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Article: How to Sauna Your Way to Clear Skin

How to Sauna Your Way to Clear Skin

How to Sauna Your Way to Clear Skin

Written by Chris Lang

 The practice of sauna bathing has a long historical significance, dating back thousands of years. The Finnish were the ones to introduce the concept of a sauna to the Western world, and the realm of wellness has never been the same. From relaxing and socializing to reaping their many health benefits, saunas have become integral to wellness routines worldwide.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that another daily routine can immensely benefit from introducing sauna bathing. The routine in question is skin care.

This article will explore the immediate and long-term benefits of sauna for skin health. One look at the descriptions and photos of pre- and post-sauna skin (before and after regular sauna sessions), and you’ll understand why incorporating sauna bathing into your skin care routine is a game changer.

The Science Behind Sauna Skin Transformation

Before diving into the many skin benefits of a sauna routine, let’s discuss what it is about saunas that makes them good for your skin.

Understanding How Sauna Affects the Skin

When using the sauna, you expose your body to a lot of direct or indirect heat. These circumstances aren’t normal for your body, so it immediately activates a process called thermoregulation. As the name suggests, the main purpose of this process is to regulate your body’s temperature, which in this case means lowering it substantially.

So, how does your body try to cool itself off? By sweating, of course.

Sweat is the body’s natural cooling mechanism, helping dissipate heat and, in turn, lowering your body’s temperature. But you’ll be happy to know that the effects of sweating profusely in the sauna reach far beyond simply regulating your body’s temperature.

You see, when you sweat profusely, your blood circulation also increases. This, in turn, boosts your skin cell turnover significantly. In other words, you speed up the process of replenishing existing cells and creating new ones, which is vital to maintaining healthy and youthful-looking skin. After all, your skin is constantly hounded by environmental factors like UV radiation and pollutants, so having a way to repair it quickly is essential.

Your skin is also constantly exposed to impurities and debris that clog your pores. Excessive sweating, combined with increased blood flow, enlarges every single pore on your body. As pores get bigger, it becomes easier to flush out the toxins clogging them.

The Infrared Sauna Difference

Traditional saunas (originating in Finland) use wood burning as a heat source. This results in extremely high temperatures and low humidity. In these saunas, your body is heated indirectly by the surrounding hot air.

As saunas became more popular, they also evolved in design and functionality.

One of the first major upgrades was electrically heated saunas. Though they have a similar effect on your body, they allow you to control your temperature more precisely. But the sauna game truly changed with the introduction of an infrared sauna.

In an infrared sauna, your body is heated directly through special lamps. Thanks to this innovative approach, infrared saunas are widely lauded as more effective in terms of health benefits. Why?

Well, there are two reasons.

One, the heat can penetrate your skin deeper, making changes on a cellular level. And two, these saunas produce less heat (up to 135 degrees Fahrenheit), allowing you to stay in them longer and, thus, experience more long-term benefits.

In terms of the skin, the light frequencies from the infrared sauna can reach virtually everything, from the epidermis (the superficial skin layer) to the hypodermis (the subcutaneous tissue layer). This makes an infrared sauna a valuable addition to your skincare routine. Purchase an in-house infrared sauna and make this addition seamless.

Immediate and Long-Term Skin Benefits

Now that you know the science behind the benefits of a sauna, let’s explore those benefits in more detail. Regular sauna can help boost your overall health, impacting almost every system, from the cardiovascular to the immune system.

For now, let’s focus only on the skin.

Let’s examine two results: the immediate effects on your skin of a single sauna session and the long-term results of regular sauna time.

Short-Term Visible Changes in the Skin

The wellness world is filled with rituals whose results you can only see over time. The same goes for a traditional dermatologist-approved skincare routine. The great thing about your time in a sauna is that you can see a change immediately after leaving the cabin.

Your skin will likely feel noticeably smoother and softer, which can be explained from two angles. One, your previously clogged pores have opened up, allowing for better cleansing. And two, the increased blood circulation contributes to smoother skin and a more even complexion since most of the “extra” blood is directed to the skin.

The increased blood flow will also give your skin a healthy, flushed appearance, while the light sheen of sweat gives that desirable dewy look.

If you suffer from specific skin conditions like rosacea and psoriasis, a sauna session can immediately lower skin inflammation, giving you temporary relief.

The Long-Term Impact on Skin Health

An older dermatology study has also shown that it takes only two 15-minute sauna sessions to affect your skin physiology positively. Now, imagine what regularly visiting a sauna can do for your skin health. Except you don’t have to imagine, as this is precisely what’s explored below.

No More Dead Skin Cells 

Dead skin cells are a natural part of the skin’s renewal process. However, if they aren’t removed from the skin, they can eventually find their way into your pores, clogging them. Clogged pores can, in turn, cause various undesirable skin changes, including blemishes, blackheads, and acne breakouts.

Since increased sweating during sauna sessions facilitates a natural exfoliation process, regular sauna bathing helps remove dead skin cells (and sebum) and prevent their buildup. This will keep your skin supple and healthy and keep breakouts at bay.

Acne Relief

Preventing clogged pores isn’t the only way spending time in a sauna helps battle acne. Past research has shown that sauna bathing has been successfully used as a treatment for acne, resulting in a significant reduction of inflammatory lesions.

But a sauna is a great way to boost the effects of traditional acne treatments, too. Regular sauna bathing significantly increases skin permeability, allowing your skin to absorb acne medications more effectively.

Collagen Galore

According to some past studies, regular sauna use (especially infrared sauna) significantly boosts collagen and elastin production. Of course, collagen is the protein in charge of the skin’s elasticity and strength. This means that regular sauna use ultimately contributes to tighter and smoother skin and a more youthful complexion.

An Anti-Aging Hero

The mere fact that regular sauna use boosts collagen production already makes saunas a powerful anti-aging ally. But the wonders of sauna use for anti-aging don’t stop there. Regularly visiting a sauna will also help you battle aging in the following ways:

  • Sauna bathing has been proven to induce the skin to build up antioxidant defense systems through excessive heat exposure. The stronger these systems, the less likely the skin will experience future stresses. This, in turn, slows down the aging process.

  • A 2018 review has established that excessive sweating caused by sauna use can stimulate the mitochondria in the skin. As the energy production increases, the mitochondria will “act” younger, leading to more skin hydration and less sagging.

  • An older study found that regular sauna use can positively impact the water-holding capacity of the skin’s outermost layer, allowing the skin to retain more moisture. Of course, more moisture means fewer fine lines and wrinkles, which is essentially the goal of any anti-aging treatment.

  • Inflammation or irritation caused by various skin conditions can contribute to premature skin aging. Saunas help prevent this unfortunate scenario by combating the inflammation around acne and other skin conditions.

Crafting the Perfect Sauna Routine for Skin Care

If you already have a reliable skincare routine, you know there’s much more to it than just slathering a bunch of products on your skin. It’s the same with sauna use. To get the most out of your sauna experience, you must establish a thoughtful sauna routine.

Preparing Your Skin for a Sauna

Before entering the sauna, you should properly prepare your skin to maximize the benefits of the sauna session. First things first – wash your face. It doesn’t matter why you’re sauna-ing—to relax after a busy day at work or unwind after a workout—this step is a must. Why?

The answer is simple – to remove any sweat buildup or grime accumulated throughout the day. This way, you give the sauna a chance to work its magic directly on your skin.

Afterward, you can use a dedicated facial cleanser to remove any residue. Just use a gentle formulation to avoid irritating your skin before exposing it to excessive heat. If you’re suffering from an acne breakout, pay close attention to the affected areas when cleansing your skin.

And that’s all there is to it. You’re now ready to enter the sauna. Make sure to drink plenty of water before doing so to avoid dehydrating your body. Drinking water will also help flush the toxins out of your body through sweating, so it’s a win-win situation.

Optimal Time in a Sauna for Skin Health

Generally speaking, experienced sauna bathers can spend up to 20 minutes in a sauna (30 if it’s infrared heat). However, these “rules” change if your goal is to preserve skin health. In this case, an ideal sauna session should last about 10 minutes. A shorter session guarantees the heat doesn’t overly stress the skin, especially if you suffer from specific skin conditions.

Post-Sauna Skin Care Rituals

Here’s what to do after leaving the sauna to protect and nourish your skin properly:

  1. Drink plenty of water upon your exit since you’re going to lose lots of fluid during the session.

  2. Give your body some time to cool down naturally.

  3. Take a warm shower to clean your body from sweat, sebum, and toxins. You’re using warm water since cold water helps contract the pores, and you don’t want them to close until you’ve thoroughly cleansed your skin.

  4. Switch to a cold shower to help bring your pores back to their resting size.

  5. After the shower, dry off your skin.

  6. Apply an all-natural lotion to your skin to moisturize it and extend the benefits of sauna treatments.

Sauna Use and Specific Skin Types/Conditions

Regular sauna use can generally boost the skin health of most individuals. However, these therapeutic sessions have specific effects on certain skin types and conditions. Tailoring your sauna routine to your skin type (or skin condition) will help you maximize the benefits of your session.

Sauna Benefits for Different Skin Types

Here’s what to know about sauna use for specific skin types:

  • Oily skin. Numerous past studies have shown that saunas are perfect for oily skin, as they help cleanse it thoroughly and decrease the amount of oil in the long run.

  • Dry skin. If you have dry skin, pay close attention to your post-sauna routine. Always apply a high-quality moisturizer after your sauna session to lock the moisture in. Also, be mindful of your time in the sauna to prevent the heat from drying out your skin. Follow these guidelines, and regular sauna use will improve your skin’s hydration immensely. 

  • Combination skin. Combination skin calls for a solid pre- and post-sauna skincare regimen to ensure every area of your skin is taken care of.

  • Sensitive skin. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, pay special attention to your pre-sauna ritual. Make sure your skin is cleansed without irritating it. While using the sauna, lower the temperature slightly to avoid further sensitizing your skin.

Addressing Skin Conditions With Sauna Therapy

Regular sauna bathing has proven effective in combating a number of skin conditions.

  • Acne. As already covered, regular sauna use helps keep your pores unclogged and sebaceous glands unblocked, which contributes to reduced acne breakouts. Past studies have found that few other acne treatments reduce inflammatory lesions caused by acne as well as regular sauna sessions.

  • Rosacea. Regular sauna bathing aids your body in two ways – it can increase blood flow and lower inflammation. Both ways are beneficial when it comes to battling rosacea. As more oxygen and nutrients are being delivered to your skin, your skin heals faster, reducing the severity of rosacea symptoms.

  • Dermatitis. Past studies have proven that sauna’s dry heat can kill off dermatophytes and similar infection-causing microorganisms. This means using a sauna can provide near-instant relief from dermatitis symptoms like itching and inflammation. A 2023 study corroborates this fact.

  • Psoriasis. The same 2023 study has found that regular sauna bathing can help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis (mainly redness, dryness, itchiness, and irritation) by reducing inflammation.

However, it’s important to note that some past studies found that sauna use can worsen the symptoms of skin conditions like atopic dermatitis. That’s why you’ll want to consult a dermatologist before incorporating sauna use into your treatment, regardless of the perceived severity of your condition. A dermatologist will help determine whether you can use the sauna and, if so, how often and for how long.

Precautions and Best Practices

Let’s make one thing abundantly clear – saunas aren’t for everyone. Some people should stay away from them altogether, while others should take precautions when using them. Let’s discuss both groups in more detail.

When to Avoid the Sauna

People with the following conditions shouldn’t use saunas:

  • Severe heart conditions (e.g., heart failure)

  • Pregnancy

  • Infectious skin conditions

  • Conditions that affect your balance (e.g., vertigo)

  • Recent injuries or surgeries

People with other, less severe conditions should always consult their healthcare provider before using the sauna to ensure it’s safe under their specific circumstances.

Maximizing Benefits While Minimizing Risks

Though people with specific conditions must be the most careful when using the sauna, the truth is even the healthiest individuals should take some precautions while sauna bathing. Here are the best practices for sauna use to keep in mind:

  • Limit the time you spend in the sauna to a maximum of 20 minutes at a time.

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after using the sauna.

  • Be mindful of your body’s signals. If you start feeling ill, leave the sauna immediately.

  • Avoid alcohol or heavy meals before using the sauna. For alcohol, the best practice is to abstain for 24 hours before sauna bathing.

  • Allow your body to cool down gradually after leaving the sauna.

As for people with specific conditions who have received medical clearance, they can stick to the following (additional) guidelines:

  • Limit your sauna use to a maximum of 10 minutes at a time.

  • Avoid using the sauna by yourself in case of potential complications.

  • Lower the sauna temperature to reduce the heat stress on your body.

  • Monitor your vital signs (e.g., heart rate) before, during, and after sauna bathing.

If you’re wondering whether you can use a sauna every morning, here’s good news: You absolutely can! In fact, various studies have shown that the best results from sauna use come after using the sauna four to seven times a week.

Real Experiences: Sauna Skin Before and After

Incorporating sauna into your skincare routine will allow you to experience its many benefits firsthand. Until then, see what regular sauna bathing has done for others.

Personal Stories and Testimonials

Though you can find many examples of how regular sauna use affects the skin online, our favorite comes from Jennifer from the Yoga Journal website.

She set out to use an infrared sauna for 30 days and witness its health benefits firsthand. The biggest improvements had to do with her skin. She says that after 30 days, her skin “looks better than it has in years.” Going into specifics, Jennifer explains that the sauna helped combat her acne breakout, even skin texture, eliminate blackheads almost entirely, and make her skin overall smoother and softer.

Jennifer’s results are on par with numerous studies that detail the pre- and post-sauna skin before and after regularly using the sauna for an extended period.

Expert Opinions on Sauna Use for Skin

Relying on numerous studies proving the health benefits of regular sauna use, most dermatologists and skincare professionals don’t hesitate to recommend it to their patients. Marina Peredo, a board-certified dermatologist with over 20 years of experience, is one of them.

But even though her answer to the “Is dry heat sauna good for you?” question is a resounding yes, Peredo also calls for caution when using the sauna regularly. Here is some of her top advice in this regard:

  • Take a shower immediately after using the sauna to remove the high amount of salt released during sweating.

  • Consider washing your hair as well to avoid inflammation around the hair follicles and irritation.

  • Avoid using the sauna if you have a heart condition, vertigo, or atopic dermatitis.

Let Sauna Transform Your Skin

Given the extensive evidence of the positive effects of the sauna on your body and mind, you shouldn’t think twice about incorporating sauna bathing into your wellness routine. Your skin, in particular, can experience remarkable benefits from this addition, to the point of a complete transformation.

But to successfully incorporate sauna bathing into your skincare routine, consider purchasing an in-house sauna from Komowa. This will allow you to keep your skincare routine convenient and effortless.

And, of course, don’t forget to share your results with us after using your sauna for some time. Just make sure to follow all the precautions and best practices outlined in this article beforehand.


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