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Infrared Sauna vs. Steam Sauna – Which Is Better?

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F or centuries, saunas have been an active part of traditional medicine, the fact that you sweat excessively in the small space being considered an important part of recovery and prevention from many health afflictions. Needless to say, there is the relaxation aspect to take into consideration as well, which is very important for the modern person who tends to get overwhelmed by the chaotic and stressful lifestyle that is present in current times.

With the apparition of infrared saunas, however, the scales have tipped. Back in the day, you knew that a good sweat session is provided by the steam sauna. But with the entry of the dry sauna on the market, deciding which type is better can be confusing. In the following, we will help you conclude by pinning the two types of sauna sessions against each other. So, if you plan on making a sauna for home use or you want to attend sessions at a local spa, you know from the get-go which is more beneficial and enjoyable for you.

What Is the Distinction Between a Steam Room and an Infrared Sauna?

What both types of saunas have in common is the fact that they make you sweat in excess. Thus, they help you eliminate toxins from your body, relieve muscle tension, relax, lose weight quicker, and improve various aspects of your health (immune system, cardiovascular system, and so on).

However, there is a big difference when it comes to their operating manner. As you sit inside the steam room, your body receives heat from the outside in as the air is hot. On the other hand, the infrared sauna emits far-infrared wavelengths that penetrate deep into the skin, heating the inside of your body without affecting air humidity.

Infrared Sauna 101

The wood-based room helps you sweat and warms your body via infrared rays that don’t raise the moisture or temperature in the space. Similar to the rays our bodies naturally give off, far infrared saunas pose no health threat and penetrate approximately 1.5” into the body, heating it directly. As you are warmed up from within, there is no need for extreme temperatures as with steam rooms, a temperature span from 110°F to 130°F sufficing to reach your sweat session goals.

See here the best infrared saunas the market has to offer at the moment to invest in a beneficial, durable, and reliable sweat-enhancement room.

Steam Room 101

The original sauna version, it is an airtight room made with a non-porous material where water is boiled by a steam generator to create a moisture-filled environment. This is an upgrade from the old-style steam sauna that consisted of a log cabin structure built around a fire pit with rocks laid on top, the fire warming the rocks over which people would throw buckets of water to produce the sweat-inducing vapor. Regardless of the type, whether it’s the classic-style steam room or the modern version, both are effective in their operation.

The excess humidity implies the need for a dehumidifier that prevents mold growth and other moistness-related issues within the space as time passes. This is especially important if you build a steam room in your bathroom or anywhere indoors as humidity levels will increase considerably and can pose a threat for comfort and life quality.

What Are the Advantages?

Where infrared saunas have the upper hand:

  • Detox: As the infrared waves emitted penetrate the body deep, heating the tissues 1.5” deep to be specific, this helps your body feel the heat from the inside, which means that you sweat more and release more toxins as well. As it also aids increase blood flow, the metabolic process is simultaneously enhanced. What you have to take away from all of this is that the concentrated heat helps you detox more efficiently than steam rooms do.
  • Weight loss: You sweat more in an infrared sauna than you do in a steam room, which means that you burn more calories. As aforementioned, the metabolic process is enhanced too, so you will achieve that slim, toned figure you have been working for faster.
  • If you have a hard time getting rid of visceral fat, wear a sauna vest not only during sauna sessions but while you do day-to-day activities as it promotes excess sweating.

  • Comfort: Due to the different means used for heating, infrared saunas provide more heat at lower temperatures. This aspect, alongside the lack of humidity and absence of high, unbearable heat makes them more comfortable to use for all individuals, but especially for those who suffer from eye and lung health issues.
  • Keep an eye on heat levels in steam and infrared saunas alike with the help of a sauna thermometer that is designed to withstand high heat and humidity.

Where steam rooms have the upper hand:

  • Skin hydration: Every day, because of exposure to environmental pollutants like smog and dust, the health of your skin suffers. The moisture in the steam room helps open up your pores, while the steam and hot moisture rinse the toxins away. If you have blemishes and dry skin, better use a steam sauna as the moisture-rich air is the only one able to help you perspire as needed to solve these issues. Moreover, the steam helps balance skin oil production, which helps clear your skin of acne as time passes. Of course, the main perk is that you benefit from better skin hydration, which helps health broken tissues and keeps the skin soft and supple.
  • Help with respiratory issues: A large amount of moist, hot air produced that you directly inhale as you sit inside the sauna helps open and relieve blocked air passageways. In turn, you will breathe better and easier, and respiratory issues like sinusitis, cold symptoms, and allergies will be reduced.
  • Sleep improvement: While both saunas help enhance sleep quality up to a point, it is the steam room that does a better job as the added heat further improves REM sleep as your body has to exert more effort to lower the internal temperature. As you will rest better, your whole health will benefit and you will feel more energized each day when you get out of bed.

What Are the Disadvantages?

Infrared sauna downsides:

  • Dehydration: While you can spend a bit more time in the dry sauna rather than the wet one, up to 30 minutes or even a bit more if your body can take it without you starting to feel bad, you should not overstay as you will get dehydrated. You sweat in excess and don’t drink water, so it is inevitable to become dehydrate if you don’t limit sauna sessions.
  • Not everyone can use it: Certain conditions are incompatible with infrared sauna use, including cardiovascular conditions, lupus, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis. Even if you don’t suffer from any of these health issues, it is still recommended that you first check with your physician to see if it is ok for you to use the sauna or not.

Steam sauna downsides:

  • Dehydration risk: If you sit more than 20 minutes in it, there is the risk that you might sweat so much you become dehydrated. While sipping on water might help elevate hydration levels, it won’t get you in the clear.
  • Germ haven: The steam might be hot, but it isn’t hot enough to kill all types of bacteria and germs. Moreover, the damp environment makes for a perfect multiplication ground for bacteria, predisposing you to them as you sit inside the sauna. If others have used it before you and it has not been cleaned properly, you will enter into contact with other people’s germs as well.
  • Health risks: For people who suffer from heart conditions and for pregnant women, the steam room can pose a threat as it has an immediate effect on blood pressure, blood circulation, and heart rate. The same goes for those who take medication that affects blood circulation. Without first consulting your doctor, avoid using the sauna if you fall into any of these categories.

What’s Better for Detox?

We are exposed to pollution up to a point where it becomes a big health threat. While it is known that the outdoor air is polluted, what a lot of people might not be aware of (at least not to the fullest extent) is how big of an issue indoor air pollution poses. Not only do your lungs have to suffer as a result of inhaling the contaminant-filled air, but so does your skin and your internal organs, as well as your immune system.

This is why detox via sweating that it provided by sauna sessions is so sought-after, proving to be an adequate means to relieve a big portion of the toxins that have entered the body via pollutants like dust and smog. Of the two, infrared light has been proven to be the more effective option for sweating as it penetrates the body tissue, causing significantly more sweating to occur as opposed to that provided by wet heat in the steam room. Thus, if you seek effective detox, opt for infrared sauna sessions as it is the more effective means to achieve a pure, clean body.

Want to sweat the toxins out without spending a ton of money on it? Then check out the best portable sit down infrared saunas that you can pack up and store after use.

Installation Considerations

Hands-down, the portable sit down infrared sauna is the easiest to install as it only requires that you erect it when you need to use it, and pack it up for storage when you are done with it. But when it comes to actual sauna rooms, which is better? The infrared sauna, or the steam room?

With infrared saunas, you make the order and the package comes with everything you need to set it up. These wood rooms are not that heavy, their setup is not elaborate, and in most cases, you won’t need more than a couple of hours to get the job done, especially with tongue and groove models. After you set it up, just plug it into an electrical outlet, and you can start your sweat session whenever you like.

On the other hand, if you want to set up a steam sauna, even if you buy an installation kit and put it together on your own, chances are that you will still need the help of a professional as there are plumbing and electrical requirements involved with this the setup. Moreover, the room must be hermetic and the ceiling sloped for proper moisture dripping, so chances are that you will find it easier to hire a contractor for the whole procedure.

As you can see, the infrared sauna is easier to install. There are fewer risks involved with it in the long-run as well. While with an outdoor sauna you might not be all that interested in moisture levels, if you build it indoors, the excess moisture within the room affects humidity levels in your home too, potentially leading to mold growth. Thus, without the use of a dehumidifier, you are at risk of greater problems as time passes if you install a steam room indoors.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Infrared Sauna Steam Sauna
  • Weight loss aid: 10/10
  • Detoxification: 10/10
  • Skin health improvement:9 /10
  • Improved cardio health: 9.5/10
  • Immune system boost: 9.5/10
  • Arthritis pain relief: 10/10
  • Respiratory issue relief: 9/10
  • Sleep improvement: 9/10
  • Comfort level: 10/10

Infrared sauna overall score: 9.56/10

  • Weight loss aid: 9/10
  • Detoxification: 9/10
  • Skin health improvement: 10/10
  • Improved cardio health: 9/10
  • Immune system boost: 9/10
  • Arthritis pain relief: 9/10
  • Respiratory issue relief: 10/10
  • Sleep improvement: 10/10
  • Comfort level: 7.5/10

Steam sauna overall score: 9.17/10

Conclusion – Are Infrared Saunas Better?

Both types of saunas are, hands down, efficient in their quest to help you sweat out toxins and improve your immune system. However, the lack of humidity and the more concentrated manner of inducing sweat promoted by infrared saunas make them superior to steam rooms. Instead of having a hot and humid room to sit in, your body is the target of the infrared light that enters the tissues and promotes sweating, which leads to improved detoxification. If you seek weight loss, it is the more recommended option as well, specifically since all of its efforts are focused on your body. In the end, it is a matter of personal preference, but with a much easier installation and the wider range of health benefits provided, the infrared option is the way we recommend you go.

Want to get rid of the fat on your belly? If this is the area that preoccupies you most, make sure you check out the best infrared sauna slim belts too as these products provide concentrated weight loss for the abdominal area of the wearer.

Tobey Hunter
Tobey Hunter
Tobey is the editor-in-chief at Optima Institute, his prior experience as a niche product reviewer in air quality improvement systems helping shape his path to conduct thorough research toward selecting and analyzing products so that customers are satisfied with the provided recommendations. During his carrier, Tobey also gathered technical input that makes him well versed in understanding advancements in modern systems, helping readers in turn to better understand how modern devices help improve life quality.