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Article: The Battle of the Saunas: Steam Sauna vs Infrared Sauna - Which is the Ultimate Health Booster?

The Battle of the Saunas: Steam Sauna vs Infrared Sauna - Which is the Ultimate Health Booster?

The Battle of the Saunas: Steam Sauna vs Infrared Sauna - Which is the Ultimate Health Booster?

Written by Chris Lang

Steam and infrared saunas are two of the most common types of saunas. Although both provide similar health benefits, there are certain differences between the two.

For example, infrared saunas are a slightly better option for treating muscle and joint pain because they offer deep skin penetration. In contrast, steam saunas can be an effective remedy for asthma and other respiratory issues due to high humidity.

Let’s take a closer look at the infrared vs. steam sauna health benefits and the overall experience you get from both forms of sauna.

How Infrared Saunas Work

Before you step inside an infrared sauna, the first question you may ask is: “Is infrared sauna safe?” The short answer is yes, but you should still learn how these saunas work.

As the name suggests, infrared saunas use infrared rays to provide a therapeutic effect. The rays are invisible to the naked eye, but this doesn’t mean your body can’t feel them. On the contrary, they penetrate the skin and reach deep layers of the body in the form of heat.

All infrared saunas are similar, but not every sauna utilizes the same wavelength. There are three wavelengths your sauna provider may use: near, mid, and far infrared sauna.

  • Far-infrared saunas – Perfect for detoxification and muscular relaxation

  • Mid infrared – Excellent for reducing inflammation and pain

  • Near-infrared saunas – Great for healing wounds and improving overall skin health

Then there’s the temperature, which is generally lower than in some other saunas. It usually ranges from 100 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

This may make some believe the alternatives are more effective, but remember – the ray penetration is a game-changer. It gives infrared saunas greater healing capacity when treating various afflictions.

Infrared Rays: The Science

The best way to get the full picture of the infrared vs. steam sauna topic is to understand the science of both methods. Let’s deconstruct infrared saunas first.

The name infrared may sound ominous, but it merely denotes the light spectrum of the rays. Unlike ultraviolet rays, infrared rays are perfectly safe. Their key property is that they penetrate deep layers of skin without increasing the temperature of the room dramatically. For many, this makes for a more pleasant experience and allows for extended sauna sessions.

How Steam Saunas Work

Now that you know the infrared sauna basics, it’s time to move on to the other side of the infrared vs. steam sauna comparison.

Invented around 2,000 BC, steam saunas (aka steam rooms) have played a pivotal role in helping people unwind and relieve chronic conditions. They’ve evolved over the years, but the principle has remained pretty much the same. Steam saunas work by heating water to a specific temperature (normally 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit), which creates steam that gets transferred into the room.

These rooms are enclosed, so there’s no way for the steam to escape. This creates a soothing sensation that can be beneficial for reducing pain and soreness. Also, it makes the room feel hotter than it actually is.

Another important distinction is that steam rooms aren’t the same as traditional saunas. On the one hand, a standard sauna uses a closed stove or hot rocks to raise the temperature up to 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, steam rooms only feature steam, resulting in lower temperatures.

The Role of Steam

As previously mentioned, steam rooms create steam by heating and pressurizing water. The steamy, humid environment is great if you have breathing difficulties. It breaks down any congestion in the lungs and sinuses while heating your mucous membrane. You can take deeper breaths and eliminate any mucus obstructing your respiratory passageways.

Health Benefits: Infrared vs. Steam

When weighing an infrared vs. traditional steam sauna, the most important consideration is the health benefits. We’ve hinted at several ways both saunas can boost your well-being. Coming up is a detailed overview of how infrared and steam saunas affect different health aspects.

Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular problems can be hard to treat, and many people opt for over-the-counter medications. The side effects of long-term medication use are often severe, which is why you people look for a potentially safer alternative. Steam and infrared saunas, like those at Komowa Wellness, may be a great pick.

However, which is better, infrared or steam sauna, for cardiovascular health? It doesn’t matter much because both types provide similar benefits.

The critical factor in a sauna that alleviates heart issues is the heat. And since both infrared and steam saunas are quite hot, you can experience significant cardiovascular improvements, regardless of your choice.

Once you start your session, the extra heat dilates your blood vessels and induces just enough stress to raise your heart rate without damaging the arteries or other sensitive areas. This gives your cardiovascular system a much-needed workout, increases blood flow, and decreases blood pressure.

To get the most out of the soothing effects on your heart, experts recommend going to a sauna four to seven times per week. Just don’t forget to consult your doctor before starting this form of treatment, and take lots of water throughout the session. It’ll prevent dehydration and help you maximize the benefits of your sauna therapy.


Another reason you should consider a sauna is to detoxify your body. That’s where sweating comes in. Yes, it’s unpleasant, but perspiration enables harmful microbes to exit your body, making you feel much better after each session.

Steam saunas are known for their detox effect. The steam opens up your lungs and clears any blocked sinuses to help you purge mucus. Furthermore, the high heat promotes sweating and opens up your pores.

That’s why steam saunas are great for cleansing your body, but infrared saunas aren’t too shabby either. In fact, many consider infrared saunas a better detoxifier.

The reason is simple – because infrared rays reach the deepest layers of the body, they can dilate your blood vessels to a larger extent. This, coupled with the ability to break up clusters of water molecules, may lead to a greater release of dangerous toxins.

Comfort also plays a pivotal role when weighing up an infrared vs. steam sauna in terms of detoxification. Even though the temperatures are similar, steam rooms feel much hotter than their infrared counterparts. Therefore, you may need to end your session before the peak detox effect kicks in if you can no longer bear the heat.

So, infrared saunas prevail once again.


One of the most significant infrared sauna health benefits is providing an ideal environment to unwind. Whenever you’re stressed out, all it takes is a few minutes in an infrared sauna to combat your anxiety and lift your spirits. The high temperature decreases cortisol and increases serotonin levels, which are crucial for relieving tension.

That’s not to say steam saunas aren’t good for relaxation. Since the beneficial anti-stress levels mainly come from higher temperatures, steam rooms are just as effective at increasing serotonin and reducing cortisol.

The right sauna for you depends on your preferences and the ability to endure heat stress. If you’re already under extreme stress, infrared saunas might be a better option. They feel slightly cooler and are less humid, meaning they go easier on your body. Some saunas even let you modify the temperature if you feel things are getting a bit too hot.

By contrast, if you like the extra air humidity and seemingly higher temperatures, a steam sauna can save the day.

Immune System

Your priority health-wise is to boost your immune system. The more robust it is, the less likely you are to catch a bug. Diet is a crucial component, but why not supplement it with sauna sessions?

Best of all, it doesn’t matter whether you opt for an infrared or steam sauna. Both types have immunity-enhancing properties due to the high temperatures they produce.

When you enter a sauna, your body temperature rises gradually. This imitates what your body goes through when you have a fever. During this heat stress, your body releases white blood cells, interferons, and other compounds that help you combat diseases. Once the session is over, you exit the sauna with a stronger immune system that can prevent and cure illnesses more easily.

For this reason, it’s hard to say which type of sauna is better for your immunity. Both are equally efficient when it comes to generating the heat stress that triggers the body’s natural response.

The Sauna Experience: What to Expect

Your first trip to a sauna will be memorable, you might get somewhat different sensations depending if you go to an infrared or steam sauna.

When it comes to infrared saunas specifically, it might feel like sunbathing. However, although you can feel the heat permeating your body, there’s no risk of burns since infrared rays are not the same as UV rays produced by the sun. That’s why they’re superior to standard, hot-rock, or stove saunas. They achieve the same effect at a much lower temperature.

A steam room feels more similar to taking a bath than getting a tan, but it lands somewhere in the middle. The humidity from the steam creates a sensation of stress literally melting away. It gets even better if the sauna has essential oils, which can amplify the effect.

There are subtle differences between the two types of sauna, but one thing’s for sure – you can make the experience even more comfortable. Here’s how:

  • Don’t drink alcohol – Hydration is key to staying comfortable in a sauna. Besides drinking plenty of water, you should avoid alcohol before, during, and after your session. Alcohol will dehydrate you, and you may feel lightheaded and unable to spend more than a few minutes inside.

  • Sit on the bench – Laying on the bench is fine, especially in a steam room, but you can reap more benefits if you sit up in an infrared sauna. That way, the heaters should face your body directly on both sides.

  • Don’t use your smartphone – The high heat can damage any electronics, including smartphones. Additionally, the moist air in a steam room can cause further harm. So, avoid using your smartphone while inside.

  • Experiment with colors in an infrared sauna – Some infrared saunas allow you to change the color of the ambient light inside. Try different nuances until you find the one that meets your goal. If you want to reduce stress, yellow is a fantastic option. Alternatively, green magnifies the relaxation effect.

  • Heed your doctor’s advice – If you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems, consult your physician before entering a sauna.

Session Length and Frequency

Moderation is essential in every form of therapy, including saunas. To prevent too much heat stress, follow this schedule:

  • Infrared sauna – Three to four times per week, between 20 and 45 minutes per session

  • Steam sauna – Two to three times per week, between 10 and 20 minutes per session

Practical Considerations: Cost, Maintenance, and Space

Whether you’re comparing infrared saunas to steam rooms only or want to learn more about the differences between an infrared sauna vs. regular sauna, it’s vital to look beyond health benefits. For example, if you decide to install a steam sauna or infrared sauna of your own, you should consider the cost, maintenance, and space.

Cost Comparison

Even though most modern saunas are energy-efficient, steam saunas are slightly more expensive to run than infrared saunas. They require higher temperatures and better ventilation, resulting in higher electricity consumption.

Maintenance Comparison

Infrared saunas are the clear winner here. They’re easier to maintain than steam saunas because they’re less humid, decreasing the risk of mold and mildew.

Space Comparison

Infrared saunas are typically smaller than steam saunas. On average, steam rooms are three feet wider and three feet longer than infrared saunas.

Which Sauna Is Right for You?

It’s hard to answer the following question: What sauna is better? Infrared or steam? The answer depends entirely on your preferences.

If you’re looking for a slightly more comfortable experience for cardiovascular issues, infrared saunas are a better option. Komowa Wellness has a cutting-edge infrared sauna that exemplifies these perks.

On the other hand, steam rooms are superior if you want to treat breathing difficulties and don’t mind higher temperatures.

Finally, if you’re considering installing a sauna, infrared is the smarter choice. It’s more affordable to run and requires less space.


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