Eczema affects a bigger part of the population than you'd think. And, if you've got eczema you're probably not aware of the infrared sauna eczema interconnecting science. For that reason I decided to write this blog post, breaking down how the two topics are interrelated. In this blog, I give three reasons for the infrared sauna eczema benefits. But first, let's explore what eczema fundamentally is:
What Is Eczema? Eczema 101
Eczema is an inflammatory skin disease that affects about 10% of the human population (1; 2; 3). The disease is also known as 'dermatitis" or "atopic dermatitis".
Genetics play a risk in your chances of getting the disease, but other factors do so as well. Eczema mostly affects people in their younger years, although more adults are affected than commonly assumed.
The disease is characterised by an acute phase with "flare-ups" and a chronic phase. During that acute phase, inflammation goes up, resulting in red skin patches that are very itchy. That itch is risky because it makes people more prone to scratch their skin, resulting in even more skin problems down the road.
From later childhood, ankles, knees, elbows and wrists are most affected. Many people with eczema feel self-conscious if eczema affects their facial appearance. Eczema therefore not only affects skin health and appearance but the ability to socialise and the quality of life of many as well.
Naturally, as excess inflammation is one of the main issues plaguing people with eczema, anti-inflammatory medication is the most frequently used therapy to counter symptoms. During the acute phase, medication, whether oral or topical, becomes more important.
Light therapy, such as "ultraviolet light" exposure, is a common treatment for eczema too. Ultraviolet light is the part of sunlight that can give you sunburns. What's interesting is that the other part of the light spectrum, the infrared part, isn't considered yet. So let's explore that infrared sauna eczema link:
The Infrared Sauna And Eczema Connection Reason 1: Stress
Stress plays a huge role in both the intensity of the eczema symptoms as well as the cause of the health condition (4; 5; 6; 7). Several reasons for this thesis exist.
- First of all, stress worsens the skin-barrier function and changes what parts of the immune system are predominant, making the areas affected by eczema more prone to be influenced by an allergic response. The skin also becomes more prone to be infected by pathogens with poorer skin-barrier function.
- Secondly, the changes in the immune system due to stress can cause inflammation in the skin to increase.
- Thirdly, stress can cause more scratching, which in turn can worsen eczema. Worsened eczema, in turn, makes the person look visually worse, which increases psychological stress once again. This relationship has been described as a "vicious cycle" within eczema research.
Fortunately, what is known is that reducing overall stress also aids in countering this eczema problem. Hopefully, you're now beginning to see how an infrared sauna and eczema are related: the infrared sauna benefits for eczema stem from the deep relaxation you feel during and after a session.
Now here's the good news: different means of heating up your body, whether through hot baths, Finnish saunas, or infrared saunas, can all decrease the presence of depression and improve your well-being (8; 9; 10). I've written about the link between well-being and sauna use, even up to resolving a "clinical depression", in a previous blog post.
Even a single "whole body hyperthermia" session, whereby your entire core temperature is increased significantly for a long period of time while your head is cooled, massively decreased depression presence and intensity in many. At Clearlight Infrared Saunas International®, all our far-infrared and full-spectrum saunas do just that: they avoid heating your head so that your body temperature can increase to much higher levels.
Many people who use an infrared sauna also feel amazing after a session. Hence, as a stress-reduction tool, gentle infrared sauna sessions that are not too hard on your body can be a game-changer for your eczema symptoms.
And there's more:
The Infrared Sauna Eczema Connection Reason 2: Lowering Inflammation
Eczema is characterized by both local and systemic inflammation. The good part is that some very high-quality sauna studies have directly studied the infrared sauna benefits for eczema with regard to inflammation:
- First up, a 2017 study tracked 2,000+ men over a long period of time. More frequent sauna sessions were associated with lower overall "c-reactive protein" levels, one of the best biomarkers used to measure total inflammation (11). More frequent sauna sessions led to better results in this study, with the group that spent time in a sauna 4-7 times a week having the best c-reactive protein outcomes.
- Secondly, a 2018 study looked at several different biomarkers of inflammation (12). The outcome here, again, was lower chronic and systemic inflammation levels the more frequently the study participants visited a sauna. You probably know that chronic inflammation plays a role in causing many health conditions associated with the modern lifestyle, such as heart and blood vessel disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and more (13; 14).
Even though it's not directly studied, there could be a huge potential benefit from getting sauna sessions in for eczema symptoms, simply because the health condition is one characterised by inflammation in the first place! Of course, studies directly investigating the effects of sauna on eczema still have to be carried out to prove this thesis, although the outcomes described above are very promising.
Let's move on to one more way in which saunas and eczema are linked:
The Far Infrared Sauna And Eczema Connection Reason 3: Enhancing Skin Health
Before talking about skin health, let me take a detour:
Infrared light consists of "far infrared", "middle infrared", and "near infrared" light. The sun emits all three of these. When infrared light hits the earth's surface, they feel warm on your skin. That light penetrates your skin and heats your body up from the inside out.
Far infrared light has been studied in animal studies and it improves circulation in the skin as well as speeding up wound healing (15; 16). You might think: "so how does a far infrared sauna help eczema?" Simple: it's reasonable to assume that if the same effect can be confirmed in human studies, the enhanced wound healing could help eczema lesions recover quicker if you've been scratching them due to itching.
The same is true for red light therapy - which use both red light and near infrared light - in both animal and human studies (17; 18; 19; 20; 21). Clearlight Infrared Saunas International® now offers red light therapy which is very worthwhile to investigate as many people using it report massive improvements in skin health and appearance.
Fortunately, one study investigating infrared light on eczema exists as well (22). After three weeks of infrared light exposure on the skin, eczema symptoms improved. Adding ultraviolet light improved the overall results, so getting some sunlight on your skin without getting a sunburn probably has additional benefits over and above infrared sauna use alone.
Even in healthy skin, infrared light exposure leads to almost unbelievable improvements in skin appearance and health (23). After six months of exposure to near infrared light, 20 out of 20 study participants reported good improvements in both skin texture and roughness. Colour tone of the skin was also enhanced.
Hopefully, you can see that a combination of both far infrared and other parts of the infrared spectrum lead to the best overall improvements. Depending on your finances, a far infrared sauna is the best budget option, and a full-spectrum infrared sauna with red light therapy is best for maximum results.
I've already told you but I'll flesh it out in more detail in the conclusion:
Conclusion: Why An Infrared Sauna Is Your Best Bet
Hopefully, you're convinced now that heating can counter eczema through several different means. I just wanted to come back to that issue and tell you why specifically an infrared sauna is far superior to another type of sauna. The answer was already carefully hidden in the previous sections.
Using a sauna that heats up the air to a very high degree, such as a Finnish sauna, can increase skin irritation. Infrared saunas don't have this problem because the air temperature is 30-50 degrees Celsius lower than the maximum temperatures of a traditional sauna.
Using infrared light thus leads to much less skin irritation, and, therefore, improved overall results. And adding red light therapy to the mix will enhance overall skin health further!
In other words, a low-stress option such as an infrared sauna, at low temperatures, while reaping the benefits of both red and different types of red and infrared light counters eczema best!