It may be difficult to discern the differences of an infrared sauna vs. steam room when deciding which option is best for your specific needs. To help you better understand how infrared saunas and steam rooms compare, it’s important to gain a general understanding of the mechanics and individual benefits of both.
An infrared sauna is a wood-based room that heats the user directly with infrared rays that penetrate the body. A steam room is an airtight room of non-porous material that heats the environment with a steam generator. Infrared saunas produce dry heat, whereas steam rooms create moist heat.
Both infrared saunas and steam rooms boast plenty of therapeutic and wellness benefits such as detoxification, relaxation and weight loss, among others. However, their benefits differ due to their unique heating methods. Here’s all the information you need to decide which makes sense for you.
The Infrared Sauna – What Is It?
An infrared sauna is a wood-based room that warms the body through infrared rays as opposed to extremely high temperatures or moisture. These infrared rays, which are similar to the rays our bodies give off naturally, penetrate deep into the body (approximately 1 ½ inches) and heat the body directly.
Because the infrared rays are warming from within, these saunas typically operate between 115-130 degrees Fahrenheit, much lower than traditional saunas that operate between 170–200 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the temperature is lower, the efficient nature of heating the body directly makes infrared saunas among the most beneficial options available.
Steam Room – What Is It?
A steam room is made of a non-porous material, such as glass or tile, and is an airtight room that warms the body through high heat and humidity. A steam generator boils water to make steam, creating a moisture-rich environment.
Average temperatures hover around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, although it may feel much hotter due to humidity levels that can reach up to 100 percent. As opposed to infrared saunas which heat the user directly, steam rooms heat the outside environment, warming the user from the outside in.
Health Benefits of an Infrared Sauna vs. Steam Room
Although both steam rooms and infrared saunas offer a range of excellent health benefits, they do vary by product. The difference in benefits stems from the contrasting heat methods used, as described above.
The following are the primary health benefits of each.
Infrared Sauna Health Benefits
An infrared sauna emits infrared heat to create a warm and relaxing environment. According to Dr. Amy Myers, M.D., of mindbodygreen, this helps improve circulation and alleviates pain. Due to the low humidity and modest air temperature, infrared sauna health benefits include detoxification and weight loss.
Far infrared saunas promote more sweating than a steam room. As the infrared rays penetrate deep into the body, they increase blood flow, break up water molecule clusters, and promote the release of harmful toxins not typically released in a steam room. According to Dr. Brian Clement, medical director of the Hippocrates Health Institute, “It heats your tissues several inches deep, which can enhance your metabolic processes. It also enhances circulation and helps oxygenate your tissues.”
Weight Loss and Decrease in Cellulite
Users of far infrared sauna technology can experience a noticeable decrease in weight with average use. The weight loss is often due to the efficient heating nature of the sauna, removal of toxins through increased perspiration, and a rise in metabolic rates, which can help burn an extra 300+ calories an hour.
The lower temperature of infrared saunas compared to steam rooms tends to be easier on the body. For users who may have eye or lung issues, including difficulty breathing in high humidity and heat, they may want to opt for an infrared sauna to ensure an enjoyable and beneficial experience.
Steam Room Health Benefits
Steam rooms create an environment that is rich with heat and high humidity, ideal for realizing an array of health-related benefits. The high moisture air found in a steam room offers users benefits and an experience distinct from infrared saunas.
Steam room users may experience relief from respiratory issues such as allergies, sinusitis and cold symptoms. The moist air can open the sinuses and nasal passages, allowing for clearer breathing.
Hydration of the Skin
People with blemish-prone skin may find that the moisture-rich air of a steam room can help balance oil production leading to clearer skin. Users with dry skin may experience more hydrated skin after regular use of a steam room.
Once you step out of your steam room, your body must begin working to cool your body. The relaxing properties of a steam room session, combined with your body’s efforts to lower the internal temperature can promote a great night’s sleep — particularly in the REM sleep cycle stage. You will also get this same benefit with your infrared sauna.
What to Consider When Purchasing
When deciding which option is best, take note of a few characteristics inherent to infrared saunas and steam rooms to determine which is best for a household, individual or family.
Infrared Sauna Considerations
Infrared saunas can be a relatively simple addition to a home. They do not require strict insulation to keep high heat levels in the room, so they are lighter and easier to transport.
Typically, these saunas can be put together within an hour without professional installation needed. Most can plug into an existing outlet and are very energy efficient using about 1/3 of the electrical as compared to a traditional sauna.
Steam Room Considerations
Much like an infrared sauna, steam rooms can be purchased as a kit for individuals to put together on their own or they can be custom made and installed by a contractor. Steam rooms do have particular plumbing and electrical requirements. They require a steam generator purchase that should be specially installed in a safe location to reduce the chances of a burn.
An airtight space and sloped ceilings for adequate drippage are also needed as well as an area that can accommodate a drain. Bacterial growth is possible due to the moist conditions of the steam room. For this reason, make sure to clean your steam room regularly with tile cleaner and drain periodically.
Deciding What’s Right for You
Both infrared saunas and steam rooms can deliver much-needed health benefits for individuals and families. These rooms can ease stress, increase relaxation, and improve overall health and happiness. Simply put, they can be a valuable component of one’s home and lifestyle.
Before purchasing an infrared sauna or steam room, take the time to consider you and your family’s specific needs in addition to reviewing the facts. Where will this new addition reside in your home? What is your current state of health, and what are your future health and wellness goals? Would you prefer to install it or will you require a contractor to do the heavy lifting? Asking these questions ahead of time can help you decide between an infrared sauna vs. steam room for your unique needs.