A visit to the sauna is a relaxing pastime for many. However, can a sauna have any adverse effects on an individual? If you indulge in a sauna, will your hair stay healthy and pristine?
A sauna will dry out your hair as the perspiration produced by the sweat glands on your scalp contains trace amounts of salt and urea. The combination of water and salt acts as a drying agent and will result in a dry scalp and hair. Deep conditioning before and after the sauna can help prevent hair from getting dry and frizzy.
If you want to learn more about the reason why saunas dry out your hair, and how to prevent this from happening to you, keep reading!
How Does Sauna Work?
A sauna is a small room that uses dry heat to heat the interior from temperatures of 150℉ (65℃) to 195℉ (90℃). Dry heat is generated by heating rocks like peridotite, basalt, and hornblende. Referred to as sauna rocks, these rocks must be able to withstand exceedingly high temperatures without cracking in order for the room to heat up.
Here are some of the methods used today to heat sauna rocks:
- Wood – Traditional Finnish saunas burn wood to generate the heat needed to heat sauna rocks.
- Electricity – The stones are placed in an electric heater to be heated.
- Infrared – Instead of using sauna rocks, infrared saunas transfer heat via radiation, heating the user’s body directly without warming the surrounding air.
A sauna heats its users through the movement of dry, hot air within the room. When heated air comes into contact with a user, heat is transferred through a process called convection.
You will frequently spot a small bucket of water and a ladle in a sauna. This water is meant to be thrown on the rocks to create steam, which increases the temperature by creating humidity. When steam comes into contact with you, heat is transferred through conduction.
Saunas are constructed with wooden benches for the user to lounge upon. Wood is the material that is frequently found within most saunas as it heats up without burning the user.
Certain saunas like Estonian and Finnish saunas have a culture of light self-flagellation to promote blood flow. A sauna whisk, composed of a bundle of birch branches, is used to accomplish this. The user hits their arms and legs with this whisk, getting a friend to help them with the back.
How Does Your Body Regulate Body Temperature in a Sauna?
Your body temperature needs to stay in the range of 37℃ (98.6℉). If it falls below 35℃(95℉), a condition known as hypothermia, or above 40℃, a condition known as hyperthermia and stays in either of those extremes for too long, you can die. So, how does your body regulate its temperature in a sauna?
The simple answer is sweating. When sweat evaporates, heat from your body is lost, and a cooling effect is created.
Sweat production in the body is triggered by a negative feedback loop. Here’s how it works:
- The heat from the sauna room is detected by the thermoreceptors on your skin.
- A signal is sent to the hypothalamus in the brain.
- The hypothalamus sends nerve impulses back to the skin.
- The sweat glands secrete sweat.
How Does Sweat Dry Out Your Hair?
Sweat secreted by your body does not only contain water. It also contains minute amounts of salt, protein, urea, and ammonia.
This combination of salt, protein, ammonia, and urea ensures that if you leave perspiration to dry, your scalp will dry out and your hair will typically dry out along with it.
A dried-out scalp is a problem as it can lead to:
- Hair loss. A dry scalp prevents hair growth.
- Dyed hair wearing out sooner. The salt in sweat results in a loss in color and vibrancy much sooner than expected.
Before a sauna, you need to ensure that you’re adequately protecting your hair, either by minimizing sweat production from the scalp or by taking steps to protect your hair and scalp from sweat produced.
Unfortunately, even wearing a hat or other head protection won’t help if you are in the sauna for a long time because the sweat will come out directly through the scalp. Instead, focus on deeply conditioning your hair before and after the sauna with oils and other products designed to lock in moisture.
How to Prevent Your Hair From Drying Out
Here is a list of things that you can do to protect your hair before you step into the sauna:
- Wrap a towel around your head – This is the best way to reduce the amount of heat that comes into contact with your hair and if you are in the sauna for a short period of time it could help reduce the amount of sweat that forms on your head. Less heat means a lower stimulus for sweat glands to produce sweat, thus decreasing sweat production on the scalp. Alternatively, you could also use a shower cap, though look for a non-plastic cap – plastic melts.
- Use dry shampoo before going in – Dry shampoos soak up oil and sweat from your hair. They also act as a barrier between your scalp and the oil and sweat produced from your bout in the sauna. For a moisturizing shampoo suited to all hair types, try Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Shampoo. For men, use this Batiste Dry Shampoo.
- Set a 20-minute timer – You should not be in the sauna for longer than twenty minutes at a time. Not only does this have the ability to damage your hair in the long term, but it could also result in severe dehydration caused by sweating.
- Apply a hair serum – This reduces frizz and will leave your hair looking as good as it did before you got in. If your hair has a tendency to get oily fast, simply rub the serum on your hair and avoid massaging it into the scalp. Use this GKhair Argan Oil Hair Repair Serum to retain your lustrous locks.
Now that you’ve finished relaxing in the sauna and feel spry and ready to take on the world again, do a conditioner rinse in the shower to keep your hair looking fresh. Skip the shampoo and only apply a hair conditioner. Use either your fingers or a spray bottle, and then rinse it off with water.
For the perfect hydrating conditioner, use this Neutrogena Triple Moisture Daily Deep Conditioner. However, if you want some extra moisture, you can use a leave-in conditioner, like this The Honest Company Leave-in Conditioner.
Benefits of a Sauna for Your Hair
Unlike what you might have previously believed, a sauna isn’t only bad for your hair. It can also help you grow healthier hair!
A sauna increases blood circulation throughout the human body. This is achieved by vasodilation, resulting in increased blood flow to the skin and hair follicles, which means better hair growth and healthier hair. Think less brittle hair and less hair damage and breakage.
Benefits of a Sauna
A sauna isn’t only good for your hair. According to a study by Joy Hussain and Marc Cohen, regular dry sauna bathing has been proven to:
- Reduce chronic pain and soreness
- Increase muscle recovery
- Help with mood disorders like anxiety and depression
- Induce relaxation
- Lower cholesterol
- Reduce cardiovascular disease in men
- Reduce dementia in men
However, if you fall into the category of people listed below, you should be avoiding the sauna, as the repercussions will be worse than bad hair. These people suffer from:
- Heart problems
- Orthostatic Hypotension
- Infectious Diseases
A sauna carries with it a slew of benefits for many people, both objective and subjective. Despite this, it can still negatively impact you in various ways, one of which is a dried-out scalp resulting in frizzy and limp hair. To prevent this from happening to you, be sure to implement the tips given in this article the next time you visit the sauna.
Along with saunas, any place that results in increased sweat production, like your local gym can cause frizzy and dried-out hair. Be sure to invest in a good dry shampoo and leave-in conditioner that is appropriate for your hair type.