What Does It Mean If You Don’t Sweat in a Sauna? (When To Worry)

You probably take for granted that you’ll emerge from a sauna relaxed, loose, and – above all – sweaty. But what if you don’t sweat when you take a sauna? Is it normal? Is it dangerous?

Under normal circumstances, people will start sweating after 15-20 minutes in a sauna. If this doesn’t happen, either the sauna is not hot enough or your body isn’t producing sweat. Not sweating in a properly functioning sauna may mean that you are dehydrated, or it could be an indication that your sweat glands are not functioning properly.

Read on for details on several of the most common obstacles to sweating normally in a sauna.

Is it normal not to sweat in the sauna?

It’s actually perfectly normal not to sweat in a sauna, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good (or bad).

There are a number of common issues that a lot of people face, from simply-solved technical trouble to more complex health-related complications. It is still the case, though, that even if you’re not sweating as much as you think you ought to be, you can still experience great benefits from sauna use. 

Do keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to use your sauna with your doctor’s guidance if you have any physical conditions that might make you sensitive to the specific stresses and demands the high heat of sauna use place on the body. 

But if you love a good sweat-out but just are not getting one, troubleshoot the problem:

  • Is your sauna functioning properly?
  • Were you colder than usual when you entered the sauna?
  • Were you dry?
  • Are you properly hydrated?
  • Do you have any potential medical conditions?

What causes a lack of sweating?

Levels of perspiration depend very much on the individual. Men sweat more and faster than women, for example. And sweating is also a matter of – believe it or not – learned response. If you find you don’t sweat much at first, you can train your body to sweat by using the sauna regularly. “Training” yourself to sweat in the sauna can happen pretty quickly – many people find they sweat more readily as they develop habits of regular sauna use.

And sometimes, you’re sweating without realizing it. This is most common when the sauna interior’s air is so dry that it evaporates the moisture on your skin before you’re really aware of its presence. In other words… “no sweat” isn’t the same thing as “no loss of moisture.”

If you find yourself not sweating during your time in a sauna, it could be for several reasons, both internal and external:

  • Equipment – Make sure that your equipment is functioning – is the thermostat set properly? Is the stove heating? The issue could be something as simple as the stove’s temperature setting being too low, or it may be that you’ve just not preheated the sauna cabin long enough before use. Until the cabin heats fully, most heat will remain close to the stove. 
  • Age – As we age, it’s normal that our ability to sweat will diminish somewhat. If you’ve been taking saunas for years and find that over time you just don’t sweat as you once did, simple time might be the culprit.
  • Body temperature – Were your hands and/or feet cold when you entered the sauna? If so, your whole body will take longer to warm up. 
  • Skin – It is a popular trick to shower prior to jumping in the sauna. If you do so, make sure you dry off completely before you go in. A sauna works principally with dry heat and minimal steam, your skin will heat best to the point of perspiration if it isn’t damp when you enter. Damp skin lessens the necessity of the body to evaporate any moisture of its own – the moisture is already on your skin.
  • Medical conditions – Those which cause damage to the autonomic nerves (diabetes, for example) also make problems with your sweat glands more likely.

Hypohidrosis is the inability to sweat properly. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself off and is a critical factor in regulating body temperature, particularly in conditions of elevated or extreme heat. When sweat glands aren’t functioning properly, that’s a potentially serious condition – one that can lead to a potentially life-threatening heatstroke.

Other medical conditions interfering with sweat gland function include those causing nerve damage, skin damage, certain medications, and inherited conditions.

Does a sauna make you sweat less?

There’s nothing specific to the heat stress of a sauna that would make you sweat less than say running or working out; although over time, as your body becomes used to the heat response of sitting in a sauna, you may find the opposite is true – that taking regular saunas leads to sweating more easily in excessive heat.

A sauna session is as exhausting on your body as moderate exercise, according to a new study.

Is it good to sweat in a sauna?

It’s really good to sweat in a sauna. One of the main attractions of taking a sauna in the first place is the belief that it is beneficial to your health. But is a sauna actually healthy? 

The skin is our body’s largest organ, and heat from a sauna increases blood circulation and heart rate, and induces vasodilation – all of which benefit the flow of blood to the skin, and help keep its appearance fresh and vibrant. All of these benefits also do great things for your cardiovascular health, so add that little bonus in as well. The heat is also great for opening and cleaning out pores.

While sweating in a sauna will certainly flush out some toxins through the sweating process, the actual amount of “detoxifying” isn’t significant enough to be meaningful. The toxins eliminated only come through the surface of the skin; there’s no deep organ cleanse. No purge. All told, it’s about the same level of benefits that a good workout gets you.

Despite the popular draw of saunas as detoxifiers, there’s actually no scientific evidence to back up the popular belief that sweating during a sauna session substantially releases toxins from the body or skin. Sweating has one main function: to prevent your body from overheating. The liver and kidneys are responsible for real detoxification.

And it’s certainly the case that, in my own experience at least, taking a sauna is a great stress-buster. It’s a quiet, calming, relaxing downtime. I sleep particularly well after nighttime saunas; there’s something comforting about the heat and the stillness. If I’m able to make a session out of it with breaks every 15-20 minutes broken up by brief cooling showers, the mentally soothing effects are all the more pronounced.

How to sweat more in the sauna

Since the entire purpose of a sauna is to be immersed in heat, it is reasonable to expect to sweat, even heavily.

To do all you can to make sure you have every chance of sweating your heart out in the sauna, there are a few things you can do:

  • Check the temperature
  • Start out dry…
  • …After a hot shower
  • Try out a sweat amplification cream

But first, ensure that there isn’t a reason you shouldn’t use a sauna or increase your heat stress! A visit to the doctor isn’t out of line if you’ve been experiencing difficulty sweating – your body may be trying to tell you something.

Make sure the sauna temperature is set correctly

Check your stove and temperature. Make sure everything is functioning properly.

Enter the sauna completely dry

Beginning your sauna damp will actually keep you from sweating since your body will use the water already on your body to cool off first.

Begin by heating up with a hot shower

Some people recommend beginning by heating up in a hot shower before you enter the sauna. Your core temp will already be elevated.

On the other hand, going in cold (in the winter, for example) will significantly increase the amount of time it takes to get your internal temperature up to the sweating point.

Products that may help promote sweating

There are some products on the market that make claims to help specifically to generate more sweat in the sauna, such as the Sunlighten Pure Sweat cream. While I have no personal experience with any of these, it’s an option that exists.