Are you curious about the health benefits and risks associated with sauna use? Are you interested in spending some time in the sauna, but you aren’t sure if it will dry out your skin?
Saunas do not dry out your skin. A dermatological research study found that saunas may hydrate your skin by increasing the amount of water your skin can hold. Saunas are great for a variety of skin conditions, including psoriasis and acne, but not for others like eczema and rosacea.
Below you will discover how saunas work, their influence on your skin and other parts of your body, and whether or not it’s safe for you to use one.
How Do Saunas Work?
The heat from the sauna causes you to experience a variety of physiological changes.
For starters, it can cause your internal and external body temperature to rise and your blood vessels to dilate. It also causes your pulse rate to rise, typically going up by 30% or more. This makes it so the heart can pump more blood, typically doubling the amount of blood it pumps each minute.
Saunas also cause you to produce a lot of sweat. In fact, the average person expels about 4 cups (1 liter) of sweat during just a 15-minute session in the sauna.
Do Saunas Make Your Skin Dry?
No! Saunas do not dry out your skin.
But if you casually peruse through articles on this topic, you may see some blog posts that state the contrary.
However, if you do a little digging and look at research studies conducted about saunas, you will discover that they generally conclude that saunas do not have a drying effect on the skin.
In fact, in a dermatological research study, researchers found that saunas may hydrate the outer layer of your skin by increasing the amount of water your skin can hold. When your skin holds more water, it makes it more smooth and supple. It also helps to open your pores and allow your skin to breathe and better regulate oil production.
Of course, everyone will react to this dry heat a little differently and if the sauna that you use happens to create more humidity by throwing water on the hot stones or heating element then it will change up the equation a little more, as well.
How does skin type affect dry skin?
According to WebMD, everyone has one of 5 different skin types. The type of skin you have will determine its sensitivity, oil content, and moisture content.
Here are the skin types:
- Normal – Few imperfections, low sensitivity, and generally good complexion with average-sized pores
- Combination – This skin type is characterized by multiple skin types existing in different areas – such as an oily T-zone and dry cheeks
- Dry – Patchy, rough skin with more invisible lines and almost invisible pores
- Oily – Larger, open pores, shiny skin, and issues with blackheads and pimples
- Sensitive – Prone to dry, red, or itchy patches
If you suffer from naturally dry or sensitive skin, the sauna isn’t likely to help and might even cause more irritation. Normal, combination, or oily skin is unlikely to dry out excessively with sauna use but you should be actively managing your skin care outside of the sauna with moisturizing and/or acne-preventing products.
I have another article on this topic if you are wondering how to hydrate your skin after a sauna and improve your beauty routine!
What does a sauna do for your skin?
Saunas may be helpful for a variety of skin conditions, including psoriasis and acne.
Psoriasis is a genetic skin condition characterized by dry, itchy scales forming on the body. Saunas may help those suffering from psoriasis since the heat, and general climate in a sauna can help facilitate the removal of these scales.
When it comes to acne, saunas may help because they decrease facial sebum levels. Sebum is an oily substance produced by your sebaceous glands that helps protect and moisturize your skin. However, the overproduction of sebum can lead to acne.
Since saunas reduce the amount of sebum on your face, they can lead to clearer skin.
Saunas may also make your skin more healthy in general since the intense heat can kill off harmful microorganisms, such as dermatophytes. Dermatophytes are fungi that mainly grow on the skin, hair, and nail. They can cause ringworm and other unpleasant diseases.
Is the sauna bad for your skin?
If you have eczema, then the sauna may not be the best thing for you. The intense sweating caused by the sauna may cause eczema-related itchiness to increase.
The heat of the sauna may also cause cholinergic urticaria, which is a type of hives that occurs when the body temperature rises, especially when people exercise and sweat. Since the sauna causes high body temperatures and increased sweat production, cholinergic urticaria has a tendency to flare up.
Saunas may also negatively affect individuals with rosacea. Rosacea is a skin condition that results in redness, pimples, and swelling, typically on the face. While rosacea is not curable, there are certain things people with the condition can do to avoid flare-ups. One of these things is to avoid the heat, meaning spending time in the sauna is a no-go.
Can a sauna damage your skin?
Outside of the specific scenarios above related to skin conditions, the sauna is unlikely to cause acute damage to your skin during a session.
However, those with excessively dry skin, sunburns, or other issues could experience irritation and discomfort. Special care should also be taken to use any sauna within its recommended temperature specifications to avoid burns and other injuries.
Do Saunas Provide Any Other Health Benefits?
Listed below are a few of the most commonly researched health benefits associated with sauna use.
Helps People With Cardiovascular Diseases
Saunas are known for having a positive influence on individuals that have cardiovascular-related diseases.
One study found that saunas lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension when they visited the sauna two times per week. Similarly, another study found that long term sauna use lowers blood pressure in men.
Saunas may also help individuals with chronic heart failure (CHF). Two studies found that frequent visits to the sauna improved cardiac function and symptoms in chronic heart failure patients. These studies also found that going to the sauna increased the patient’s sense of wellbeing and improved how well they tolerated exercise.
Another study of male sauna users found that the sauna was associated with fewer deaths from heart attacks, strokes, and other heart-related conditions.
Reduce Joint Pain
Saunas may help people who are suffering from joint pain. The dry heat may help alleviate pain, and it also may improve the sufferer’s joint mobility.
One study conducted with people who have chronic musculoskeletal diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, found that the sauna reduced pain, stiffness, and fatigue in as little as four weeks.
Increase Athletic Performance
Spending time in the sauna may improve athletes’ recovery time and general performance.
One study found that saunas may help athletes recover from muscle fatigue. Saunas may also be a useful tool to help athletes get accustomed to hotter climates. Another study that was examining sub-elite runners found that their endurance increased after three weeks of going to the sauna following their training.
Recent research has discovered that athletes’ immune systems may be boosted after spending some time in the sauna. In this study, they tested athletes’ white blood cell counts and found that the cell counts increased more than non-athletes after they spent time in the sauna. This suggests that athletes can boost their immunity with frequent visits to the sauna.
Incorporate the sauna into your post-workout routine and enjoy a session before you shower off!
When Should You Not Use a Sauna?
If you are diagnosed with certain health conditions, research suggests that you should either not go in the sauna at all or you should ask your doctor before getting your sweat on.
If you have any of the skin conditions that are negatively impacted by sauna use, you should probably avoid the sauna altogether.
If you have a heart condition, you’ll need to chat with your doctor before going to the sauna since the sauna influences your blood flow, heart rate, and overall cardiac output. While this can negatively influence your heart and cardiovascular system, it may also be beneficial, as mentioned above. So talk to your doctor to determine if the sauna is right for you.
Also, if you are under the influence of alcohol or any other stimulants, tranquilizers, or mind-altering drugs, saunas can be incredibly dangerous. Alcohol and other drugs can impair your ability to sweat, resulting in you getting overheated while you are in the sauna.
Saunas do not dry out the skin and may even have a hydrating effect. They are beneficial for certain skin conditions, such as acne and psoriasis, but they are not recommended for skin conditions that are negatively affected by sweat and heat, such as eczema, cholinergic urticaria, and rosacea.
Saunas may also help people with cardiovascular diseases, joint pain, and may help athletes improve their performance.
Overall, while saunas are considered to be healthy for your skin and the rest of your body, caution is advised. Just be sure to consider everyone’s skin type next time you take the family to the sauna to share a relaxing experience!
Always consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Is sauna good for skin tightening?
The sauna can provide some skin-tightening benefits and has even shown the ability to help decrease wrinkles in some studies.
Does the sauna age your skin?
As the skin ages it can become looser, discolored, and less elastic. While there is little evidence that sauna can age the skin, there is some evidence showing that it could help slow or reverse skin aging through increased collagen production and elasticity.
Does the sauna make your skin lighter?
Saunas don’t typically lighten or darken your skin, unlike the sun’s rays. Because the sauna uses electric heat or infrared light to warm your body, there is little danger of skin discoloration long-term.
Note that your skin can become red or flushed during and shortly after a sauna session!