Which is Better for Your Health: Infrared or Steam Saunas?


    Sauna bathing has many proven health benefits, but whether traditional steam saunas or infrared saunas are more effective can vary depending on what you’re looking for in a sauna experience. Both types have their own merits, and you might find one suits your needs better than the other. That said, this article explores the infrared vs. steam sauna debate, drawing on both the latest scientific studies and direct experiences to understand if an infrared sauna is better than steam or vice versa, helping you make an informed decision on which sauna might be best for your health goals.

    Infrared vs. Steam Sauna Heat, Humidity and Temperature

    Steam saunas operate at higher temperatures and humidity compared to infrared saunas, which some believe leads to greater health benefits. However, the key health benefits from saunas, like improved blood circulation and stress relief, mainly come from an increase in your body’s core temperature.

    Infrared saunas heat your body more deeply and efficiently, using radiation to directly warm up your tissues, which allows them to operate at lower temperatures than steam saunas. Therefore, simply comparing the temperatures of these two types of saunas doesn’t give you the full picture of their effectiveness.

    Key Differences Between an Infrared and Steam Sauna

    Steam saunas and infrared saunas work differently and have some key differences to consider:

    • Infrared saunas are better at reducing pain and improving blood circulation because their rays can go deep into your skin, up to several centimeters.
    • Near-infrared light, found in infrared saunas, is especially good for skin health. It helps produce collagen and reduces fine lines and wrinkles more effectively than the hot air in steam saunas.
    • The warm and moist air in traditional Finnish saunas is great for respiratory health because it helps open up your breathing passages.
    • Infrared saunas tend to use less energy than steam saunas, which typically need electrical heaters.
    • Modern infrared saunas might give off more electromagnetic field radiation (EMF) compared to simple steam saunas that use either electrical heaters or wood stoves.

    Infrared vs. Steam Sauna Health Benefits

    Steam and infrared saunas both offer health benefits, but they do so in different ways. Here’s a quick look at what each type is particularly good at, with more detailed information provided below.


    Using a sauna can be good for your heart health because the heat causes your blood vessels to widen. This not only improves blood flow and exercises your blood vessels, but also temporarily lowers your blood pressure. Additionally, the heat increases your heart rate, similar to a mild workout.

    For example, spending 30 minutes in a sauna can raise your heart rate to about 110 beats per minute, an increase of 65 bpm from a resting rate of 45 bpm. So, if you’re thinking about getting a sauna to help your heart, both infrared and steam saunas seem to work equally well.

    Muscle and Joint Pain

    When you sit in a sauna, the high heat causes your blood vessels to widen, increasing the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout your body, which also helps you cool down. This improved blood flow can treat muscle and joint pain because more oxygen and nutrients reach your tissues, speeding up their healing. Additionally, your brain releases molecules that block pain, which further helps during inflammation.

    Both steam and infrared saunas boost this blood flow, but infrared saunas are particularly good at treating muscle and joint pain due to their ability to deeply penetrate tissues. This deep penetration allows blood vessels deeper in your tissue to dilate, increasing blood flow to areas needing healing. So, if you have specific deep-seated injuries, an infrared sauna might be more beneficial for faster recovery.

    Skin Health

    Red and infrared light therapy can greatly improve your skin health by treating scars, increasing collagen, and enhancing skin resilience to UV damage. This is because red and near-infrared light encourage your skin cells to produce more collagen, which smooths wrinkles and repairs damage. If improving skin health is your goal, look for a full-spectrum infrared sauna that includes near-infrared light, as it’s most effective for skin.

    However, these can be pricier than far-infrared saunas, which are better suited for muscle recovery and cardiovascular health but less effective for skin. On the other hand, steam saunas are great for hydrating the skin, though they don’t significantly boost collagen production or wound healing.

    Immune System

    Many people include sauna baths in their wellness routine because they’re great for boosting the immune system. Most research has focused on steam saunas, simply because they’ve been around longer, so it’s hard to compare their effectiveness with other types. However, there’s growing evidence that dry saunas, like infrared ones, offer similar benefits. Both types of saunas help improve your immune function by raising your body temperature, much like a mild fever, which is something infrared saunas do very effectively.

    Respiratory Health

    Traditional steam saunas are particularly helpful for people with respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis because the steam can open up airways and alleviate symptoms. A 2021 study even found that combining high fitness levels with frequent sauna baths could greatly reduce the risk of pneumonia compared to each alone. Many people also use traditional saunas to relieve various respiratory issues, from sinus congestion to asthma.

    Although both infrared and steam saunas boost the immune system and help fend off infections, steam saunas are especially good for respiratory health because of the hot steam they produce. So, if you have chronic respiratory issues, a steam sauna might be a good investment. For general prevention of respiratory problems, both types of saunas offer benefits.

    Choose Between an Infrared or Steam Sauna to Reap the Maximum Benefits

    Ready to experience the benefits of sauna bathing? Whether you’re seeking cardiovascular health, relief from muscle and joint pain, improved skin health, a boosted immune system, or better respiratory health, there’s a sauna option for you. Consider the merits of both traditional steam saunas and infrared saunas, each offering unique advantages. Invest in the sauna that aligns best with your health goals and start enjoying the rejuvenating effects today!