Is Sauna Good for Scars? (The Good, Bad, and Practical Advice)

The benefits of sitting in a sauna are numerous, but there are some drawbacks as well. For instance, the heat may be irritating to sensitive skin- so, is the sauna good for scars?

An infrared sauna is the best type of sauna for preventing and treating scars. They break down scar tissue by raising your WBC count, promoting re-epithelialization, and improving blood circulation. Keep the temperature at 130 °F and stay inside for 10 minutes for an improved scar appearance.

Keep reading to find out if the sauna can help get rid of or prevent scarring and about the science behind heat and scars!

Can the sauna help get rid of scars?

Scarring is a natural step in the healing process after an accident. The far-infrared radiation of an infrared sauna can help get rid of scarring due to the science behind it.

Dr. Toshiko Yamazaki, MD from Japan, noted that infrared sauna exposure has the ability to penetrate dermal layers and improve the appearance of acne and scarring over time. Furthermore, the FIR radiation causes the migration of epithelial cells and plasma towards the scar site.

Heat causes an increase in blood flow to tissues, which then speeds up healing by raising your white blood cell count. This can help to dissolve existing scar tissue.

Lastly, the increased cell proliferation in both epidermal and dermal layers can repair skin scarring (specifically keloids) after burns or a cesarean section.

While there is limited scientific research behind the effects of traditional or steam saunas on scarring, the future is promising!

Is heat good or bad for scars?

It’s important to note that there are a few main types of scars- keloid scars, contracture scars, and hypertrophic scars.

While infrared saunas are a great option for keloid scars, excessive heat may irritate keloids and make them darker. When the blood rushes to a specific area, that’s always a possibility. It can improve the appearance of hypertrophic or contracture scars, but the best time to hit the sauna is after the wound has closed but before scar formation.

Keloid scars are scars that grow beyond the original wound and can often be itchy, swollen, red, or even painful. Contracture scars are the opposite- these are scars that pull in and cause muscle or tissue to look wrinkled together. Hypertrophic scars are raised, red scars that occur when the body produces too much collagen.

Consult your physician first to make sure heat won’t hurt your scar!

Is sweat good or bad for scars?

The same glands that help you sweat also help you heal!

Sweating is good for scars because it allows for blood to rush to the affected area and break up scar tissue. Muscles and stiff joints are able to relax, and the injured area can become more flexible. 

Over time, this will help blood circulation to improve, re-oxygenating your tissues and releasing waste products that may have built up in your muscles.

Sweating has also been proven to help with the reduction of histamines, which are chemicals our body releases when we are sick or under duress. Histamines are responsible for the inflammation that is often linked to scar tissue.

Can the sauna help prevent scarring?

Recent literature shows that a moist/warm environment can dramatically improve the healing process.

A study from 2013 exhibited how wet and heated places, like the sauna, promote re-epithelialization during the wound rejuvenation process and reduce scar formation. It went on to further say that dry climates are less effective at this than wet climates.

This is also why humidifiers are so popular- they mimic the moist environment of a sauna, which would be particularly good for preventing scarring during the wound phase.

Using the sauna with an open wound

Using a sauna with an open wound is a bad idea.

Humid environments breed bacteria and germs. Having an open wound in a moist environment is dangerous not only because of the risk of infection but also because it delays healing. Additionally, open wounds are a hazard for other sauna users. 

Can you sit in the sauna with stitches?

There are mixed reviews on this.

A prospective randomized study showed that there was no difference in healing between patients going into the sauna with sutures in or after sutures were removed. On the contrary, most physician post-surgery brochures say to avoid the sauna altogether with stitches in.

It’s best to follow the advice of your surgeon. Using your own sauna after surgery and taking care to avoid touching your incision is probably okay, but using a dirty public sauna is a definite no-go.

How long after surgery can you use a sauna?

Most doctors recommend the same thing.

Your incision needs to remain completely dry for the first 24 hours post-surgery. You can use the sauna 1 day after getting your stitches or staples removed. Make sure no drainage or discharge is coming from your incision. 

If your surgical wound is swollen or draining still, do not use the sauna until it has resolved.

Using a traditional sauna to get rid of scars

Traditional saunas, when used in moderation, can be used to treat hypertrophic or keloid scars.

Steps to using a traditional sauna are:

  1. Make sure your wound is closed. 
  2. Take a lukewarm shower beforehand. Avoid exfoliators.
  3. 150 °F is the maximum heat.
  4. Massage the area with clean hands to break up scar tissue. 
  5. Stay inside for 20 minutes.
  6. Gently wash the scar after you get out.
  7. Apply a scar cream or gel prescribed by your doctor. 

Do not use soap or any exfoliating products on your skin in general, especially on or around your scarred area. Additionally, heat is great for opening up blood vessels and stimulating the healing process but don’t overdo it.

Twenty minutes is the perfect amount to get your muscles heated and soften your skin. Any longer could cause irritation.

Massaging the scar, especially while using higher temperature climates, is a great way to improve its appearance.

Using a scar cream afterward is another corrective measure. If you don’t have a prescribed medication, petroleum jelly is a great option during the wound healing process. Once a scar is already formed, Mederma Advanced Scar Gel has onion extract that is anti-inflammatory.

Using a steam room to get rid of scars

The moisture in steam rooms is great for wounds that have already begun healing.

Steps to using a steam room are:

  1. Make sure your wound is closed. 
  2. Take a lukewarm shower beforehand. Avoid exfoliators.
  3. 115 °F is the perfect temperature.
  4. Massage the area with clean hands to break up scar tissue. 
  5. Stay inside for 20 minutes.
  6. Gently wash the scar after you get out.
  7. Apply a scar cream or gel prescribed by your doctor. 

Steam rooms are generally less hot than other saunas. The added moisture is great for preventing scarring during the final stages of healing.

Use particular caution to avoid touching your scar and spreading germs- especially if it is not completely healed.

Using an infrared sauna to get rid of scars

Infrared saunas are the preferred method of getting rid of scars.

Steps to using an infrared sauna are:

  1. Make sure your wound is not open. 
  2. Take a lukewarm shower before you enter the sauna. Avoid exfoliators.
  3. Keep it at 130 °F.
  4. Massage the area with clean hands to break up scar tissue. 
  5. Stay inside for 12 minutes.
  6. Gently wash the scar after you get out.
  7. Apply a scar cream or gel prescribed by your doctor. 

Remember that infrared saunas work much faster (from inside your body, out), so high temperatures are necessary to get the job done.

Twelve minutes is the perfect time for far-infrared radiation to work its magic!

So, is the sauna good for scars? When it comes to getting rid of or improving them, an infrared sauna is the best type of heat therapy.

Far-infrared radiation is more effective than standard steam rooms because it promotes healing by raising your WBC count and generating re-epithelialization. The temperature should be set at 130°F for 10 minutes in order to see a noticeable difference in the appearance of your scar over time!

Never expose an open wound to heat or humidity, as this could cause a severe reaction, or worse- infection.

Above all, make sure to consult your doctor before going off-script!