Infrared Sauna vs Steam Sauna: Which Is Better?

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We have often seen steam rooms in movies and TV shows by spies to conduct clandestine meetings. Case in point, Mackenzie McHale in The Newsroom meets Molly Levy, her buddy from the FBI, in a steam room for a serious conversation. We have also seen Vince Vaughn do something similar in Unfinished Business but that was a hysterical moment. Point being, we all know what a steam room looks like. Today though, we will talk about steam saunas (although they are not the same thing) and compare them with infrared saunas, the latter being the heartthrob for home use.

We are looking at the comparison because some customers still seem to be stuck in deliberations over the topic. Today, we put an end to that dilemma. Let’s dive in.

Steam vs Infrared Saunas: The Basics

A traditional steam sauna reminds us of a communal experience with a bunch of strangers sitting in white towels. They are powered by hot rocks and water is poured over them to create the steam in the room. Modern models have steam generators that are connected to the sauna. How it works is self-explanatory, we hope. The steam in these saunas has proved to be useful in clearing the lungs and blocked sinuses. It also opens up your pores and clears the skin.

Infrared saunas, on the other hand, are dry saunas which emit heat and infrared waves. They don’t use stoves or rocks but electricity and infrared waves to heat the space.



Since steam saunas use hot rocks, the temperature in the sauna is a lot more than their infrared counterparts. Steam saunas heat up the air in the sauna. This means, they take longer to get the same results that IR saunas do.

It also does not ensure that your body heats up according to the heat of the room. That depends on how much of that heat can penetrate through the skin. Infrared saunas do an excellent job with that. The length of the time spent in a steam sauna will be lesser not because they are more efficient but because it is difficult to stay in that much heat. IR saunas, on the other hand, don’t need you to do long sessions because they get the job done in a shorter period of time.

The amount of sweat, which is the key factor, might be the same in both saunas if you can endure sitting in a steam sauna for a long time. IR saunas go deep into your skin, raise the body temperature from the inside and get you the results sooner. So, point is, the heat in an IR sauna is a lot more tolerable than the heat in a steam sauna. But it is strongly recommended not to spend more than 20 minutes per session or you risk dehydration and other health problems.


The air in a steam sauna is more moist than an IR sauna because of the increased humidity. Some folks prefer the feeling of wet air on their skin compared to the dry feeling of an infrared sauna.

The Amount of Time

We have already discussed that the amount of heat and the levels of humidity in a steam sauna are not for everyone. That is a deadly combination and instead of coming out stress-free, you might be pissed off and want to punch someone. So if you are likely to get violent (we’re just kidding; please don’t act on that instinct), infrared saunas are the best for you.

You can, however, take breaks and come back but that in itself is a tedious process. Sauna sessions should ideally be like meditation. Uninterrupted and full of peace. They are not like work which stresses you out and requires you to take multiple breaks. Breaks also don’t make you sweat as well because the temperature keeps coming back to normal.

Also, the deep penetration of IR waves means your sauna experience will quite literally be at the cellular level. And that’s how it should be. These are great for the health of your mitochondria, the powerhouse of every cell.

And since IR saunas generally have greater penetration, you come out feeling revived. Many manufacturers claim IR saunas also work for detoxification but you will be disappointed to see the scientific evidence behind that theory.

Community Experience

Steam saunas are quite often found in gyms and spas. They are large and are meant for multiple people to share a session. Some individuals feel like this is an inconvenience due to the lack of privacy and a feeling of being cramped in with strangers.

If you want the convenience of a good sauna in the comfort of your home (and can afford it), you must choose an infrared sauna. It is recommended for health reasons, gives you privacy and you can jump in whenever you want. If you want to get the community experience but only with other members of your family (or friends) you will need something bigger than a one-person sauna. That can get a tad expensive but you can sweat in peace.

Still Can’t Decide?

Well, if that wasn’t enough, here is a detail that will hopefully be the clincher. The warm and moist chambers of a steam sauna might feel pretty great but they are actually the ideal breeding place for bacteria. And, after the coronavirus outbreak, I think we are all a little bit on the edge about being and staying healthy.

It is one thing to have one of these at home but a whole other thing when you are out and doing your community thing. If you want to reap the benefits of thermal therapy, you might want to steer clear of these potential cesspools of bacteria and head towards the clean and delightful experience offered by an infrared sauna.

The Verdict

It is clear that infrared saunas are an excellent choice. They have lower temperatures but are definitely more effective. They penetrate deep into the skin and give you the benefit of a sauna session without heating the air around you and making it difficult for you to stay in there. They offer privacy and the comfort of getting a spa session at home. But most importantly, they are not a breeding place for bacteria. That should sum it up for you, right?

Well, what are you waiting for? Go get your sauna.


1 thought on “Infrared Sauna vs Steam Sauna: Which Is Better?”

  1. Steam rooms create an environment that is rich with heat and high humidity, ideal for realizing an array of health-related benefits. The high moisture air found in a steam room offers users benefits and an experience distinct from infrared saunas. Steam room users may experience relief from respiratory issues such as allergies, sinusitis and cold symptoms. The moist air can open the sinuses and nasal passages, allowing for clearer breathing.


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