Many people, when they’re first buying an infrared sauna, learn that they function at far lower temperatures than traditional saunas. Such traditional saunas include a Finnish sauna, for instance.
While I’m later going to break the exact numbers down, this blog post explores the topic of what infrared sauna temperature is best. You’ll get all the answers on this topic you need. First of all, let’s look at the temperature differences between different saunas:
Temperature Of An Infrared Sauna Versus Regular Sauna
In the past, I’ve written an extensive blog post called How Hot Is A Sauna? - Differences Between Dry Saunas, Finnish Saunas, Steam Rooms, And Infrared Saunas. In that blog post, I argued the following (1; 2; 3; 4).
- Dry saunas have maximum temperatures of 80-90 degrees Celsius, combined with low humidity
- Finnish saunas use maximum temperatures of 100-110 degrees Celsius paired with high humidity
- Steam rooms have maximum temperatures of 40-45 degrees Celsius, with maximum humidity.
These traditional sauna models work by heating up the air around you. That air then heats your body from the outside in by warming up your skin. That increase in skin temperature subsequently results in higher temperatures of tissues located deeper inside your body.
Now, here’s the kicker:
Infrared saunas generally use temperatures of 45-60 degrees Celsius. So, you might be thinking that infrared saunas are therefore less effective than dry saunas and Finnish saunas because you’re not heating up the body adequately.
And there’s more:
The high humidity of a steam room, moreover, entails that the air inside the sauna cabin contains more water. Water allows for quicker transfer of heat than air, which is why steam rooms have a quite significant effect on heating up the human body.
Here’s how to understand that principle:
Imagine the difference between standing outside in 5 degrees Celsius air, compared to swimming in 5 degrees Celsius water. If you stand in the water you’re cooled down much quicker than standing outside in plain air.
Hence, in the end, it seems like traditional saunas are much more effective than infrared saunas for heating up the body. The problem, however, is that numbers are deceiving because you only look at air temperature and humidity - there's a third variable that matters:
Temperature Of Infrared Sauna Is Not The Only Variable That Matters
To demonstrate why the temperature of an infrared sauna is not the only variable determining how effective your sessions are, I’m introducing the following thought experiment:
Imagine you’re on a sunny holiday at the beach. One moment, you’re lying comfortably under a parasol in the shade - you’re not sweating at all and the heat is bearable. But when you’re walking over to the bar to order a drink, suddenly, you’re becoming very hot and soon you’ve started sweating profusely.
Under the parasol, you were mostly protected against the rays of the sun (5; 6). Those sun rays hitting the earth are made up of about 50% infrared light. When that infrared light hits your skin, it heats your body up from the inside out (7; 8).
And here’s the most important thing:
The air temperature under the parasol and when you’re hit with the sunrays is almost exactly the same, as is the humidity. From moment to moment, it might be one or two degrees Celsius colder under the parasol, but the difference is negligible.
Infrared light that hits your body is an independent variable determining how hot your body gets, regardless of air temperature. A conclusion we can draw is that, therefore, the indoor temperatures of saunas don’t tell the whole story.
An infrared sauna might be colder in terms of the room temperature because it’s only 45-60 degrees Celsius hot compared to the 110 degrees of a Finnish sauna, but, infrared light must be taken into account as an independent factor.
So, with that common misconception out of the way, let’s explore the best temperature for infrared saunas:
So, What Temperature Should An Infrared Sauna Be Set At?
Before talking about the ideal infrared sauna temperature, let’s take a short detour:
The biggest benefit of an infrared sauna is that you’re able to maximally increase what is called “core body temperature” without creating extreme discomfort.
(“Core body temperature” is the temperature measured in your trunk, not your extremities or head)
If you’ve spent some time inside a steam room or Finnish sauna, for instance, then you might have felt like you’re getting in a very hard workout.
Not only are you sweating profusely, but the air around you is also hard to breathe due to its temperature. The temperature of your head is also strongly affected by that air temperature, even though it’s the weakest link in the human body preventing you from maximally increasing your core body temperature.
The higher your core body temperature becomes, the more you’ll sweat (9; 10). Hence, it’s the core body temperature that matters, not only air temperature.
I’ll have to put that finding into more perspective though:
Why Air Temperatures Still Matter In A Sauna
For the best combination, you’ll have a combination of optimal infrared light exposure combined with decently high but comfortable air temperatures.
For instance, if an infrared sauna weren’t an enclosed space, air temperatures would never rise to 45-60 degrees Celsius. And, in that case, you’d be exposed to lots of infrared light but you’d never start sweating profusely.
But, once the sauna is allowed to heat up to a decent room temperature of 40 degrees Celsius and more, the sweating process starts if lots of infrared light is applied to your body.
For this specific reason, our Clearlight Outdoor™ Infrared Saunas are constructed with materials thick enough so that air temperatures inside the saunas can sufficiently rise.
Other outdoor sauna models of competitors have the problem that the room you’re sitting in is insufficiently isolated from the outside world. As a result, placing a sauna outdoors in Scotland or Canada inadvertently results in low air temperatures that are achieved, thereby massively impeding the sweating process.
Our Clearlight Outdoor™ Infrared Saunas contain 8 millimetres of thick tempered glass, for instance, which ensures that the indoor temperature of the sauna rises sufficiently in all weather conditions.
Of course, this problem doesn’t really exist with indoor saunas, assuming you’re using normal indoor temperatures inside your house. So, with those facts, let’s move on to the next section:
Infrared Sauna Temperature Best Between 45 And 60 Degrees Celsius
And lastly, the best temperature for infrared sauna models isn’t necessarily extremely high either. If you were to construct an infrared sauna where temperatures rise to 70 degrees Celsius or more, you’d be confronted with the problem I talked about earlier:
The high temperatures can be irritating to the airways of some people and unnecessarily heat up your head - the weakest link in increasing the core body temperature of the human body. Once your head gives out, you’ll become fatigued and weakened, and get the impulse to stop your session. You might get a headache or other symptoms.
For that reason, high-quality saunas only focus their infrared sauna heater panels on your trunk and extremities, never your head. That way, you achieve the ultimate balance of great sweating with a very comfortable experience.
So, all in all, higher indoor temperatures in infrared saunas aren’t necessarily better, just as temperatures below 45 degrees Celsius aren’t optimal. Once again, we’ve found a golden mean in nature. A temperature between 45 - 60 degrees Celsius is perfect.
Conclusion: Without The Perfect Temperature, Infrared Sauna Health Benefits Go Down
You might think: "well, why would I care so much about achieving the perfect infrared sauna temperature?" If it's 35 or 70 degrees Celsius, it will work fine too, right?
Not so fast.
If you don't start sweating profusely because your core body temperature isn't going up properly, you'll lose out on many of the benefits. Examples of these benefits include countering depression and boosting mood, reducing anxiety, lowering stress, detoxification, more beautiful skin, quicker recovery and deeper sleep, and many other sauna benefits.
Next to the perfect air temperature and exposing your body to infrared light, the amount and type of infrared light also matter - that's a topic of a next blog post though. Suffice it to say, only a high-quality infrared sauna assures that you get the maximum health benefits with the fewest downsides.
Most infrared saunas on the market do a reasonable job, but, just as with cars, only a few products on the market do their job exceptionally well.