Infrared vs Steam Sauna for Your Wellness Journey


Saunas offer diverse options, with traditional steam saunas and modern infrared saunas being among the most favored. This article delves into the distinctions between infrared vs. steam saunas, elucidating their unique advantages. Whether you prioritize the classic experience of a steam sauna or lean towards the contemporary features of an infrared sauna, we aim to guide you in choosing the sauna type that aligns best with your health and wellness objectives.

Which is better, an infrared sauna or a steam sauna?

Consider these key points when comparing options:

  • In reducing pain and boosting blood flow, infrared radiation outperforms steam due to its ability to penetrate tissues deeply.
  • Near-infrared light excels at enhancing skin health, encouraging collagen production, and minimizing fine lines and wrinkles compared to hot air or steam.
  • Finnish saunas, with their hot and humid air, prove more effective for respiratory issues by opening up airways.
  • Energy efficiency favors infrared saunas over steam saunas with electrical heaters.
  • While modern infrared saunas are energy-efficient, they often emit higher levels of electromagnetic field radiation (EMF radiation) compared to simple steam saunas using electrical heaters or wood stoves.

How do infrared saunas work?

Infrared saunas differ from traditional saunas in that they use infrared radiation instead of hot rocks or steam to create therapeutic heat. Infrared radiation, a type of invisible light felt as heat by our bodies, is emitted in three wavelengths—near, mid, and far—each offering unique benefits. Near-infrared enhances skin health and aids wound healing; mid-infrared improves circulation and reduces pain and inflammation; and far-infrared promotes relaxation and detoxification. Despite lower temperatures (100–140°F), the heat penetrates deeper into the body, providing a more intense and therapeutic sauna experience compared to traditional saunas.

How do traditional steam saunas work?

A traditional steam sauna, also known as a wet sauna, produces heat by creating steam in a hot and humid environment. The steam results from pouring water over heated rocks, increasing the humidity for a relaxing experience. Users can control the temperature and humidity levels, usually ranging from 100 to 120°F, in steam rooms to ensure safety and comfort. Some steam rooms offer additional features, like chromotherapy lighting or aromatherapy, for an enhanced sauna experience. In contrast, traditional steam saunas allow users to adjust the temperature through heater controls and generate humidity by pouring water on rocks, with sauna temperatures ranging from 160 to 200°F.

Infrared vs. Steam Sauna Health Benefits

Both steam and infrared saunas contribute to comparable health benefits, although their advantages are not entirely identical. Here’s a high-level look at the distinctive strengths of each sauna type, with further details provided in the following sections.

Muscle and Joint Pain Relief

Subjecting yourself to high heat causes blood vessels to widen, enhancing oxygenated blood flow throughout your body and aiding in cooling down. This heightened blood flow induced by heat can also be beneficial for treating muscle and joint pain, as tissues tend to heal faster when supplied with increased oxygen and essential nutrients like amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, the brain releases pain-blocking molecules, such as beta-endorphins, delivered through the bloodstream in response to inflammation.

Although both sauna types can boost oxygenated blood flow, infrared saunas may have an advantage in treating muscle and joint pain due to their ability to penetrate tissues more deeply. Deeper penetration results in the dilation of more blood vessels, particularly those deep within the tissue, leading to an overall increase in blood flow to the targeted area.

Improves Skin

Enhancing your skin health is a classic application of red and infrared light therapy. This involves treating scars and stretch marks, boosting collagen production, and fortifying the skin against UV radiation. Red and near-infrared light serve as hormetic stressors for your skin cells, prompting them to generate more collagen, repair damaged cells, and enhance overall resilience, addressing wrinkles and fine lines. If better skin health is a goal for you, it’s strongly suggested that you consider a full-spectrum infrared sauna.

It’s important to note that while most infrared saunas focus on far-infrared radiation, which is beneficial for muscle recovery and cardiovascular health, they might not contribute significantly to improving skin health, which primarily relies on the invisible light in the near-infrared spectrum.

Cardiovascular Health

Sauna bathing can have a positive impact on your heart health for several reasons. The heat stress induces dilation of your blood vessels, promoting increased blood flow and giving them a beneficial workout, ultimately leading to a temporary decrease in blood pressure. Moreover, the sauna heat raises your heart rate, simulating a mild cardiovascular workout. If you’re considering buying a sauna to enhance your heart health, my findings suggest that there’s no significant difference between infrared and steam options.


Using traditional saunas with their steam can effectively open up your airways and alleviate symptoms in individuals dealing with respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis. A 2021 study in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation revealed that combining high fitness levels with frequent sauna baths significantly lowers the risk of future pneumonia compared to each approach alone.

Another trial with 50 participants showed that regular sauna bathing notably decreases the likelihood of catching a cold. Many individuals have shared anecdotal experiences of using traditional saunas to address respiratory issues, from sinus congestion due to allergies to viral infections and asthma. Although both infrared and steam saunas can boost the immune system and reduce infection risks, I strongly believe that traditional wet saunas have an advantage in enhancing respiratory health due to the production of hot steam.

Weight Loss

It’s undeniable that exposing yourself to high temperatures that induce profuse sweating and elevate your heart rate, simulating a mild cardio workout, can contribute to faster weight loss. In this aspect, both sauna types are equally effective. Just ensure you combine sauna bathing with a suitable diet, avoid processed carbs and seed oils, prioritize good sleep habits, and steer clear of environmental toxins like xenoestrogens.

Is an infrared sauna better than a steam sauna?

For regular sauna use, infrared saunas offer the most therapeutic benefits. The deep penetration of infrared radiation into your body promotes relaxation, enhances circulation, relieves pain, and supports detoxification. Not only that, but they’re also more cost-effective and user-friendly compared to steam saunas. Opting for a reputable brand ensures you can enjoy these health benefits from the comfort of your home.

On the other hand, if you seek a traditional experience, steam saunas provide a specific therapeutic environment. While many infrared saunas incorporate chromotherapy and aromatherapy for a similar experience, the use of hot rocks and steam, along with the classic wood-paneled design, creates a cozy and inviting sauna atmosphere that many find enjoyable.

Infrared vs. Steam Sauna: Determine the Best Experience for Better Health

Whether you prefer the modern approach of infrared saunas or the classic experience of steam saunas, this guide helps you make an informed choice aligned with your health goals. Dive into the distinctive advantages, from muscle and joint pain relief to cardiovascular health and respiratory well-being. Embrace the power of sauna bathing for improved skin health and accelerated weight loss. Invest wisely in a sauna that suits your preferences, ensuring a revitalizing journey toward optimal health and wellness.

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