Infrared vs Steam Sauna: Unveiling Key Differences and Benefits

The debate between infrared and steam saunas often revolves around their unique heating methods and the various health benefits they offer. Infrared saunas produce dry heat through infrared radiation, which directly heats the body, while steam saunas use moist heat generated by boiling water to create steam, warming the air inside the sauna. Both types of saunas have their own advantages and disadvantages, as well as differing impacts on relaxation, detoxification, and overall wellness.

To make an informed decision between infrared and steam saunas, it’s essential to understand how each sauna functions, their distinct health benefits, and any potential drawbacks or safety concerns. While some users may prefer the dry heat of an infrared sauna, others may find the moist environment of a steam sauna more comforting, ultimately making the best choice dependent on individual preferences and specific health needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Infrared and steam saunas differ in heating methods, with infrared using dry heat and steam producing moist heat.
  • Both types of saunas offer distinct health benefits, as well as some drawbacks and safety concerns.
  • Personal preference and specific health needs play a significant role in choosing between infrared and steam saunas.

Understanding Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas differ from traditional steam saunas in their method of heating. Instead of using steam to heat the surrounding air, infrared saunas use infrared light waves to directly warm a person’s body. This type of heat is absorbed into the surface of the body and penetrates deeper into the tissues, providing a more efficient and targeted warming effect.

One of the benefits of using infrared saunas is its ability to provide remarkable relaxation and stress relief. The deep penetration of infrared heat helps soothe muscle aches and joint pain, as well as improving circulation. As blood flow increases, the body’s natural healing processes accelerate, promoting an overall sense of well-being.

Another advantage of infrared saunas is their energy efficiency. They require less time to reach the desired temperature and use less energy compared to traditional steam saunas. This makes them more environmentally friendly and cost-effective to operate.

Infrared saunas are also known to help improve skin health. The increased circulation and targeted heat therapy help remove toxins from the body and encourage the growth of new skin cells. This process can contribute to a more radiant complexion and may help address issues such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

When it comes to choosing between infrared saunas and steam saunas, it is important to consider personal preferences and specific health goals. While both options provide numerous wellness benefits, infrared saunas offer a more targeted and efficient approach, making them an ideal choice for many individuals seeking relaxation, pain relief, and improved skin health.

Understanding Steam Saunas

Steam saunas, also known as traditional saunas, are well-established and have been used for centuries. They work by heating water to produce steam, which fills the air with heat and moisture. This environment promotes sweating and opens up the pores, resulting in various health benefits.

In a steam sauna, the temperature typically ranges between 150°F and 194°F, while the humidity levels are maintained between 80% and 100% 1. This combination enhances the body’s ability to sweat and helps to detoxify by triggering the release of toxins from the skin.

One notable advantage of steam saunas is their potential to improve respiratory health. The warm, moist air can help to soothe and open up congested airways, alleviating symptoms of conditions like bronchitis, asthma, and allergies 2. Steam saunas can also improve blood circulation, which facilitates the delivery of essential nutrients to vital organs.

However, not everyone tolerates steam saunas well. High humidity levels can feel uncomfortable and may lead to shortness of breath, especially for individuals with certain medical conditions. Additionally, the high levels of moisture can create an environment that may promote mold and bacteria growth if not properly maintained.

In-depth Comparison of Infrared vs Steam Saunas

Infrared saunas and steam saunas offer different experiences and various health benefits. When choosing between the two, it’s essential to understand the key differences to determine what suits your needs best.

Heating Method: Infrared saunas use infrared heaters to directly warm the body, whereas steam saunas rely on steam to heat the air in the room. This results in a dry heat in infrared saunas and moist heat in steam saunas.

Temperature: Generally, infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures, ranging from 110 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas steam saunas can reach temperatures between 150 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower temperature in infrared saunas may be more comfortable for some individuals.

Humidity: Steam saunas have high humidity levels due to the steam, creating a damp environment. This can be suitable for individuals who enjoy a more tropical-feeling setting. On the other hand, infrared saunas have a dry environment, making it easier to breathe for those sensitive to humidity.

Heat Penetration: Infrared saunas can warm up deeper tissues in the body, like muscle cells, faster than steam saunas. This is because steam saunas take more time for the heated air to reach the skin before warming up the deeper tissues.

Health Benefits: Both types of saunas share some similar health benefits, such as detoxification, relaxation, and stress relief. However, there are a few differences in the benefits they offer:

  • Cardiovascular health: Both saunas can improve circulation, but infrared saunas may offer better results due to their deep heat penetration.
  • Muscle and joint pain relief: Infrared saunas might be more effective in reducing inflammation and relieving pain due to their heat penetration abilities.
  • Respiratory health: Steam saunas may help in improving respiratory health, especially for those with asthma or sinus issues, thanks to the humidity.
  • Skin health: The moist heat of steam saunas can help cleanse and hydrate the skin, whereas the dry heat in infrared saunas may aid in exfoliation and increased circulation.

Ultimately, deciding between an infrared sauna and a steam sauna depends on individual preferences and the specific health benefits one wishes to target. Both options provide unique experiences and wellness advantages, making them popular choices for people seeking to enhance their well-being.

Functioning of Infrared and Steam Saunas

Infrared saunas and steam saunas are popular for their therapeutic and wellness benefits. While both types of saunas provide detoxification, relaxation, and potential weight loss, they function differently due to their distinct heating methods.

Infrared saunas use infrared heaters to generate dry heat and warm the body directly. These saunas operate at lower temperatures, often between 110°F and 130°F. Infrared saunas can efficiently penetrate the body tissues, providing an effective heat source without causing excessive discomfort. Users can typically enjoy a more prolonged sauna session due to the controlled temperature levels.

On the other hand, steam saunas rely on steam or dry heat to warm the air, which then heats the body. Steam rooms maintain a humid environment as they use water to create steam at high temperatures, usually ranging from 150°F to 200°F. The moist heat of a steam sauna can be helpful for respiratory health and may have additional benefits for the skin.

Energy consumption is another factor that differentiates these two types of saunas. Operating costs for an infrared sauna tend to be lower than those of a steam sauna, since it takes less energy to produce infrared heat than to create and maintain steam. In addition, infrared saunas typically warm up more quickly than steam rooms, further reducing energy usage.

Although infrared and steam saunas may offer similar health benefits, such as cardiovascular health, muscle and joint pain relief, and immunity, each sauna type exhibits distinct properties related to their heating methods. When considering which sauna to choose, factors such as personal preferences, desired benefits, and energy efficiency should be taken into account.

Health Benefits of Infrared Saunas


Infrared saunas help the body to detoxify. The infrared heat penetrates deeper into the body, causing a rise in core temperature. This process helps to eliminate harmful toxins through sweating. According to Clearlight Infrared Saunas, infrared sauna health benefits include detoxification, among other advantages.

Circulation Improvement

Infrared saunas can also improve circulation in the body. The heat from the infrared rays causes blood vessels to widen, promoting better blood flow. This can be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Cleveland Clinic states that infrared saunas can help boost heart health and reduce blood pressure.

Pain Relief

Infrared saunas can provide relief from muscle and joint pain. The infrared heat penetrates the body and helps to soothe sore muscles and alleviate joint pain, including arthritis. As stated by Healthline, infrared saunas can provide relief from sore muscles and joint pain, such as arthritis.

Skin Purification

The heat generated by infrared saunas also benefits skin health. It aids in the removal of impurities, resulting in clearer and tighter skin. Moreover, the increased blood circulation brought about by the sauna can help with cell regeneration, giving your skin a healthier glow. Healthline mentions that infrared saunas can improve skin health.


Lastly, infrared saunas promote relaxation. The gentle heat allows the body to relax and reduce stress levels. The experience is more comfortable than a traditional steam sauna due to lower air temperature and humidity. Overall, infrared saunas can aid in better sleep and a relaxed emotional state.

Health Benefits of Steam Saunas

Muscle Relaxation

Steam saunas provide a moist and warm environment that can help relax muscles and alleviate soreness. The heat from the steam room penetrates the skin and tissues, resulting in improved blood circulation and the release of tension in the muscles. This can be particularly beneficial for athletes or individuals with muscle aches and pains.

Detoxification through Sweat

As the temperature in a steam sauna rises, so does the body’s core temperature, causing the body to perspire. Sweating helps to remove toxins and impurities from the body, which can lead to improved overall health and wellbeing. Steam rooms are an excellent option for those looking to support their body’s natural detoxification processes.

Respiratory Benefits

Spending time in a steam sauna can be beneficial for individuals with respiratory issues such as asthma or congestion. The humid environment can help to open up airways and ease breathing, while the heat helps to thin mucus and relieve sinus pressure. Adding eucalyptus oil to the steam room can further enhance these respiratory benefits.

Stress Relief

Steam rooms can help promote relaxation and stress relief. The warm environment encourages the body to produce endorphins, chemicals that can improve mood and help to ease feelings of stress and anxiety. Regular sessions in a steam sauna may help with overall emotional well-being and stress management.

Improvement in Cardiovascular Performance

Spending time in a steam sauna can improve cardiovascular performance by increasing blood flow and circulation throughout the body. This increased circulation can help to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve overall heart health. Additionally, the relaxation from steam sauna sessions may also contribute to better cardiovascular function.

Drawbacks of Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas offer various health benefits, such as relaxation, pain relief, and improved circulation. However, they also come with a few drawbacks that users should consider before investing in one.

Potential Risks: Some users may experience low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and leg pain after using an infrared sauna source. Airway irritation and claustrophobia are other potential issues, especially for those with respiratory problems or sensitivity to enclosed spaces. Further, medical reports have highlighted cases of burns, fainting, and falls related to infrared sauna use.

Limited Research: Although infrared saunas have shown potential benefits in a range of conditions like high blood pressure, heart failure, dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, headache, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis, more substantial and precise studies are needed to substantiate these claims source.

Less Moisture: Unlike steam saunas that generate humid, moist air to induce sweating, infrared saunas use dry heat. While this can be advantageous for some users, others may prefer the moist heat of a steam sauna for increased detoxification or skincare benefits.

Electricity Usage: Infrared saunas typically require a continuous supply of electricity, which can contribute to higher energy bills and a larger carbon footprint. On the other hand, traditional steam saunas can be heated by various means, such as with wood or gas.

In summary, when considering infrared saunas, it is essential to weigh both the potential benefits and the drawbacks to determine if this type of sauna is the ideal choice for your specific needs and preferences.

Drawbacks of Steam Saunas

Steam saunas have been popular for years in promoting relaxation, but there are certain drawbacks that need to be considered before using them. To begin with, the high humidity levels found in steam rooms can make them an uncomfortable environment for those who struggle with conditions like asthma or allergies. The moist heat may cause some individuals to experience difficulty breathing, as the humidity can provoke allergic reactions or asthma flare-ups in susceptible individuals 1.

Another potential issue with steam saunas is their increased risk of bacterial and fungal growth due to the high humidity. The environment created by the moist heat can encourage the growth of mildew, mold, and other pathogens 2. As a result, steam rooms require rigorous cleaning and maintenance to ensure a hygienic environment for users. This also adds to the cost and effort required to maintain them.

Additionally, steam saunas’ heating mechanism relies on heating the air, meaning it takes longer for the heat to penetrate the body in comparison to infrared saunas 3. Consequently, steam rooms might require longer sessions to achieve similar deep tissue heating benefits provided by infrared saunas, which could be inconvenient for those pressed for time.

Lastly, steam rooms have a higher energy consumption than infrared saunas, as they require more power to produce steam and maintain a consistent temperature 4. This not only leads to increased electricity bills but may also have a larger environmental impact, making them a less eco-friendly option.

In conclusion, while steam saunas offer several benefits, it is crucial to consider these drawbacks before deciding between a steam room or an infrared sauna. These factors can influence the user’s comfort, health, and financial decision-making, ensuring the correct choice is made for their wellness journey.

Safety Tips for Both Types of Saunas

When enjoying the benefits of either infrared or steam saunas, it’s essential to prioritize personal safety. Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind when using both types of saunas.

Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after sauna sessions is crucial to replenish lost fluids through sweating. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, fatigue, and even more serious health issues, so make sure to drink at least 2-4 glasses of water before entering the sauna, and continue to sip water throughout the experience and after.

Start Short and Gradually Increase: For beginners, it’s recommended to limit the initial sauna sessions to 10-15 minutes. As your body becomes more accustomed to the heat and humidity, you can gradually increase the duration over time. Additionally, taking breaks between sessions can help regulate body temperature and maintain safety.

Lower Temperature for Infrared Saunas: Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures than traditional steam saunas, usually between 120°F and 130°F. Make sure to adjust the temperature accordingly if you’re transitioning from a steam sauna to an infrared sauna.

Be Aware of Health Conditions: It’s important to consult your healthcare provider before using a sauna if you have any respiratory or cardiovascular conditions. Pregnant women and individuals with high blood pressure or heart issues should also exercise caution while using saunas and seek professional advice.

Exit If Feeling Unwell: If you experience discomfort, dizziness, or any signs of overheating, exit the sauna immediately and take a cold shower or sit in a cool area to stabilize your body temperature.

Safety Gear: Saunas can cause surfaces to become quite hot. Use heat-resistant gloves or sits on heat-resistant mats when handling sauna accessories or sitting on benches. Ensure the sauna floor is non-slip to prevent accidents.

Remember to prioritize your well-being by following these safety tips. Practicing proper sauna etiquette and taking care of your health is vital for a safe and enjoyable sauna experience.

Maintenance of Infrared vs Steam Saunas

Infrared saunas and steam saunas differ in terms of their maintenance requirements. Understanding these differences is essential when deciding which type of sauna is suitable for your needs.

Infrared Saunas generally require less maintenance compared to steam saunas. One of the reasons for this is the dry heat produced by infrared saunas, which helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew. To keep an infrared sauna in excellent condition, follow these simple steps:

  • Clean the interior surfaces with a damp cloth regularly, particularly after each use.
  • Make sure to vacuum or sweep the floor periodically to remove dust and debris.
  • Inspect and wipe down the heater elements as needed, ensuring there is no dirt or residue buildup.
  • Check the electrical components for any signs of wear or damage, and replace them if needed.

When it comes to steam saunas, maintenance is slightly more involved due to the presence of moisture. This can potentially lead to mold, mildew, and other bacteria growth if not properly maintained. Here are some steps to follow for steam sauna maintenance:

  • Drain the steam generator weekly to remove any mineral buildup within the unit. This helps to prolong the generator’s lifespan.
  • Clean the interior surfaces with a mild solution of water and a non-abrasive cleaner. This should be done after each use to prevent mold and mildew growth.
  • Inspect and replace steam generator filters regularly to ensure optimal performance.
  • Ventilate the steam room after each use to help reduce humidity and minimize the risk of mold or mildew forming.

In summary, infrared saunas are somewhat easier to maintain compared to steam saunas, primarily due to the absence of moisture. However, with consistent care and attention, both types can remain in optimal condition, providing a relaxing and rejuvenating experience for users.

Personal Choice – Infrared vs Steam Saunas

When it comes to choosing between infrared and steam saunas, it’s essential to consider individual preferences, health, and personal goals. Both types of saunas offer various benefits, but certain factors may lead individuals to choose one over the other.

Infrared saunas utilize infrared waves to produce heat. This type of sauna is generally more energy-efficient, as they use around 1.6 kW of power per session, which is about one-third of the power required by traditional saunas. Therefore, the decision to select an infrared sauna may be influenced by environmental and economic concerns.

Steam saunas utilize heated water to create steam, resulting in increased humidity levels. For individuals who struggle with respiratory issues or prefer a more moisturizing experience, steam rooms may be the better choice. Additionally, steam saunas may be more suitable for those seeking traditional detoxification methods and a higher level of heat.

It’s also vital to recognize that both types of saunas offer distinct health benefits. Infrared saunas may be more effective in relieving muscles and joint pain, while steam saunas may provide better support for respiratory health. The health benefits of each type will play a significant role in an individual’s decision-making process.

Comfort and personal experience also play a role in choosing between infrared and steam saunas. Some individuals might find the lower temperatures and drier heat of infrared saunas more comfortable, while others may prefer the humidity and warmth of steam saunas.

In summary, personal choice between infrared and steam saunas depends on various factors, such as energy efficiency, health benefits, comfort, and personal experience. Understanding individual needs and priorities will help ensure the best decision for one’s wellbeing and enjoyment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between infrared and steam saunas?

Infrared saunas use infrared light to directly heat the body, while steam saunas create heat by boiling water to produce steam. This means that infrared saunas typically have a lower temperature and dry environment, while steam saunas have a higher temperature and much higher humidity levels.

How do the health benefits of infrared and steam saunas compare?

Both infrared and steam saunas offer various health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular health, relieving muscle and joint pain, and enhancing skin health. However, some differences exist. Infrared saunas can provide better deep heating and may help improve hormone production, while steam saunas can offer additional respiratory health benefits due to the moist environment.

Can using an infrared sauna help with weight loss?

Yes, using an infrared sauna can contribute to weight loss by promoting sweating and increasing heart rate. However, it should be considered as a supplement to a balanced diet and regular exercise, rather than a standalone weight loss solution.

Are there portable options for both infrared and steam saunas?

Yes, there are portable options available for both infrared and steam saunas. These can be more affordable and convenient for those who want to enjoy the benefits of a sauna at home without committing to a permanent installation.

What factors should be considered when choosing between an infrared and steam sauna for home use?

When choosing between an infrared and steam sauna, consider factors such as available space, desired health benefits, budget, and personal preferences. Infrared saunas can be less expensive and may offer additional health benefits, while steam saunas might be more suitable for those who enjoy a humid environment or desire respiratory health benefits.

Do combination steam and infrared saunas provide added benefits?

Combination saunas may provide the best of both worlds by allowing users to experience the benefits of both infrared and steam saunas in a single unit. However, they might also be more expensive and require more space for installation. Ultimately, it depends on individual preferences and needs to determine if a combination sauna is worth the investment.


  1. 2
  2. 2

Leave a Comment