Infrared sauna – how an infrared sauna works, how to use it and why it’s worth it


What is an Infrared Sauna?

An infrared sauna, also known as an IR sauna, is a special type of sauna that utilizes infrared radiation to heat the body. This radiation penetrates deeply into the skin, muscles, and joints, raising the body’s temperature and increasing blood flow. This effect is similar to the natural process of warming the body during physical activity, but it occurs in a calm and relaxing sauna environment.

How Do Infrared Saunas Work?

Infrared saunas operate on the principle of infrared radiation emitted by special emitters. Unlike traditional saunas like the Finnish dry sauna or the Russian banya, which heat the body through elevated air temperature and humidity, IR saunas do not significantly increase the air temperature in the room. As a result, infrared saunas are more comfortable for individuals who do not tolerate high temperatures or high humidity levels.
How Do Infrared Saunas Work?

What Temperatures Are Found in Infrared Saunas?

Temperatures in infrared saunas are usually lower than those in traditional saunas. In IR saunas, the air temperature typically ranges from 40°C to 60°C (104°F to 140°F), allowing effective sweating and muscle relaxation even at lower room temperatures. The lower temperature and lack of need for high humidity make infrared saunas more respiratory-friendly and ideal for those seeking a gentler alternative to traditional saunas.

Proper Use of Infrared Saunas and Preparation

Using an infrared sauna is simpler and less demanding than using traditional saunas. However, there are certain steps you can take to ensure you get the most benefits from your infrared sauna session.

  • Prepare your body. Before entering the sauna, it’s recommended to hydrate well to support the sweating process. Having a light meal about an hour before using the sauna is also advised. Take a shower before and after the sauna session.
  • Appropriate attire. It’s best to wear lightweight underwear or a special kilt when using an infrared sauna. Also, bring a towel to wrap yourself in during the session or to sit on. Prefer natural materials.
  • Determine the session duration. If you’re a beginner, start with short sessions lasting 10-15 minutes. You can gradually increase the duration to 30 minutes, observing your body’s response.
  • Set the right temperature. You can adjust the sauna temperature according to your preferences. It’s recommended to start with a lower temperature, around 45°C (113°F), and gradually increase it if your body responds well to the heat.
  • Relax and enjoy the sauna. During the session, sit or lie comfortably, breathe calmly, and focus on relaxation. You can listen to music, read a book, or simply close your eyes and unwind. Avoid using electronic devices such as smartphones, watches, and tablets in the sauna.
  • Rest and rehydrate after the session. After the sauna session, rinse off the sweat and drink plenty of water to replenish lost fluids. Rest for a few minutes to allow your body to cool down.

Health and Practical Benefits of Using Infrared Saunas

Using an infrared sauna can offer numerous health and practical benefits. Some of these include:

  1. Improved circulation. Infrared radiation can increase blood flow, aiding in circulation improvement and tissue oxygenation. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with circulation disorders.
  2. Pain and muscle tension relief. Many people use infrared saunas to alleviate pain and muscle tension. The heat generated by infrared emitters can help relax muscles and increase tissue flexibility. A study published in the “Journal of Pain Research” in 2018 showed that regular use of infrared saunas significantly reduces pain in patients with chronic back pain.
  3. Support for detoxification. Sweating in an infrared sauna may assist in the detoxification process, but it is not the primary mechanism for eliminating toxins from the body. In reality, blood purification and toxin elimination are primarily carried out by the liver and kidneys. The sauna can aid in toxin removal through sweat, but it is not the main tool for detoxification. It’s important to remember that proper organ function and hydration are key to an effective detoxification process. The sauna can support this process, but it’s not a comprehensive detox solution on its own.
  4. Enhanced immune response. According to a study published in “JAMA Internal Medicine” in 2015, regular sauna use may be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and increased longevity. Experts believe that sauna heat can stimulate the immune system to produce more white blood cells, which can help fight infections.
  5. Stress reduction and mood enhancement. Using an infrared sauna can aid in relaxation and stress reduction. Studies suggest that sauna use may increase the production of endorphins, hormones responsible for feelings of euphoria and happiness.

Contraindications for Using Infrared Saunas

  • Cardiovascular conditions: If you have heart failure, low blood pressure, coronary heart disease, or other serious heart conditions, using an infrared sauna can be risky. Always consult a doctor if you have heart-related issues.
  • Pregnancy: Using an infrared sauna during pregnancy is not recommended. Sudden temperature changes can induce uterine contractions and other health issues for both the mother and the fetus.
  • Dehydration: Using an infrared sauna can lead to significant fluid loss. If you’re dehydrated or prone to dehydration, using the sauna may be risky.
  • Thermoregulation disorders: If you have thermoregulation disorders such as Raynaud’s disease, Fabry disease, or heat sensitivity, using an infrared sauna can exacerbate your symptoms.
  • Medications: If you’re taking medications that affect your body’s temperature regulation, such as beta-blockers, antihypertensive drugs, or diuretics, using an infrared sauna can be unsafe. Consult a doctor before using the sauna.

Remember that the decision to use an infrared sauna should be made after a thorough consultation with a doctor.

Safety Considerations for Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas are generally considered safe for healthy adults when used in moderation and following manufacturer recommendations. However, like any form of thermal therapy, using an infrared sauna carries some risks that are worth knowing and minimizing.

  1. Avoid excessive session time. Using an infrared sauna for too long or too frequently can lead to overheating and dehydration. Start with shorter sessions, around 15-20 minutes, and gradually extend the time spent in the sauna.
  2. Maintain hydration. It’s important to be well-hydrated before and after using an infrared sauna. Drink plenty of water before and after the sauna session to minimize the risk of dehydration.
  3. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol acts as a diuretic, increasing fluid loss through increased urine production. This can lead to dehydration, which is particularly dangerous when using an infrared sauna as sweating additionally increases fluid loss. Alcohol also dilates blood vessels, potentially lowering blood pressure and causing weakness or dizziness while using the sauna. Additionally, alcohol affects the body’s temperature regulation, increasing the risk of overheating. For these reasons, it’s recommended to avoid using an infrared sauna after consuming alcohol.
  4. Listen to your body. If you experience symptoms of overheating, such as dizziness, nausea, rapid heart rate, or lightheadedness, immediately leave the sauna and cool down. When in doubt, consult a doctor.
  5. Consult a doctor. If you have pre-existing medical conditions like heart diseases, high blood pressure, kidney problems, or if you’re pregnant, consult a doctor before using an infrared sauna.

Infrared Saunas for Children: What You Need to Know?

Using an infrared sauna for children has certain advantages from a technical standpoint. Compared to traditional saunas like Finnish saunas or steam rooms, infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures and lack hot elements like stoves that could cause burns. They also lack increased humidity, which can make breathing difficult. These factors might make infrared saunas more suitable for children, provided there’s appropriate supervision and caution. However, regardless of the sauna type, caution should always be exercised, and consulting a doctor before allowing a child to use a sauna is essential. Adhering to safety guidelines, such as proper hydration and limited sauna time, is also crucial when considering children’s sauna use.

Modular Infrared Saunas for Home Use

Modular infrared saunas are an excellent option for individuals who want to enjoy the benefits of sauna use without leaving their homes. These saunas are designed to be easily assembled and installed at home, regardless of the available space. Here are some key points to know about modular infrared saunas for home use:
Modular saunas are delivered as kits that can be easily assembled at home. The kit includes all necessary components, such as panels, doors, benches, and infrared heaters, along with assembly instructions. Some models can be installed independently, while others may require professional assistance.

Modular Infrared Saunas for Home Use
Modular infrared saunas come in various sizes and shapes, allowing you to customize them to your available space at home. You can choose between smaller saunas for one person and larger models that can accommodate multiple people simultaneously.

Modular infrared saunas are typically made from high-quality wood such as cedar, pine, ash, or hemlock, which are resistant to moisture and high temperatures. The sauna’s finish can be either traditional or modern, depending on your preferences.

Various types of heaters are used in modular infrared saunas, including ceramic, carbon, or hybrid heaters. Each type of heater has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice depends on individual needs and preferences.

Many modular infrared saunas offer additional features such as LED lighting, sound systems, touch-controlled panels, or remote control through a mobile app.

Frequently asked questions about infrared saunas

Does an IR sauna flush minerals out of the body with frequent visits?

Infrared saunas, like other types of sauna, can lead to significant sweating. Sweat contains water and electrolytes, including sodium, potassium and magnesium. If you use the sauna frequently and do not replenish fluids and electrolytes, you may lose important minerals. However, the loss of minerals through perspiration is usually small, and leaching minerals from the body is not the main concern when sauntering. It is more important to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes after each sauna visit to avoid dehydration and electrolyte loss.

Does the infrared sauna harm the eyes? Do I need sunglasses?

If you have healthy eyes, infrared saunas are safe and do not cause irritation.
For people with astigmatism, nearsightedness or farsightedness, infrared saunas are safe because infrared radiation does not affect the structure of the eye or refractive conditions.
If you have eye conditions such as conjunctivitis or glaucoma, it is better to avoid using infrared saunas.

Remember to moisturise your eyes before and after using an infrared sauna to avoid dryness and irritation. If you wear contact lenses, remove them before entering the sauna, as the heat and infrared radiation can lead to lens dryness and eye irritation.

What are the best and safest IR heaters?

The safest and most effective radiant heaters in infrared saunas are near-infrared (IR-A), mid-infrared (IR-B) and far-infrared (IR-C). Depending on the user's needs and preferences, the appropriate type of illuminator can be selected. IR-C heaters are the most popular and considered the safest for home use, as they emit an infrared wave that penetrates deep into the skin but does not cause irritation or discomfort.

Can I use an infrared sauna if I have metal implants?

Infrared rays do not adversely affect materials such as titanium or copper, which are commonly used in medicine, for example in dental implants or contraceptive coils. It is worth noting, however, that each person is different and may react differently to the use of an infrared sauna, so it is always worth consulting your doctor if you have any doubts.

Can I use an infrared sauna if I have varicose veins and venous insufficiency?

Using an infrared sauna for varicose veins and venous insufficiency can be risky and is not recommended. The high temperature can cause the blood vessels to dilate, which in turn can increase the symptoms of varicose veins and venous insufficiency, such as pain and swelling. Therefore, people with these conditions should be cautious and seek medical advice before deciding to use an infrared sauna.


  • “Infrared Sauna in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis,” Oosterveld FG et al., Clinical Rheumatology, 2009
  • “The effects of repeated thermal therapy for patients with chronic pain,” Masuda A et al., Journal of Pain Research, 2018
  • “Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men,” Jari A. Laukkanen et al., JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015

Share to friends

Since 2011 I have had my own business selling sauna building materials, sauna cookers and sauna accessories. I know all about building a quality sauna!