Can You Use Essential Oils in a Sauna? (With Suggestions & How To)

The sauna is a glorious mix of heat and humidity that leaves your skin feeling rejuvenated, but how can we make the experience better? This begs the question- can essential oils be used in the sauna?

You can use essential oils in the sauna for many benefits, including stress reduction, muscle relaxation, improved sleep quality, and enhanced mood, just to name a few! To avoid issues, do not pour essential oils directly onto hot stones.

Run, don’t walk, to read more about these benefits, how to use essential oils in different types of saunas, and the best essential oils in the game!

Is it okay to use essential oils in the sauna?

Absolutely!

Essential oils are safe and effective when used appropriately and diluted adequately in the sauna. Let’s tackle some of the benefits mentioned above:

Not all types of saunas operate in the same way, and not all essential oils have similar benefits, so be sure to pay attention to the information below. 

Potential issues with using essential oils in the sauna

For as many advantages as essential oils provide your sauna experience, there are some possible downsides.

They can:

  • Damage or make any material used within the sauna less durable over time, including rock surfaces, wooden boards, and even heaters
  • Erode the finish of the wood planks, and the
  • Heaters may be at risk for corrosion

This is because essential oils are hydrophobic (meaning they don’t mix with water) and can cause chronic damage to any surface, even ones with a substantial protective layer or coating on them.

NEVER EVER pour pure essential oils onto hot stones within the sauna – this will cause a chemical reaction that could burn you, the sauna, and everything in it. Instead, add them to water before pouring over stones for direct aromatherapy benefits and to limit skin irritation.

If your sauna doesn’t have a water bucket, adding a few drops of essential oil to a spray bottle works just as well!

It’s important to remember that using essential oils in your sauna will require it to be cleaned more frequently to preserve the integrity of its interior.

How to use essential oils in the sauna

Using essential oils in the sauna is a reasonably straightforward process.

The first step is determining what type of sauna you have- whether it’s an infrared, steam, or traditional (or any other variation). The type will dictate which oil should be used and how much! 

No matter what sauna you have, there are a few general diffusing techniques that apply to every situation:

  • Follow dilution instructions for each distinct essential oil (typically 3-5 drops of oil per liter of water)
  • Make sure the area has proper ventilation
  • When diffusing, use exposure intervals, with breaks in between

Now, let’s dive into the step-by-step, how-to specifics of the different types!

Traditional Sauna (177°F with 30%+ humidity)

Step 1: Dilute your essential oils. This can be done one of two ways:

  • Directly into the water well of a traditional sauna (of note: the water wells/buckets typically hold about 1 gallon of water, so start with a few drops and add sparingly for a more potent mixture). Make sure to consult guests if you’re in a public sauna!
  • Or in a separate water bucket using the same recipe.

Step 2: Ladle 1-2 scoops of your mixture onto the hot rocks.

Step 3: Enjoy the aromas as water begins to evaporate! Spend time doing so in 10-15 minute intervals.

Steam Room (112°F with 100% humidity) 

Step 1: Determine if your steam room has a built-in carrier for essential oils (most likely found in more modern designs).

Step 2: If so- add 10 drops of essential oil or essential oil combination to it.

Step 3: If not- add 20 or so drops to a wet towel (add above link) and lay it on the ground.

Step 4: After a few minutes, allow for the combination of essential oil and steam to liven your senses and cleanse your spirit! 15-20 minutes will do the trick.

Infrared Sauna (125-155°F, low humidity) 

Step 1: There are a few different options, so choose your method of use: essential oil spray, topical usage, portable diffuser, or infused face cloth.

Step 2: If using a spray- dilute 4 oz. of water with 3-5 drops of essential oil. Shake well and spritz the room as needed.

Step 3: If opting for topical application- follow the instructions on each bottle of oil. It may be necessary to dilute with a carrier oil. This option is the riskiest with regards to skin irritation, so err on the side of caution.

Step 4: If utilizing a small, portable diffuser. Follow the directions of use, place it on the ground of your infrared sauna, and make sure to take it with you when you leave!

Step 5: If trying a moist towel- add a few drops of your desired essential oil. You can use this towel to wipe your sweat, so make sure to select an appropriate, non-irritating oil and use only a tiny amount. Additionally, take care to avoid your eyes, nose, and mouth area when wiping.

Step 6: Spend 20+ minutes inside, with any of these methods, for the full effect.

As you can see, there are many different ways to use essential oils in a sauna. Which scent puts you the most at ease?

The best essential oils to use in the sauna

While the options are abundant, some essential oils are better than others (when it comes to using them in the sauna anyways). Choosing a brand with the least amount of additives is your best bet for avoiding adverse reactions.

The seven best essential oils to use in the sauna are:

  • Peppermint 
  • Birch
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea Tree
  • Citrus
  • Chamomile

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint is a wonderfully stimulating scent, ready to give you the wake-up call you didn’t know you needed!

It also has antiseptic properties and helps relieve tension headaches by releasing endorphins into the body. However, because it can be drying- make sure to dilute it adequately. It would be best used in a traditional sauna or steam room.

Birch Essential Oil

This oil is the classic scent of Finnish saunas.

Birch oil is a natural astringent that helps tighten pores, has soothing properties for inflammation and redness or sore muscles, and has detoxifying effects on the sauna itself.

Full disclosure: it has been known to irritate rosacea, so avoid this essential oil if your skin is prone to that condition.

Lavender Essential Oil

Native to northern Africa and parts of the Mediterranean, the lavender plant, in its distilled form, results in an aromatherapy favorite: lavender oil.