Steam And Infrared Saunas: Which Is A Better Choice For You?


Saunas are considered to be one of the better luxuries of life. There are but a few other things that can compare to the feeling of indulging in a relaxing and rejuvenating session in the sauna bath especially after a long and stressful week of work. This one of the main reasons why many people have saunas installed in their homes. If you’re also considering getting a home sauna, one thing you need to decide about is whether to get a steam sauna or an infrared sauna. But what is the difference between an infrared vs. steam sauna, and is one necessarily better than the other?

Saunas can be pretty expensive, but this is one investment that is sure to provide great returns in terms of your physical and mental health. It can also help increase your home’s value should you decide to put it on the market. But before making that purchase, you first need to do your research to ensure that you’re getting a sauna that is suitable for you and your needs. To help you decide and make a more informed purchasing decision, let’s take a look at the differences between an infrared vs. traditional sauna, as well as some of their features and benefits.

Steam Sauna

A traditional steam sauna is what most people think of when they hear the word ‘sauna’. Basically, it is a small room that has a stove upon which rocks are placed. When the rocks are hot enough, water is poured over the rocks and this then creates steam. In the years past, traditional saunas have a log cabin design with fire pits where the stones are laid. However, modern steam saunas are designed with glass or some other non-porous material, as this is considered to be better at holding the moisture inside the room as opposed to porous materials like wood which can absorb moisture. Also, instead of a stove the steam now comes from a steam generator, so there’s no more need to throw water over hot rocks.

Given their design, steam saunas are capable of creating an environment filled with high heat and humidity. Because of the large amounts of moisture in such environments, steam saunas offer a variety of health benefits for the user. It also offers an experience that is far different from one found in an infrared sauna.

Relief from Respiratory Issues

Because of their inherent design and nature, steam saunas can generate large quantities of hot and moist air. This is unlike infrared saunas which only emit heat. The hot and moist air in steam saunas can be inhaled directly, which can then help to open and relieve blocked air passageways like the nose and the throat thus causing the sinuses and nasal passageways to loosen and allow for clearer breathing and better overall respiration. That said, steam saunas can provide relief for various respiratory issues including allergies, sinusitis, and cold symptoms.

Helps Re-hydrate Skin

Every day our skin is exposed to a variety of pollutants and toxins that get trapped in our skin’s pores. The moisture in a steam sauna helps to clear these out by opening the pores and allowing sweat and the hot moisture in the steam sauna to rinse or wash them away.

People who suffer from blemishes and dry skin are recommended to use steam saunas instead of infrared saunas. This is because the moisture-rich air in steam saunas can help to loosen and open the skin pores, thus promoting better perspiration. It also helps in balancing oil production in the skin, thus leading to clearer skin. Also, this moisture-rich environment helps to rehydrate the skin, keeping it soft and supple. It can also promote the healing of broken skin tissue.

Promotes Better Sleep

After being exposed to the high heat and humidity in a steam sauna, your body will need to start cooling itself down. This process, coupled with the relaxing sensation courtesy of the heat from the sauna, helps to promote a good night’s sleep and improve Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.

Both steam saunas and infrared saunas can help in this regard, but because of the nature of the steam sauna which is rich in heat and high humidity, your body will exert more effort to lower its internal temperature.

Infrared Sauna


Infrared saunas make use of special components that emit infrared rays that penetrate the body and give heat. Compared to a steam sauna, an infrared sauna creates less humidity and modest air temperature. These features allow it to provide certain health benefits like detoxification and weight loss.

There are two types of infrared saunas, and though one type may be better at certain aspects than the other, both types of infrared saunas offer excellent health benefits. The types of infrared saunas are defined by the type of infrared rays it emits.

  • Far Infrared Sauna. This type of infrared sauna uses heating elements that emit far infrared waves. Compared to near-infrared waves, far infrared waves aren’t capable of penetrating thoroughly through the user’s skin and body. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t effective, it’s just that near-infrared rays are better in this regard. Besides, far infrared waves also emit high amounts of electromagnetic fields, though manufacturers are constantly working to lower these levels.
  • Near-Infrared Sauna. Near-infrared waves as mentioned earlier are better at penetrating the skin up to several inches deep. Because of this, it is capable of providing certain benefits that can’t be achieved by far infrared waves. Also, near-infrared saunas emit low levels of electromagnetic fields and also allow that air to stay cool and comfortable while still heating the body.

More Effective Detoxification

One of the reasons why many people visit a sauna is to detoxify, and both traditional steam saunas and infrared saunas provide this health benefit. However, it appears that when it comes to detoxification and infrared sauna, the infrared sauna is capable of providing users with a better and more concentrated way of detoxifying the body.

Accordingly, the waves emitted by infrared saunas can penetrate deep inside the body and heats your tissues several inches deep, allowing your body to feel the heat from the inside and thus allow you to sweat more and release more toxins. Also, this results in increased blood flow, break up of water molecules, and enhanced metabolic processes. It also helps improve circulation and oxygenate your tissues. Also, infrared saunas are said to promote more sweating than a traditional steam sauna with less heat.

More Effective Weight Loss

Saunas are also known to help with weight loss, but between traditional steam saunas and infrared saunas, it seems that the latter does a better job in this regard than the former.

As mentioned earlier, users sweat more in an infrared sauna than in a traditional sauna. That said, it helps the user burn more calories. Also, the efficient heating of an infrared sauna helps to improve metabolism. The cumulative effects of excessive sweating and enhanced metabolism then result in a noticeable decrease in the user’s weight and a slimmer and toned figure.

More Comfortable to Use

Because of their efficient heating, infrared saunas are capable of providing sufficient amounts of heat even at a lower temperature rating. Many people find this to be more comfortable and easier on their bodies. Also, the absence of high heat and humidity results in a more comfortable sauna experience for people who are suffering from eye or lung issues.

Easier to Install

Of the different types of saunas available, a portable sauna will of course be the easiest and quickest to set up. But between infrared saunas and traditional steam room saunas, the former is relatively easier to install than the latter. Aside from being lighter and easier to transport, they also require less elaborate setups. More often than not, installations of infrared saunas will take less than an hour to complete. Then they can be plugged into an existing electrical outlet and they’re good to go.

If you want a traditional steam sauna, you’ll have to get in touch with a contractor to build and set it up for you. Nowadays though, there are manufacturers who sell traditional steam saunas which can be purchased as a kit. The buyer will then be responsible for setting up the whole sauna, with the help of a professional if he or she deems it necessary.

Traditional steam saunas also have very particular plumbing and electrical requirements. Aside from that, you also need an airtight space and sloped ceilings that allow for adequate moisture drippage.

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Deciding between an infrared vs. steam sauna can be rather challenging, especially since both of them have their own distinct advantages. So when asked which between the two is the better option, the answer isn’t as clear cut and many hope it would be. In the end, it seems that the choice will ultimately boil down to personal preferences and requirements. If after doing your research you still aren’t sure which one to pick, consider going to a sauna near you and give both saunas a try. By actually trying both types of sauna, you should be in a better position to determine which between infrared vs. traditional sauna you like best.

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  1. Infrared Sauna vs. Traditional, Livestrong
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!