Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna: Which One is Better?

For centuries, the classic Finnish sauna has been the standard method for enjoying heat sessions.

But infrared saunas have gained popularity as a new competitor.

Enter the big debate: Infrared sauna vs traditional sauna.

As an experienced or beginner, a common question arises—which type is better?

Should you stick with the traditional steamy wooden box or try the infrared? Which provides more benefits and value based on results, pros vs cons?

Consider all your questions answered! I’ve got the answers for you.

Let’s just get to it!

sauna with text that reads: "Traditional sauna vs Infrared sauna"

What is the Difference Between An Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna?

TL;DR - Key Differences

  • Heating method - Traditional uses heaters to warm air and rocks to create steam. Infrared uses lamps focused directly on your body.
  • Temperature - Traditional reaches 170-200°F. Infrared stays lower at 120-150°F.
  • Humidity - Traditional has humid, steamy conditions or can also be a dry sauna. Infrared has only dry heat.
  • Sweat response - You'll sweat more in a traditional sauna. Less sweating in infrared.
  • Warm-up time - Traditional takes 30-40 min to preheat. Infrared only needs 10-15 min.
  • Setup - Traditional requires permanent enclosed spaces. Infrared can be portable units.
  • Costs - Infrared has lower initial purchase and installation costs. But traditional has lower long-term operating costs.
  • Experience - Traditional offers an intense, steamy sweat. Infrared provides gentle, dry heat.

The main thing difference between infrared saunas and traditional saunas is how they heat up.

In a traditional sauna the sauna heaters warm the air.

Rocks get hot, you splash water on them to make steam, and it turn into a humid sweat box. Temperatures get up around 170-200°F. You’ll be dripping sweat in no time.

Infrared saunas use infrared lamps that heat your body directly without warming the air.

This allows them to stay at lower temps of around 120-150°F.

For many people, this feels more comfortable and gentle. Less sweat, but still helps release toxins.

There are some other practical differences too. Traditional saunas take 30-40 minutes to preheat. Infrared only needs 10-15 minutes to get going. Traditional saunas require permanent enclosed spaces. Infrareds can be portable units placed anywhere.

When it comes to costs, infrared saunas are cheaper to buy and install. But over time, the running costs of a traditional sauna are lower since they use less power.

So in summary, it comes down to the type of heating used. That impacts the temperature, humidity, sweat response, and session length. Both types still offer health benefits though. 

Infrared Sauna: Overview

Infrared light sauna

Pros of Using An Infrared Sauna

  • Cheaper: Infrared saunas are typically less expensive to purchase than traditional saunas. This makes them more accessible for home use.
  • Operating Costs:  infrared saunas tend to be lower since they use less energy to generate heat. This makes regular use more affordable.
  • Maintenance Levels: Infrared saunas require little maintenance other than occasional cleaning. You don’t have to deal with plumbing like a traditional sauna.
  • Heating Time: Infrared saunas heat up more quickly than traditional saunas, allowing you to start sweating sooner. This can be more convenient and comfortable.

Cons of Using An Infrared Sauna

  • Research is limited:  Specifically, the health benefits of infrared saunas are limited compared to traditional saunas. More studies are needed.
  • Possible Marketing Influence: Some companies may overstate the potential benefits of infrared saunas in their marketing. Claims should be carefully evaluated.
  • Potential Electromagnetic Field (EMF) risks: Infrared saunas produce electromagnetic fields that some are concerned could have negative health effects. However, risks appear low at normal exposures.
  • Outdoor Use May Not Be An Option: Outdoor installation is not practical for most infrared sauna models since they require an electrical outlet.
  • No Humidity May Be A Con: Infrared saunas do not provide the moist heat of traditional saunas. Some people may prefer the feeling of a wet sauna.
  • Some People May Not Like EMF Exposure: Those wanting to avoid electromagnetic field exposure will need to consider that factor in making their decision.

Infrared saunas use a different kind of heat called infrared radiation that is directly absorbed by the body, helping release toxins through sweating.

Because of this direct absorption, infrared saunas heat up more quickly than traditional saunas.

Since they don’t require extensive installation, infrared saunas are a more convenient and affordable sauna option for home use.

With infrared saunas, you get the health benefits of deep sweating without the costly setup of a traditional sauna. 

However, there are some potential downsides to consider. The long-term health effects of infrared radiation exposure are still being researched. The intensity isn’t as high (may be good for beginner, but limit the overall health benefits).

Finnish Saunas: Overview

Dry Sauna

Pros of Traditional Saunas Use

  • An authentic experience: Traditional saunas provide an authentic cultural experience tracing back centuries in Finland. This creates a meaningful ritual for many.
  • Outdoor use: Outdoor installation is readily achievable with traditional saunas, allowing use in natural settings.
  • Humidity may be an advantage: The moist heat and steam of traditional saunas is preferred by some. This provides a distinct sensation.
  • More research: Most research done on saunas has been tested using a traditional sauna
  • Sessions are Shorter: Due to the higher intensity compared to infrared sauna sessions, a traditional one will be anywhere from 10-30 minutes as opposed to 40+ minutes.

Cons of Traditional Sauna USe

  • Less affordable running costs: Heating a traditional sauna requires more energy and water. This leads to higher ongoing costs.
  • Longer to reach optimal heat: It takes longer for a traditional sauna to reach optimal temperatures compared to infrared.
  • The initial cost of the unit is less affordable: Constructing or buying a traditional sauna is a major project requiring plumbing and electrical work, making the initial costs quite high.

Traditional Finnish saunas are the OG saunas – using old-school sauna heaters and dry cedar or spruce wood to heat up a small wooden room. 

Research shows sauna sessions like this can do your body good – improving circulation, lowering stress, and sweating out toxins. You don’t need to bake in there too long either – just 10-30 minutes of quality sweat time.

Of course, there are some not-so-great parts too. Cranking up a sauna heater takes patience – a longer warmup than infrared.

And getting one built or installed in your home? That’ll cost you a pretty penny in construction and electrical work.

So if you want the real deal, traditional wood-fired, with science to back it up, go for it!

But weigh the time and money factors, and consider easier infrared options too. Choose what fits your goals and budget. Because at the end of the day, any good sweat sesh is a win for your health.

Benefits of Sauna: Infrared vs Traditional

red light sauna

Benefits of Far Infrared Saunas:

  • Protect against cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce chronic fatigue
  • Reduce pain
  • Improve mood
  • Improve exercise performance
  • Reduce muscle soreness

While research is still ongoing, a few studies have confirmed some promising health benefits of far infrared saunas.

The gentle infrared rays warm the body from the inside out, boosting circulation while also helping to reduce pain and fatigue. Some debate that they aren’t strong enough to activate the health benefits!

Regular use has been shown (through weak evidence) to possibly improve  cardiovascular health by supporting healthy blood pressure, heart rate, and artery function.

Far infrared radiation may also decrease chronic fatigue and relieve muscle soreness after workouts, allowing for improved athletic performance and recovery.

On top of the physical perks, far infrared sauna use can boost mood by releasing endorphins and relieving stress.

Benefits of Traditional Saunas:

  • Help Prevent Alzheimer’s
  • Protect Against Dementia
  • Improve skin health
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase metabolic markers
  • Improve arterial stiffness
  • Prevent pneumonia 
  • Protect against cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce chronic fatigue
  • Reduce pain
  • Improve mood
  • Improve exercise performance
  • Reduce muscle soreness

Research shows using traditional saunas regularly does amazing things for both physical and mental health.

The intense dry heat enhances circulation, boosts metabolism, lowers blood pressure, reduces pain and soreness, and makes you sweat out toxins.

It’s been linked to better brain function, decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Traditional saunas, whether wet or dry, also improve mood, cardiovascular health, and skin health. The Heat Shock Proteins activated through the intense heat are what stimulate most of these benefits!

Infrared saunas have pros too, but so far studies give the edge to traditional hot saunas for overall health gains.

So if you’re looking to unwind in a way that boosts circulation, releases toxins, relieves sore muscles, and prevents disease, using saunas regularly is a smart move. 

What is The Best Type of Sauna?

When it comes to deciding between a traditional vs infrared sauna, there’s no definitive “best” – it really depends on your priorities and preferences.

However, here are some factors to consider:

Traditional saunas have been around far longer and have more scientific research backing their health benefits.

Studies support claims of improved circulation, muscle recovery, and cardiovascular health from consistent traditional sauna use.

So while more expensive initially, you can feel assured you’ll get proven wellness rewards.

Infrared saunas are relatively newcomers, so less long-term research exists, but early findings still suggest health gains related to detoxification, relaxation, and pain relief. Infrared models can also be more affordable and convenient to use at home.

Ultimately, choose based on your budget, preferences for heat type, sweat factor, and the importance of scientific backing.

Either way, using saunas regularly has the potential to improve your health.

Sophi's Thoughts:

For me, the proven benefits win out. Even though pricier, going with a traditional sauna gives me peace of mind that I'll get all those researched physical and mental health improvements. The intense heat and steam provide a truly deep sweat and release of toxins too. Given the choice, I personally prefer traditional saunas, despite the higher startup cost. But infrared saunas can also be a great option if cost savings and ease of use are your priority!

Infrared and Traditional Saunas: FAQ

How does the sauna heat in an infrared sauna differ from a traditional sauna?

Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body directly, whereas traditional saunas heat the air around you. This difference in heating method leads to a more gentle and comfortable sauna experience with an infrared sauna.

Can I use an infrared sauna at home?

Yes, you can have an infrared sauna for your home. There are portable infrared saunas available that can be easily set up in any space. They provide the same health benefits as larger infrared saunas without requiring a dedicated sauna room.

Are there any differences in the sauna experience between traditional and infrared saunas?

Yes, there are differences in the sauna experience between traditional and infrared saunas. Infrared saunas typically have lower temperatures and more gentle heat, allowing for a longer and more comfortable sauna session compared to traditional steam saunas.

What is the best sauna to use, traditional or infrared?

The best sauna for you depends on your personal preferences and health goals. Traditional saunas may be preferred by those who enjoy the steam sauna experience, while infrared saunas offer a more gentle and efficient way to enjoy the sauna’s health benefits.

About the Author, Sophia Victoria
About the Author, Sophia Victoria

Sophi is a health, wellness, and lifestyle blogger who uses, research, and tests products and theories to help others improve their mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. With her own eating disorder journey, regulating her hormones, and working with 10+ nutritionists, she deeply understands the health and wellness. Sophi is also well-knowledged in self-development and committed to sharing her knowledge, experience, and expertise with her readers.

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