Infrared Sauna vs. Traditional Dry Saunas (Everything You Need to Know)

Are you a new sauna user who is curious to know the difference between infrared and traditional dry saunas? 

Infrared saunas use IR light to heat your body, raising your internal body temperature. In comparison, traditional dry saunas heat the air around you to raise the ambient temperature. Both infrared and traditional dry saunas cause extreme perspiration; however, infrared saunas are much more intense since they penetrate the skin.

Continue reading to learn the similarities and differences between infrared and traditional dry saunas, including their heating methods, temperatures, and more.

Infrared and traditional dry saunas

Those new to the world of sauna bathing may not realize how many options there are: infrared saunas, traditional dry saunas, traditional (wet) saunas, and even steam rooms may come to mind when you say the word. Then there are all the other variants – saunas can be outside, in your home, portable, or even come in the form of a blanket!

Infrared and traditional dry saunas are both relatively low humidity, with IR saunas being completely dry. Both saunas emit heat, causing the user to sweat profusely; of the two, infrared saunas tend to be more bearable over longer periods and are likely to be more effective overall because they heat the body directly.

Traditional dry saunas – often called Finnish saunas – have an average temperature range of around 150-180°F and less than 10% humidity.

Infrared saunas use infrared light waves to emit direct heat to the body in order to raise its core temperature rather than increase the air temperature. They typically reach 110-130ºF and have virtually no humidity. Many users consider infrared saunas more comfortable overall because they are not as hot or as humid.

The similarities between infrared saunas and traditional dry saunas

Infrared saunas and traditional dry saunas are versatile pieces of machinery that help your body sweat and detoxify.

Both infrared and traditional dry saunas have several things in common, including:

  • Sweat production – Sweating is the primary goal of using saunas. You can sweat using traditional dry saunas and infrared saunas. The amount you sweat varies depending on the type of sauna you are using. For instance, you are more likely to sweat intensely in an infrared sauna than in a traditional sauna because the heat is delivered directly to your body.
  • Detoxification – Saunas are great for detoxification because of the slow, constant sweating. While using a sauna, the warmth “excites” your water cells and thus detoxifies harmful toxins in your cells by moving them outward. Both types of sauna can help remove toxins from your body.
  • Aromatherapy applications – Infrared and traditional dry saunas are both great for practicing aromatherapy and using essential oils. While infrared saunas are typically best for essential oils, traditional dry saunas are also known for practicing effective aromatherapy.

While certain characteristics are shared between the two types of sauna, there are many more differences. Keep reading to find out how they differ.

The differences between infrared saunas and traditional dry saunas

Infrared and traditional saunas have many differences, like their heating methods and room temperature. Many people prefer them because they can produce more intense sweat at a lower temperature. However, there are still major benefits to using traditional dry saunas.

The major differences between infrared and traditional dry saunas are:

  • Heating method – The heating method is one of the major differences between infrared and traditional dry saunas. Infrared saunas heat the body directly using electromagnetic radiation, whereas traditional dry saunas heat the air first. 
  • Temperature – Infrared saunas are less hot than traditional saunas because the air itself is not heated. Traditional dry saunas are hotter than infrared saunas because of how hot the air is inside the sauna. Despite being less intense, the heat in traditional dry saunas can feel stagnant and feel uncomfortable to some people.
  • Comfort level – The comfort level between infrared saunas and traditional dry saunas varies greatly. Infrared saunas use lights to heat, and dry saunas heat the air by raising the temperature. Since infrared saunas heat your body directly, they can operate at a lower temperature, making the environment more comfortable and easy to withstand for longer durations. 
  • Humidity levels – The humidity levels of each sauna are significantly different. Generally, traditional dry saunas are more humid than infrared saunas because they heat the air around you rather than heat your body directly.
  • Expense – Infrared saunas are considered more energy-efficient than traditional dry saunas since it can take longer for traditional saunas to preheat. The cost to run your sauna can vary depending on your type of sauna, meaning some infrared saunas may have more expensive running costs than traditional dry saunas.
  • Amount of sweating – You will sweat no matter which sauna you choose; however, the heat and temperature intensity of infrared saunas makes you sweat more. Infrared saunas create more intense sweat since they raise your internal body temperature, not the air around you. Traditional dry saunas create an external sweat that is less hot but can be more relaxing for some people because it is less uncomfortable.
  • Detoxification – Infrared saunas are better for detoxification because of how deep the heat penetrates through the skin. Unlike traditional dry saunas, infrared saunas heat the skin first so they can detoxify your body and provide a more intense sweat.
  • Cost – There is a difference between infrared saunas and traditional dry saunas. Infrared saunas are typically more affordable than traditional dry saunas because they are smaller, but even the largest sizes are priced lower than traditional dry saunas. Infrared saunas range between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on the size. Similarly, traditional dry saunas range between $4,000 and $15,000.
  • User – Healthy adults who are above the age of 18 can typically use any sauna without worrying about repercussions. People with health conditions should get prior approval from their practitioners before trying any type of sauna. It is important that you are honest with your doctor about your health concerns when discussing using saunas. 

While both types of saunas can be used for detoxification, the amount of heat varies, producing different effects. Infrared saunas and traditional dry saunas have different price points and running costs, meaning more affordable options are available for people with a lower budget.

What type of sauna is healthiest?

Now that you know the differences between infrared and traditional dry saunas, you’re probably wondering which one is actually better for you.

While traditional dry saunas are often considered more relaxing, infrared saunas provide more health benefits.

The healthiest type of sauna is an infrared sauna because many people claim that it can provide the most health benefits. It provides an intense sweat as it heats your body first rather than the air, wasting no time and allowing you to make the most of your sauna experience. 

Some people claim that traditional dry saunas also provide the most health benefits. However, studies show that infrared saunas can lower cholesterol and provide heart health benefits.

Which to use, traditional sauna or infrared sauna?

Infrared saunas are gaining more popularity as people begin recognizing how versatile these steam rooms are as well as their cost effectiveness, making them more popular for home use. 

Both traditional and infrared saunas cause you to sweat, leading to increased heart rate and detoxification. While infrared saunas have been shown to have more health benefits, a traditional sauna is an excellent choice, especially as it can help reduce stress.

Given that infrared saunas are more affordable, people are likelier to have these in their homes than in spas or hotels. In addition, the effective saunas are more space-efficient, making them more practical for home use.

Infrared saunas are great for people who cannot withstand extreme heat for a long time since the air in infrared saunas is not as hot as in traditional dry saunas. According to Harvard Health, saunas are linked to fewer health problems. A study conducted by Harvard linked fewer death rates to people with health issues, especially people with heart issues. 

Key characteristics of infrared saunas

Infrared saunas are the healthiest type of sauna because of their deep penetration and ability to treat long-lasting health problems. The mild environment welcomes people with heart and lung conditions, making it more endurable for long durations.

Infrared saunas can provide major health benefits when used regularly and as directed. Thirty minutes a day, 3-4 times a week, can improve your mental health, detoxify your body, provide pain relief by reducing inflammation, and even help reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular problems.

Even though it is welcoming to most people and conditions, it is important that you get approval from your doctor.

Potential benefits of infrared saunas

Infrared saunas promote good health. In moderate use, they can improve different facets of your health, including mental health and detoxification. Infrared saunas can also relieve pain, eliminate stress, improve poor health, and more.

Some of the potential benefits of infrared saunas include:

  • Improved mental health – The relaxing atmosphere and the physical release caused by the sauna’s heat can help relieve stress and tension.
  • Detoxification – The intense heat causes the body to sweat intensely, releasing toxins from the liver, bowels, skin, and lungs.
  • Pain relief – Because the heat penetrates from the inside out, infrared saunas are especially good at relieving joint pain and inflammation.
  • Treatment of long-lasting health conditions – Some studies indicate that infrared sauna bathing can help treat high blood pressure, heart failure, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, headache, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis.
  • Inexpensive – A major benefit of purchasing an infrared sauna is the low price point. Even the highest-grade infrared sauna is much lower priced than traditional dry saunas.

Key characteristics of traditional dry sauna

Infrared saunas are a new invention compared to the traditional dry sauna, which the Finns have used for about two thousand years.

Traditional saunas are saunas that heat the air around you while using them. They have a more expensive running cost than infrared saunas, making them a less popular choice for home saunas. 

In many cases, traditional dry saunas are larger than infrared saunas. Traditional dry saunas also come at a more expensive price point, ranging between $4,000 and $15,000, compared to infrared saunas, which cost $2,000 and $10,000.

Potential benefits of traditional dry saunas

While traditional saunas offer some of the same benefits as infrared saunas, the way they work is entirely different. Therefore, their health benefits are 

Some of the potential benefits of traditional dry saunas include:

  • Detoxification – While it may not cause you to sweat as much as an infrared sauna, the heat and (low) humidity of a traditional sauna will still evoke an automatic physiological reaction. In short, you’ll still sweat, removing toxins from your body.
  • Muscle relaxation – The heat of the traditional sauna can aid in muscle relaxation, blood circulation, and recovery after an intense workout.
  • Aromatherapy – Even the small amount of steam produced by a traditional dry sauna is enough to carry the scents of oils throughout the sauna. Aromatherapy can aid in relaxation or provide stimulation to get you through the rest of the day.

What should I look for in a traditional sauna?

When choosing a traditional sauna, there are certain elements you should look for to ensure your experience will be as safe and effective as possible.

Things you should look for in a traditional sauna are:

  • Maximum temperature
  • Non-toxic materials
  • Size
  • Automatic timer
  • Safety glass
  • High comfort level
  • Price 

Traditional dry saunas are less modern than infrared saunas, which is why they require important safety measures such as automatic timers, safety glasses, and maximum temperatures to ensure you remain safe while using your sauna. 

Typically, the more special features in your traditional dry sauna and the bigger size, the higher the price of your sauna will be. It is important to consider your budget when purchasing your sauna and never compromise your price. Instead, you can cut down on things like the size for functionality and safety. 

Are infrared and traditional dry saunas safe to use?

Saunas are typically safe to use, even for those with medical issues.

Numerous health and safety studies have concluded that infrared and traditional dry saunas are safe for people with health problems. In fact, several studies suggest that using saunas can improve medical issues like heart issues, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

However, if you have known medical issues, you should always consult your doctor before starting a sauna bathing routine.

Who should not use an infrared and dry sauna?

Infrared saunas can be more intense for some users, making it important to understand who should and should not use these saunas. Never use a sauna if you have a pacemaker, fever, or condition that inhibits your ability to sweat. If you are uncertain whether you qualify to use a sauna, speak with your general practitioner or specialist. 

Below you will find a recommendation list of who should NOT use either infrared or traditional dry saunas:

  • Children below the age of 18
  • People with the inability to sweat
  • People with pacemakers 
  • People with fevers
  • People with defibrillators 
  • People on some blood thinners 
  • People on some prescription medications
  • Intoxicated people

Seek medical evaluation and advice before using a sauna if you have a heart condition. Using saunas can be good for some heart conditions, whereas it can be extremely dangerous for others.