Infrared vs Traditional Sauna: Simplifying the Key Differences

Saunas have long been a popular way to relax, rejuvenate, and enhance overall health. With an increasing number of options on the market today, it’s essential to understand the critical differences between infrared and traditional saunas. This article explores the key elements and benefits of both types, comparing their efficiency, comfort, and safety.

Infrared saunas use infrared light to penetrate and heat the body directly, offering a unique experience compared to traditional saunas. They typically operate at lower temperatures, between 120˚F and 140˚F, providing potential health benefits for those who may not tolerate the higher heat levels of a traditional sauna. Traditional saunas, on the other hand, utilize heated rocks or another heat source to warm the air, creating a hot and humid environment, which ranges from 150˚F to 180˚F.

As you consider which type of sauna suits your preferences, lifestyle, and health needs, it’s crucial to compare their installation, maintenance, and safety features. In addition, understanding the unique benefits offered by each type of sauna will help guide your decision.

Key Takeaways

  • Infrared saunas use infrared light and operate at lower temperatures while traditional saunas use heated rocks or another heat source to create a hot, humid environment.
  • Both types of saunas offer unique health benefits, with infrared saunas potentially being more suitable for those who cannot tolerate high heat levels.
  • Considering installation, maintenance, and safety features is essential when choosing the right sauna for your needs.

Understanding Saunas

Saunas have been popular for centuries, providing relaxation and numerous health benefits. They come in two main forms: traditional and infrared. Each type of sauna has distinct characteristics, and understanding these differences can help individuals decide which is best suited to their needs.

Traditional saunas use heat and humidity to create a hot environment, usually with temperatures ranging from 180-200°F. This type of sauna heats the air around the user, making them sweat and release toxins from their bodies. Convection heat is used to warm the surface of the skin, while steam is used to increase humidity and open the pores. Traditional saunas are known for benefits such as delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s, ameliorating stiff arteries, and improving cardiovascular health, as supported by Saunaverse.

On the other hand, infrared saunas use infrared light to directly heat the user’s body rather than the surrounding air. Infrared saunas have lower temperatures, typically around 120-140°F, and a much lower humidity level of around 5% as noted by Sunrise Specialty. This makes them potentially more comfortable to use, especially for people who find traditional saunas too hot or too humid.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of saunas. Infrared saunas are often less expensive to purchase and easier to use at home, due to their lower heat requirements as mentioned by Dr. Michael Ruscio. Some believe infrared saunas to be more effective, as their direct heating method allows for deeper penetration of the skin, which may lead to enhanced detoxification and relaxation.

However, the research for infrared saunas is relatively limited compared to traditional saunas. This may result in an influence from marketing on the perceived benefits of infrared saunas, potentially including exaggerated claims. It’s important to consider the available research and personal preferences when deciding which type of sauna to use.

Infrared Sauna

Infrared saunas are a modern alternative to traditional saunas, and they operate differently by using infrared light to penetrate and heat the body directly, rather than heating the air around you first. This difference in heating method leads to a more comfortable experience, as infrared saunas can operate at lower temperatures, usually between 120˚F and 140˚F, compared to traditional saunas that typically operate between 150˚F and 180˚F source.

One advantage of infrared saunas is that they are generally easier to use at home and less expensive to purchase compared to traditional saunas source. This makes them more accessible to a wider audience who may want to experience the benefits of regular sauna use without the need for a dedicated space or professional installation.

Infrared saunas are known to offer a range of health benefits, such as pain relief and reduced stiffness due to increased blood flow and circulation source. Additionally, they have the ability to produce a deeper, more detoxifying sweat, which can be beneficial for those seeking a more intense cleansing experience. While there is limited research on the long-term effects and possible marketing influence of infrared saunas source, they have been shown to hold some advantages in terms of comfort and usability compared to traditional saunas.

Traditional Sauna

Traditional saunas, also known as Finnish saunas, have been around for centuries. These types of saunas use a heat source, such as a wood-burning stove or an electric heater, to increase the temperature inside the sauna room. Hot stones are often placed on or near the heater to further increase the heat. The high temperature inside traditional saunas ranges from 150°F to 180°F, making the environment hot and steamy.

The heat generated in a traditional sauna warms the air, which in turn warms the body. Consequently, people sitting inside a traditional sauna will experience an increase in their heart rate and blood circulation. This helps to eliminate toxins through sweat and promotes relaxation. Additionally, traditional saunas may provide benefits such as delaying early onset of Alzheimer’s and alleviating stiff arteries.

In a typical traditional sauna session, water is poured over the hot stones to create steam. This process is called löyly in Finnish, and it’s an essential aspect of the traditional sauna experience. The steam increases humidity levels in the sauna, which can make the heat feel more intense, enhancing the effect of the session.

Traditional saunas are often built using wood, which lends a pleasant aroma to the sauna experience. The wood also helps to absorb and hold the heat, making the environment feel cozier and more authentic. Many sauna enthusiasts believe that this environment offers a more immersive and pleasant experience compared to infrared saunas.

In summary, traditional saunas are characterized by high temperatures and steamy environments, which work by heating the air to warm the body. They have a long history of use and have been shown to offer various health benefits, including improved blood circulation, relaxation, and detoxification.

Infrared Sauna Benefits

Infrared saunas offer a variety of health benefits due to their unique method of using light to create heat, which penetrates the skin deeply and effectively.

Deep Tissue Warmth

Infrared saunas provide a deep tissue warmth as the infrared light penetrates the skin, reaching deep into the muscles and tissues. This can help to relax the muscles and release tension, providing soothing relief to sore muscles and aching joints.

Improved Circulation

The deep tissue warmth generated by infrared saunas can help to boost circulation throughout the body. As the body warms, blood vessels dilate and blood flow increases, delivering oxygen and nutrients to cells more efficiently. Improved circulation can lead to enhanced cell regeneration and overall better body functioning.

Pain Relief

Infrared saunas may offer pain relief to those suffering from chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or muscle injuries. The heat from infrared saunas may help alleviate inflammation and reduce pain by increasing blood flow to the affected areas, as well as promoting relaxation and stress reduction.

Weight Loss

While weight loss claims around infrared sauna use require further research, some studies have found an increased calorie burn and sweat loss during sauna sessions. The increase in circulation and heart rate during an infrared sauna session can lead to additional calorie burning, potentially assisting in weight management efforts. However, it is essential to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen for sustainable weight loss.

Traditional Sauna Benefits

Increased Sweating

Traditional saunas use heat to warm the air, which in turn heats your body, causing increased sweating. This process helps cleanse the body through the release of toxins and other impurities stored in the skin and fat cells. Sweating also helps improve the look and feel of your skin, by opening up pores and clearing out accumulated dirt. Furthermore, the act of sweating may contribute to an improved immune system, making the body more resilient to illnesses.

Improved Cardiovascular Performance

Traditional saunas stimulate the cardiovascular system by causing the heart to beat faster in response to the heat, increasing blood flow throughout the body. This elevated heart rate can have positive effects on overall cardiovascular health, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease and improving circulation. Better circulation means that more oxygen and nutrients are transported to the body’s cells, preventing muscle soreness and promoting faster recovery. Additionally, some research suggests that regular sauna use may lead to lower blood pressure and improved heart function.


One of the primary benefits of traditional saunas is the relaxation they provide. The high temperatures help muscles unwind, easing tension and stress. This, in turn, can improve mental well-being, particularly for those who may be struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression. Spending time in a sauna offers a chance to disconnect from external distractions and focus on the present moment, promoting a sense of mindfulness and calm. Relaxation is not only beneficial for your emotional state, but it can also help alleviate physical ailments such as muscle pain, headaches, and joint stiffness.

Comparing Efficiency and Comfort

When it comes to efficiency and comfort, infrared and traditional saunas have notable differences. Infrared saunas are known for their increased comfort and ease of use, primarily due to the lower air temperature inside compared to traditional saunas. This makes the infrared sauna experience more enjoyable for those who may struggle with the intense heat of a traditional sauna.

In terms of energy consumption, infrared saunas are more efficient as they use less electricity compared to traditional saunas. Lower energy consumption also makes infrared saunas a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly option.

The heating mechanisms in both types of saunas are distinct, with traditional saunas relying on convection and conduction to heat the body. The hot air and rocks create a high-temperature environment, encouraging users to sweat. Infrared saunas use radiant heat – a form of thermal radiation – to penetrate the skin and directly heat the body, inducing sweat even at lower air temperatures.

When considering health benefits and physiological effects, some research suggests that traditional saunas provide a more diverse range of health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and cognitive function. Infrared saunas, however, are known for their positive effects on respiratory systems.

Both infrared and traditional saunas have their pros and cons concerning efficiency and comfort. Prospective users should consider their personal preferences, health goals, and financial constraints when deciding which sauna type is best suited for them.

Differences in Installation and Maintenance

When comparing infrared and traditional saunas, there are notable differences in their installation and maintenance requirements. Understanding these distinctions can help you make the right choice for your home or spa facility.

Infrared saunas are generally easier and quicker to install. They often come in prefabricated kits, allowing for a simplified assembly process. In most cases, the only requirement is a flat surface and access to an electrical outlet. Moreover, infrared saunas can be installed indoors or outdoors, depending on your preference and available space. Their energy efficiency is also an advantage, as they operate at lower temperatures (around 120-140°F) and consume less energy than traditional saunas 1.

On the other hand, traditional saunas require a more complex installation process, which often necessitates the help of an experienced professional. This is because traditional saunas need proper ventilation, moisture-resistant materials, and access to a heat source such as a wood-burning stove, gas, or electricity. Additionally, insulation is essential for traditional saunas as they operate at higher temperatures (typically 180-195°F).

Maintenance-wise, infrared saunas require minimal effort compared to traditional saunas. Infrared saunas don’t produce steam, resulting in less moisture and humidity within the unit and a lower chance of mold or mildew 2. This makes it easier to maintain and clean the interior surfaces. Meanwhile, traditional saunas require regular cleaning of the stones and surfaces due to the presence of water and humidity. It’s also crucial to ensure proper ventilation to keep the sauna working efficiently and prevent dampness-related issues.

In summary, infrared saunas have streamlined installation processes and lower maintenance demands, while traditional saunas require more effort in terms of both factors. Deciding which option is best for you ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific requirements of your space.

Safety Considerations

When comparing infrared and traditional saunas, it is important to consider the safety aspects of each type. Infrared saunas use light to generate heat, which can provide a more comfortable experience for some users. However, they can also cause side effects such as low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and airway irritation in some cases 1.

On the other hand, traditional saunas rely on high temperatures to heat the room, often causing users to sweat profusely. While this can help flush out toxins and improve circulation, it can also lead to risks such as burns, fainting, and falls if the sauna is not used properly or with caution 2.

Both infrared and traditional saunas require proper ventilation and should not be used by individuals with certain health conditions like severe asthma or heart issues without consulting a healthcare professional. It’s crucial to remain hydrated while using either type of sauna to prevent complications related to dehydration.

Additionally, while using a sauna, it is important to follow guidelines for recommended exposure times and temperatures. Overheating can lead to serious health issues. Pregnant women and individuals taking certain medications should also consult their healthcare provider before using a sauna.

Ultimately, safety considerations for both infrared and traditional saunas involve proper use, awareness of potential risks, and consultation with a healthcare professional when necessary. By taking the necessary precautions and seeking expert advice, users can enjoy the potential benefits offered by both types of saunas while minimizing potential hazards.

Conclusion: Choosing the Right Sauna for You

When deciding between an infrared and traditional sauna, it’s important to consider your personal needs and preferences. Infrared saunas use radiant heat to penetrate your skin and heat your body directly, resulting in a more profuse sweat at lower temperatures source. They are also more cost-effective and easier to use at home source.

On the other hand, traditional saunas use convection and conduction to heat the body, creating a hot environment with heated air and rocks source. They have been linked to a broader range of health benefits, such as delaying early onset of Alzheimer’s and improving arterial stiffness source.

It’s worth noting that infrared saunas have limited research supporting their benefits, and marketing influence could be a factor in their popularity source. Additionally, the air temperature is higher in traditional saunas, which may be a consideration for some users source.

To make an informed decision, consider factors such as cost, space, health benefits, personal comfort, and desired heat levels. Ultimately, the choice between an infrared or traditional sauna comes down to individual preferences and priorities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between infrared and traditional saunas?

Infrared saunas use infrared light to penetrate and heat the body directly, while traditional saunas heat the air first, which in turn warms your body. Another significant difference is the temperature – traditional saunas can reach up to 200°F, while infrared saunas have a lower range around 120-140°F 1.

How do the health benefits of infrared saunas compare to traditional ones?

Although both types of saunas can provide health benefits, traditional saunas are believed to offer more health benefits, such as delaying the early onset of Alzheimer’s, alleviating stiff arteries, and more 2. Infrared saunas, on the other hand, are known for their benefits to respiratory systems.

What are the cost differences between an infrared and a traditional sauna?

Infrared saunas can be less expensive to purchase compared to traditional saunas 3. They are generally more energy-efficient, making them less costly to operate. However, installation costs and other additional expenses may vary.

Are full spectrum infrared saunas more effective than traditional saunas?

Full spectrum infrared saunas offer the benefits of all three types of infrared light – near, mid, and far. This enables a broader range of potential health benefits. However, there is limited research comparing the effectiveness of full spectrum infrared saunas to traditional saunas.

Is there any research that supports one type of sauna over the other?

There is limited research available comparing the two types of saunas, and most studies focus on their individual health benefits. While traditional saunas have been found to offer a wider range of health benefits, infrared saunas have been found to be beneficial for respiratory systems4. Ultimately, further research is needed to make a decisive conclusion on which sauna type is superior.

Can you find combination saunas that include both infrared and traditional features?

Yes, combination saunas are available that include both infrared and traditional features, allowing users to enjoy the benefits of both types. These combination units may be a suitable option for those who want to experience both types of sauna therapy in one unit.


  1. Infrared Sauna Dangers: When the Risks Overheat the Benefits – Healthline 2
  2. Infrared vs Traditional Sauna: Which One Suits You Best? 2
  3. Infrared Saunas vs. Traditional: Which Is Better?
  4. Do infrared saunas have any health benefits? – Mayo Clinic

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