3; 4).
So, if you ask, “should I be wearing a sauna suit”, to an infrared sauna, the answer is “no”. Light cannot penetrate the sauna suit and you won’t get the full benefits of your sauna visit.
So, sauna suits are even counterproductive in an infrared sauna because they prevent light from penetrating your skin!
If you do use a traditional hot air-based sauna, however, then the question might be: “how long should I be wearing a sauna suit?”
The answer is the same as with exercise: you slowly build up your tolerance and make sure you’re not overexerting yourself. Stay safe and try for a couple of minutes first, and build from there.
In other words, use common sense!
So, after learning what to wear in a sauna, let’s conclude:
Conclusion: Mother Nature’s Sauna Wear Works Best
Remember that sauna wear mother nature donated to you on your first day in this world?
Yes, going absolutely naked is the very best sauna wear! In an infrared sauna, any covering you have entails putting something on your nature-made solar panels: your skin.
Remember that plants don’t grow properly without adequate light (from the sun). In the same way, your sauna sessions will be sub-par the more you cover-up.
Nevertheless, frequently we need to stay civilised. In many places using a towel around your private parts is mandatory. In other situations, you might simply not want to spend 30 minutes completely naked with a person because it’s uncomfortable.
So the bottom line is this: for optimal results, go as naked as you can while your absence of clothing remains socially acceptable!