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Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna: Which One is Right for You?

Have you ever stepped into a sauna and felt like you were about to melt into a puddle?

Or maybe you’ve heard about these fancy new infrared saunas and wondered if they’re worth the hype?

Well, you’re not alone. The world of saunas can be a hot topic (pun intended), and deciding between an infrared sauna and a traditional sauna might feel like choosing between a classic film and the latest blockbuster.

In this post, we’re diving into the steamy showdown: infrared sauna vs traditional sauna. We’ll explore the key differences, and the unique health benefits each type offers, and help you figure out which one is your perfect match.

From the high heat of traditional saunas to the gentle heat of infrared saunas, and the various sauna sessions you can enjoy, we’ve got you covered. Infrared saunas heat the body directly, and far infrared saunas, in particular, offer deep penetration and improved circulation, promoting relaxation and cellular healing.

Ready to turn up the heat and find out which sauna reigns supreme? Let’s get started!


  • Types of Saunas: Traditional saunas use high temperatures and steam, infrared saunas use infrared light for a gentler heat, and steam saunas offer moist heat at lower temperatures.
  • Differences Between Traditional and Infrared Saunas: Traditional saunas heat the air to high temperatures, creating intense heat and steam, while infrared saunas use infrared light to directly heat the body at lower temperatures, resulting in faster heat-up times and lower running costs.
  • Combined and Unique Benefits: Both saunas improve cardiovascular health, circulation, and detoxification. Infrared saunas provide deep tissue pain relief and skin health benefits, while traditional saunas offer intense heat and steam benefits for respiratory health.
  • Choosing the Right Sauna: Consider your health needs, preferences for session length and intensity, and maintenance capabilities. Traditional saunas are ideal for high heat and steam lovers, while infrared saunas suit those seeking lower temperatures and deep tissue benefits.

Understanding Saunas: A Quick Overview

So, what’s the difference between traditional and infrared saunas anyway and are there any other types of saunas? Let’s take a look…

What is a Traditional Sauna?

A traditional sauna is the classic, time-tested option. Think of it as the wise elder in the sauna family.

Traditional saunas heat the air using a wood stove or an electric heater to create a high-temperature environment. They rely on high temperatures that produce heat by pouring water over heated rocks.

These saunas are all about that intense heat and can sting the nostrils.

Whether you’re at a gym, a spa, or even in your own home, traditional saunas provide an authentic sauna experience that’s hard to beat.

What is an Infrared Sauna?

On the other hand, we have the infrared sauna – the new kid on the block.

Infrared saunas operate using infrared heaters that emit infrared light to warm your body directly, rather than heating the air around you.

This means you get a more gentle heat that penetrates deeper into your muscles.

Infrared saunas heat your body at lower temperatures, making them a popular choice for those who prefer milder heat exposure.

What is a Steam Sauna?

Steam saunas, also known as steam rooms, offer a different kind of heat experience. Traditional steam saunas use a steam generator to produce moist heat, filling the room with steam.

This type of sauna operates at lower temperatures, usually between 110°F and 120°F, but with high humidity levels.

The steam helps open up your pores and can be particularly beneficial for respiratory health.

Traditional Steam Saunas

Traditional steam saunas are similar to traditional dry saunas but incorporate a steam generator. These saunas are excellent for those who enjoy the moist heat and the benefits it brings.

The high humidity in steam saunas can aid in detoxification, improve circulation, and enhance skin health.

Steam Rooms

Steam rooms are another variation, often found in spas and gyms. They provide a humid environment with lower temperatures, making them suitable for longer sessions.

Steam rooms can help with relaxation, muscle recovery, and respiratory issues.

Now that we’ve got a basic idea of what each type of sauna is, let’s dive deeper into the key differences and see how they stack up against each other.

Key Differences Between Infrared and Traditional Saunas

Let’s look at the differences between both sauna types to help you make your decision…

Heating Method

The primary difference between infrared saunas and traditional saunas lies in how they produce heat. Traditional saunas heat your body by using a heater that warms the air.

This heater is usually filled with rocks that get very hot. When you pour water over these rocks, it creates steam, increasing the humidity and the sensation of heat.

Infrared saunas, on the other hand, use infrared heaters that emit infrared light to directly warm your body.

The air temperature is less important in an infrared sauna because the infrared light penetrates your skin, heating your body from the inside out.

This method allows for a more controlled and consistent heat experience.


Temperature differences between the two types of saunas are significant.

Traditional saunas typically operate at temperatures between 150°F and 195°F, creating an intensely hot environment. This high heat is combined with steam, which can make the air feel even hotter.

Infrared saunas work at lower temperatures, usually between 120°F and 140°F. Despite the lower air temperature, the infrared light induces sweating at a deep level, which can feel just as intense and therapeutic as the higher heat of traditional saunas.

Health Benefits

We’ll touch on this in more depth later but both types of saunas offer numerous health benefits:

Traditional Saunas: Known for improving cardiovascular health, traditional saunas increase heart rate and improve circulation, similar to moderate exercise.

They also help with detoxification through intense sweating, relieve stress, and can improve respiratory health due to the steam.

Infrared Saunas: Infrared saunas are particularly effective for pain relief and muscle recovery because the infrared light penetrates deeper into tissues. They also support cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and provide significant detoxification benefits.

Infrared saunas are known to enhance skin health and can be more comfortable for longer sessions due to the lower air temperature.

Heat-Up Time

The time it takes for each type of sauna to heat up is another key difference:

Traditional Saunas can take 30 to 40 minutes to reach their optimal temperature. This is because they need to heat the air and the rocks to a very high temperature before you start feeling the full effects.

Infrared Saunas typically take about 10 to 15 minutes to heat up. Since infrared saunas heat your body directly, you can start using them as soon as the heaters are at the desired temperature.

Running Costs

Running costs can vary based on the type of sauna:

Traditional Saunas: Generally have higher running costs due to the need for higher temperatures and longer heat-up times. For example, a traditional sauna with a 6kW heater used for an hour, three times a week, can cost over $27 per month.

Infrared Saunas: Tend to be more energy-efficient, operating at lower temperatures and heating up faster. An infrared sauna used three times a week might cost around $14 a month.


Maintenance requirements differ significantly between the two types:

Traditional Saunas: Require regular cleaning to prevent mold and mildew due to the high humidity and steam. You need to clean the benches and walls frequently to ensure a hygienic environment.

Infrared Saunas: Generally easier to maintain because they produce dry heat. The only moisture comes from your sweat, reducing the risk of mold and making cleaning simpler.

The Sauna Experience

The experience in each type of sauna can be quite different:

Traditional Saunas: Provide a hot, steamy environment ideal for short, intense sessions. A typical sauna session can range from 5 to 30 minutes, and it is important to stay hydrated and take care of your body afterward.

The high heat and humidity can be invigorating and refreshing, but some may find it overwhelming.

Infrared Saunas: Offer a dry, gentle heat that allows for longer, more comfortable sessions.

The deep, penetrating heat of infrared saunas can induce a more intense sweat, promoting relaxation and detoxification over a more extended period.


Installation requirements can also influence your decision:

Traditional Saunas: Often require professional installation due to their need for plumbing, drainage, ventilation, and specific electrical requirements. This adds to the overall cost and complexity.

Infrared Saunas: Many are designed for easier, do-it-yourself installation. They often come in pre-built or portable forms and can usually be set up in a few hours with basic tools.

Sauna Cost and Prices

The cost of each type of sauna varies based on several factors:

Infrared Saunas: Generally more affordable, with prices ranging from $2,500 for entry-level units to $10,000+ for premium models.

Traditional Saunas: Tend to be more expensive due to installation and material costs, ranging from $10,000 to $30,000.

Final Thoughts

Understanding these key differences between infrared and traditional saunas can help you make an informed decision based on your personal needs and preferences.

Whether you prefer the intense heat and steam of a traditional sauna or the gentle, deep-penetrating warmth of an infrared sauna, both options offer unique benefits that can enhance your health and well-being.

If you can, try both types to see which experience suits you best before making a purchase.

The Health Benefits of Infrared and Traditional Saunas

When talking about the health benefits of a traditional or infrared sauna, there are many overlaps between them but there are also unique benefits to each. Let’s dig in…

Improved Cardiovascular Health: Both types of saunas help improve heart function and circulation by increasing the heart rate and expanding blood vessels.

Enhanced Blood Circulation: The heat from saunas helps improve blood flow throughout the body, promoting healing and recovery.

Detoxification: Saunas induce sweating, which helps eliminate toxins from the body.

Stress Relief: Regular sauna use helps reduce stress levels by promoting relaxation and releasing endorphins.

Improved Skin Health: Sweating helps clear pores and improve overall skin health.

Unique Benefits of Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas have some distinct advantages due to their specific heating method and technology:

Deeper Heat Penetration: Infrared heat penetrates deeper into muscles and joints, providing better relief for chronic pain and muscle soreness. Far infrared saunas penetrate deeper into the body, promoting detoxification and cellular healing.

Lower Temperatures: Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures, making them more comfortable for longer sessions.

Full Spectrum Infrared: Many infrared saunas offer full spectrum infrared, including near, mid, and far infrared wavelengths, which provide a range of therapeutic benefits such as:

  • Near Infrared: Penetrates the upper layers of the skin, enhancing skin health, promoting wound healing, and reducing wrinkles. It also stimulates collagen production, improving overall skin tone and texture.
  • Mid-Infrared: Penetrates deeper into the body’s soft tissue, helping with pain relief, reducing inflammation, and improving circulation. This wavelength is particularly beneficial for muscle recovery and alleviating joint pain.
  • Far Infrared: Penetrates the deepest, promoting detoxification by increasing perspiration and flushing out toxins. It also helps with weight loss by boosting metabolism and burning calories and provides significant cardiovascular benefits by improving heart health and lowering blood pressure.

Improved Mental Health: The gentle heat and soothing environment of infrared saunas can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Unique Benefits of Traditional Saunas

Traditional saunas also have their unique benefits:

High Heat Exposure: Traditional saunas provide a more intense heat experience, which can be invigorating and help boost cardiovascular health.

Steam Production: The ability to pour water over heated rocks to create steam can help with respiratory issues and provide a more humid environment.

Authentic Sauna Experience: Traditional saunas offer a classic sauna experience that many people find deeply relaxing and rejuvenating.

Choosing the Right Sauna for You

When choosing between an infrared sauna and a traditional sauna, you need to consider your health needs and preferences.

Considering Your Health Needs

If you have cardiovascular concerns, both types of saunas can be beneficial, but the lower temperatures of an infrared sauna might be more comfortable.

If you have chronic pain or muscle soreness, the deep heat of an infrared sauna can provide significant relief.

Sauna Sessions Preferences

Your personal preference for sauna sessions, which can range from 5 to 30 minutes, will also play a role in your decision.

If you enjoy the intense heat and steam of traditional saunas, then stick with what you love.

If you prefer a more gentle heat that allows for longer, more comfortable sessions, an infrared sauna might be the way to go.

Recommended Saunas

Infrared Saunas

  • Sunlighten mPulse Empower: Known for its full-spectrum infrared heaters, it provides a range of health benefits including detoxification, skin health, and pain relief.
  • Clearlight Sanctuary 2: This two-person infrared sauna features low EMF technology, and superior craftsmanship, and is a popular choice for home use.
  • Health Mate Enrich 2: This model offers advanced features such as low EMF technology, chromotherapy, and is designed for maximum health benefits.
  • TheraSauna Classic: Known for its unique ceramic heater technology, it provides consistent and effective heat therapy.

Check out my infrared sauna showdown for more detailed information on these infrared saunas.

Traditional Saunas

  • Almost Heaven Saunas Barrel Sauna: This outdoor sauna is made from Canadian hemlock wood and provides a classic sauna experience with both wet and dry options.
  • SunRay Sierra Sauna: A spacious four-person sauna with efficient heating and excellent build quality, perfect for larger families.
  • Dynamic Saunas Barcelona: This two-person sauna is made from hemlock wood and features six infrared heating panels, Bluetooth speakers, and chromotherapy lighting.
  • Maxxus Alpine Sauna: Accommodates up to three people and includes both carbon and ceramic heaters, with easy assembly and a stylish design.
  • Renu Therapy Rusticus Sauna: This large sauna can accommodate up to six people, offering both dry and steam sauna options with a rustic cedar construction.

Infrared vs Traditional: Final Thoughts

In the end, the choice between an infrared sauna and a traditional sauna comes down to personal preference and health needs.

Both types offer unique benefits and can enhance your wellness routine.

Whether you opt for the classic experience of a traditional sauna or the modern comfort of an infrared sauna, you’re investing in a healthier, more relaxed you.

Conclusion: Infrared Sauna vs Traditional Sauna

Choosing between an infrared sauna and a traditional sauna doesn’t have to be a heated debate.

Both types have their own advantages and can contribute to your overall well-being.

Ultimately, you need to consider your health needs, comfort preferences, and the type of sauna experience you enjoy most.

I hope I’ve given you enough information to make your decision.

Whichever you choose, you’ll be reaping the benefits of regular sauna use and stepping into a world of relaxation and health… Happy sweating!

And that’s it… have a healthy day!


Which is better, an infrared sauna or a traditional sauna?

The choice between an infrared sauna and a traditional sauna depends on personal preference and health goals. Infrared saunas provide deep tissue penetration at lower temperatures, while traditional saunas offer intense heat and steam, enhancing cardiovascular health.

What type of sauna is healthiest?

Both infrared and traditional saunas offer significant health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and detoxification. Infrared saunas are better for deep tissue healing and pain relief, while traditional saunas excel in enhancing respiratory health and intense heat exposure.

What are the cons of an infrared sauna?

Cons of infrared saunas include lower ambient temperatures, which may not be satisfying for those who enjoy high heat, and potential high upfront costs for premium models. Additionally, they may not provide the steam benefits of traditional saunas.

What is healthier, steam or infrared sauna?

Both steam (traditional) and infrared saunas offer unique health benefits. Steam saunas improve respiratory function and skin health through high humidity, while infrared saunas provide deep tissue penetration and pain relief with lower temperatures. The healthiest choice depends on individual health needs.

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