The Power of Infrared Saunas
Written by: the Editors of goop
Updated: July 29, 2020
We’re no strangers to the power of sweat when it comes to detoxing, but were curious to learn more about why infrared saunas in particular are cited as being so effective (to the extent that there are sweat-based infrared studios popping up around the country). Curious, we asked Dr. Junger a few questions about how they work, and where to find the best ones.
Why are saunas so powerful?
Sweating inside a heated space has transcended time and many cultures: From Roman times, to the Ancient Greeks and Russians, as well as the Native Americans who had sweat lodges, the benefits of sweating have been known to mankind. The skin is our largest organ, and sweat is one of the major elimination channels for toxins.
“There are clinics in Germany that create hyperthermia during chemotherapy to reduce the dose of medications needed by making the cancer cells more susceptible.”
In fact, a fever is the way our body creates the conditions for the immune system to perform better. Interestingly, there are clinics in Germany that create hyperthermia during chemotherapy to reduce the dose of medications needed by making the cancer cells more susceptible. This same effect happens (on a less extreme level) during a sauna session: By sweating one activates and intensifies the elimination of toxins. Infrared heat yields additional benefits in a significant way: Beyond the incredible relaxation effect it has on people—it has been shown that endorphin levels increase after a sauna session—it’s proven to be beneficial for musculoskeletal ailments, heavy metal detoxification, increased blood flow, and boosting the immune system’s cell activity.
Why is an infrared sauna even better than a regular one?
The infrared band in the spectrum of light is the one that we perceive as heat. It makes the body sweat at lower temperatures than the ones needed for regular convection heated saunas, so people tolerate it better. Because IR penetrates deeper—up to three inches—it mobilizes and burns fat, which not only helps with weight loss but with detoxification as well, since many of the toxins we absorb are surrounded and trapped by fat. Infrared saunas are also smaller and easier to install than regular saunas, and are more affordable.
“Because IR penetrates deeper—up to three inches—it mobilizes and burns fat, which not only helps with weight loss but with detoxification as well, since many of the toxins we absorb are surrounded and trapped by fat.”
How frequently should we use an infrared sauna—and for how long?
I try to get in the sauna every day until I break a sweat. This need be no longer that 15 minutes. Longer sessions of 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week are also a great plan. But in general, do it as often as you can.
The Best At-Home Infrared Saunas
One of the benefits of an infrared sauna is that they’re smaller and more affordable, so if you have the room and budget, they make a pretty great addition. (You can also find IR saunas in our list of spots, here.)
Dr. Junger recommended a couple of brands he likes for price, size, performance, and wooden interiors. One major aspect to look out for is that your sauna isn’t built with any hidden toxic materials, including certain kinds of glue, or wood containing toxins and allergens.
Health Mate has been in the infrared business for over 30 years, and while there are plenty of competitors now, they still make some of the best. They also make smaller, and by that token, cheaper, more targeted saunas, for lower legs, knees, and feet.
Made out of high quality cedar or nordic spruce, the different models come with a spectrum of bells and whistles, though we find that the simplest, “Essential” nordic spruce saunas do the trick and have a stereo system you can tune into during your sessions.
We first heard about Sauna Ray in Toxin Toxout: Rodney Palmer builds his brand of IR saunas in Ontario, out of local, hypoallergenic Ontario Basswood. He’s crystal clear about all the materials he uses to hand-build his equipment and it’s all 100% toxin free—sans plastic, fiberglass, plywood (which can contain formaldehyde), halogen lights, or polymers and solvents of any kind.