Top 17 Sauna Tips For Beginners: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide 

Hitting the sauna for the first time?

We’ve all been there.

With different rules and customs, it’s easy to feel lost, wondering – how do I dress? How long should I stay in? What’s the proper way to behave?

No worries!

I’m here to save you from any doubt or embarrassment i’ve experienced myself.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the best sauna tips for beginners! 

The Best Sauna Tips For a Beginner

Keep in mind that some of these suggestions may be a bit different depending on whether you’re using a public sauna or one at home.

However, the tips about your health and the best ways to use a sauna are the same for both.

So, without further ado, here are the tips!

1. Shower First

Shower

Okay, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Make sure to rinse off before hitting the sauna! 

A quick warm shower helps get rid of any dirt, oils, or lotions so you start fresh. It also opens your pores up for sweating. Make sure to dry off completely after so you can sweat freely. Most sauna spas have showers right outside, fed with refreshing spring water. So there’s no excuse not to take a fast rinse beforehand. 

Besides the benefits, it’s to be clean! A clean body leads to better sweating and detoxing. Just a couple of minutes to wash up can improve your whole sauna experience and other people’s as well.

2. Stay Hydrated

Be sure to drink up before, during, and after hitting the sauna. Water is your best friend. Drink an extra 16 oz of water per 10 minutes spent in a heated sauna to offset dehydration. It’s recommended to drink even more if you are using the sauna post-workout!

Proper hydration opens up your pores and makes you sweat more easily. If you leave the sauna parched, drink more H2O next time.

Avoid boozy or caffeinated drinks, which can make you dizzy or lower blood pressure with all that heat. 

Staying hydrated flushes out toxins and impurities through sweat. The sauna’s way more effective and comfortable when you’re well-hydrated.

3. Wear the Right Clothing

Choose lightweight, breathable, and comfortable natural fabrics like cotton that won’t cause discomfort as you sweat. 

Avoid tight clothing, polyester, rubber, spandex, or anything restrictive that could block circulation. Tight synthetic fabrics may even melt in the intense heat. For men, loose cotton shorts or trunks work well.

Women can wear cotton shorts and sports bras or light cotton tank tops. The sauna may provide robes, suits, or towels to wear inside.

 Follow any posted clothing requirements. Choosing breathable, non-restrictive attire allows your body to perspire freely as you enjoy the soothing dry heat. 

The right sauna clothing helps maximize the experience and benefits of the sauna.

4. Combine With Some Cold Exposure

Frozen lake

Break up your sauna session by taking a quick plunge in an ice-cold pool.

Moving between the intense dry heat and freezing cold water has tons of benefits. The extreme temperature shock is great for your cardiovascular system (it’s known as contrast therapy). 

The heat dilates your arteries, then the cold causes them to constrict. This cycle pushes blood all around your circulatory system for improved flow. It literally emulates cardiovascular exercise!

An icy dip also helps lower inflammation and perks up your immune system. The combo of hot and cold is invigorating and can increase the benefits of even doing them separately. 

Many sauna spots now have cold plunge pools right next to the hot rooms.

Take advantage of them if you see one – it takes the sauna experience to the next level!

If they don’t, just opt for a cold shower. 

5. Try Different Culture’s Techniques

Look to techniques from sauna-loving cultures to enhance your experience. Usually, the cultures who originated the tradition are more aware of how it works and can teach you new and improved tactics!

For example, Finns often gently whip themselves with a bundle of birch twigs called a “vihta” or “vasta.” The Finnish believe alternating heat with cold improves circulation, like the point mentioned above – try an icy foot bath!

Exploring traditions from Finland or Japan (known for their infrared heat sauna) and other sauna-rich cultures gives you new wellness benefits. Expand your health and wellness routine by adding global sauna practices, trust me on this one.

6. Progressively Overload

With heat therapy, start cautiously and listen to your body to avoid hyperthermia (extreme heating of your body’s core temperature). 

Begin with 10-15 minutes in the sauna, then cool down before going for a second round once adapted. Your body tolerates heat less readily than cold.

Start with lower temperatures or shorter durations, slowly increasing either factor over time as your body adapts to the high temperatures. Raising the heat or extending time in controlled increments allows safe overload to maximize the benefits of sauna use.

Don’t rush into high temperatures or long sessions. Building up heat resilience progresses your heat therapy.

7. Social Awareness is Key

Inside sauna

Remember your manners if using a public sauna.

Be respectful of others’ personal space and noise preferences. Some may want peaceful contemplation while others enjoy friendly chit-chat. Read the room.

In countries like Finland, the sauna is a social affair, but not everyone wants conversation. Feel out the vibe before striking up lots of talk or playing music. 

8. Ask for Rules/Requirements

If new to a public sauna, ask staff about any rules, customs, or requirements.

Questions like appropriate swimwear, length of time in the sauna, whether to shower first, etc. Knowing guidelines for that specific sauna means you’ll be able to properly enjoy the health benefits.

With an understanding of that sauna’s particular etiquette, you’ll get the most out of the Finnish sauna experience (and may save yourself some uncomfortable situations).

Don’t be shy about asking – staff want you to have an excellent time.

9. Avoid eating 1-2 Hours Before The Sauna

Let your body focus on the sauna rather than digestion. It’s best to avoid eating a full meal 1-2 hours before your sauna session.

With all that heat and sweating, a full stomach can be uncomfortable. I actually even get nauseous if I eat too close to a sauna session.

Have a light snack or drink some fruit juice beforehand if needed. But giving your body time to digest helps maximize the health benefits of the dry heat and steam. 

10. Try Some Aroma Therapy

Essential oils

Many saunas allow the use of essential oils to enhance the experience through aromatherapy. Eucalyptus and menthol oils open up your airways. Lavender and chamomile create a relaxing vibe. Citrus oils energize. Just a few drops on hot rocks can fill the air with lovely scents.

But always check with the sauna staff before adding oils, as some don’t allow it. 

11. Avoid Makeup or Heavy Perfume!

To fully reap the detox benefits, avoid saunaing with makeup, creams, or heavy perfumes on your skin.

The heat will just make mascara and foundation melt away and clog your pores. Lotions and thick scents simply drip off and can make a mess. Go fresh-faced to let your body sweat out impurities without anything interfering. The makeup and perfume mixed with a high body temperature could also cause allergic reactions.

12. Entertain Yourself

It’s not recommended to bring your phone into the sauna, especially a steam room.

 Leave your phone outside and bring a book, magazine, or crossword puzzle instead. Entertainment options like reading help pass the time while your body sweats out toxins and your mind unwinds.

It’s a plus to not bring electronics inside the sauna. Phones also give off blue light that is stimulating, while the sauna aims to relax you. Avoid the distraction of calls and notifications. Focus on your health and wellness rather than scrolling.

13. Stretch After

After heating up in the sauna, your muscles are warm, flexible, and receptive to stretching. Use this opportunity to do some light stretches right when you get out. The heat and steam loosen up your muscles and joints, allowing you to stretch deeper than usual. Adding some post-sauna stretches to your routine opens your body further and enhances your health and wellness. Just don’t push it too far when your muscles are so warm. Gentle stretches maximize the benefits.

14. Red Light at Night

red light sauna

Many modern (red light saunas) saunas now use soft red lighting to create a calming, womb-like atmosphere. Red light doesn’t suppress melatonin production like blue light does, so it won’t disrupt your circadian rhythms. Enjoying the dry heat and steam under a red glow is soothing and helps your body deeply relax. The right lighting can take your sauna from basic to therapeutic. 

15. Watch Your Timing!

See if an evening or daytime sauna best fits your circadian rhythm. The heat can be relaxing, so for some, nighttime works well. But saunaing too close to bed may overheat you. Try different times and see when you feel best afterward. Starting with 10 to 15 minutes is ideal to gauge your body’s response.

Be disciplined in tracking your time inside to avoid falling asleep, which poses risks. Find the time when a sauna leaves you feeling refreshed while not disrupting your sleep. Listen to your body’s signals to find your perfect sauna schedule. Finding the ideal time of day to match your own rhythm improves the experience.

16. Accessories are Key

Come prepared with handy accessories like hair ties, headbands, and extra towels. A sauna suit or robe helps too.

 Having the right gear makes your sauna time more comfortable and convenient. Hair ties keep your hair pulled back while headbands prevent sweat dripping. Extra towels allow quick wipe-downs while inside or after showering and prevent your skin from burning due to the hot sauna benches. A robe or suit provides easy coverage when going to cool off. 

17. Drink Some Tea

Cup of tea

Enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea after your sauna session to extend the relaxing benefits. Mint, chamomile, green tea, or ginger tea can aid digestion, rehydrate you, and help your body keep sweating out toxins. The heat also opens capillaries to maximize nutrient absorption from the tea. Sipping while your body is warm lets the tea’s benefits take a deeper effect. End your sauna routine with this classic complementary therapy.

Sauna Tips For Beginners: Long Story Short

And there you have it – the top 17 sauna tips for beginners!

I hope these simple guidelines help you start enjoying the many benefits of sauna bathing without having to be embarrassed  or shy.

Don’t be intimidated to try something new. With some basic knowledge, you can relax and just enjoy the experience.

Listen to your body, start slowly, and find what works best for you.

You got this!

Use a Sauna For Beginners: FAQ

Can beginners use an infrared sauna?

Absolutely! Infrared saunas are a great option for sauna beginners, as they tend to have lower temperatures compared to traditional saunas. They heat your body rather than the entire room. This makes it easier for beginners to adjust to the heat and stay in the sauna for longer periods. Note that there is less research on red light saunas than on traditional Finnish sauna.

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Is it necessary to take a cold shower after using the sauna?

While it’s not necessary, taking a quick shower after using the sauna can help cool down the body and close the pores. Listen to your body and decide what you think would feel best. Some people prefer to skip the cold shower and simply towel off and relax after their sauna session.

What is the purpose of using a ‘vasta’ or ‘vihta’ in the sauna?

 A ‘vasta’ or ‘vihta’ is a bundle of birch or other branches used for massaging the skin in the sauna. It helps to improve blood circulation, exfoliate the skin, and enhance the overall sauna experience.

Can I use a sauna if I have high blood pressure?

If you have high blood pressure, it’s recommended to consult with your healthcare provider before using a sauna. Sauna bathing may affect blood pressure, and it’s important to ensure it is safe for you to use a sauna.

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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