At some point in the last year, my experience with Infrared saunas went from casual interest to a full-blown obsession.
I started doing yoga at Y7, an infrared-heated studio, and I started going for regular infrared heat wraps at Shape House. Then Higher Dose opened in the hotel I frequent in NYC, and I started making regular just-before-bedtime infrared sauna appointments when I was in town for business. Basically, I was seeking out this wellness treatment whenever I could, and as I was getting more and more into it, I was seeing it pop up on just about every wellness blog and celebrity Instagram.
Like how Goop says infrared light mobilizes and burns fat, which also helps with detoxification. Or how Chalkboard Magazine describes infrared saunas as a great way to rid your body of unwanted toxins and heavy metals such as mercury and lead, increase your circulation, relieve unwanted pain, assist in weight loss and purify your skin. And The Cut says IR light reduces signs of aging by boosting circulation, blood flow, and collagen production — all of which improve the look of your skin.
And listen— I know celebrities aren’t doctors or experts. But when I saw Lady Gaga sweating it out as a way to deal with her chronic pain? I’m not gonna lie, I felt validated.
The truth is, I was hooked, Gaga or no Gaga. After every session I could feel my blood circulating better. The dopamine was flowin’. My face was rosy and glowy, and I slept like a baby.
Fast forward to when we bought our little beach house, and I decided to dream big. Could I plunk a little Infrared Sauna in the (very small) backyard and build my own little wellness spa? Clearlight Infrared Saunas made my wellness dreams come true, and now the whole family is hooked.
Isn’t she gorgeous? It’s the Clearlight Sanctuary Outdoor 2, tucked into a corner of our little backyard, and positioned so that whoever’s inside can gaze out at a calming view of the ravine behind us. All the windows make the experience a lot less claustrophobic than other saunas, and the wood paneling, windows and doors are all weather-resistant.
How is an Infrared Sauna different than a regular sauna?
There is lots of research, and some science, but not all of it is conclusive or agreed upon by doctors and scientists. There are many people that think Infrared saunas are a scam and have no health benefits. I’m just going to share what I know from my own research.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or an expert and you should absolutely 100% consult with your doctor before you try any kind of healing modality!
With that out of the way…
Sweating for health and wellness is nothing new: Think Greek or Roman baths, or the sweat lodges of Native America. Ancient cultures knew that one of the best ways to get rid of toxins.
Regular saunas heat you by heating the air around you— which is usually around 170-195 degrees fahrenheit. This is why it’s really uncomfortable to sit in a sauna for longer than 10 or 15 minutes, and you feel like you can’t breathe. Infrared saunas use light waves to heat your body directly versus heating the air around you. A better description: It’s often explained as heating your body “from the inside out” (Sounds nice, right?). As your body absorbs the heat, it increases your core body temperature, so you get a great sweat while the temperature around you is much more tolerable.
There are three wavelengths in the infrared spectrum— each penetrating more and more deeply into the body. Near infrared heat penetrates just beneath your skin, making you sweat; mid infrared penetrates deeper, helping with circulation and repairing bodily injuries; and far infrared wavelengths penetrate the deepest, deep into your fat cells, which causes them to vibrate and release toxins (did you know lots of toxins in your body are stored inside fat cells?), as well as promoting weight loss. My Clearlight sauna is “full spectrum”, meaning it has all 3 therapeutic wavelengths.
Science does confirm that infrared heat helps improve circulation and that regular use is associated with lower blood-pressure, too. What’s more, long-term studies have found that traditional saunas are great for overall heart health. (A few smaller studies have also found that there’s a correlation between infrared saunas and pain relief.)
What’s it like in there?
It’s hot. It’s not I-gotta-get-out-of-here hot, but it’s hot. And you’re dripping sweat. So if you can get past that, it’s great! I read books in there, I prop my laptop outside and watch videos, or use the handy iPad prop on the door handle… or I listen to podcasts through the Bluetooth speakers in the ceiling.
I’m also finding relationship benefits, too. I’ll head in with my husband, and we use our little sauna a bit like an isolation chamber where we can talk, kid-free for several minutes, and get a dose of some much-needed adult time. (Annie’s not a fan, but Spencer loves it, and we have great talks in there as well.)
More cool features: It’s app-controlled, which means that I can turn it on from inside the house and in 10-15 minutes it’s up to temperature. Then I’m headed out back and ready to sweat. It also features medical-grade Chromatherapy in the ceiling, along with great Bluetooth speakers, and a pocket cabinet to put your phone in that stays cool.
Technology’s Role on the weekend
When we bought the beach house, I was very particular about what technology would be allowed entry— only the tech that helped us feel well, restore, disconnect from the internet, and connect with each other would be allowed entry. I wanted our weekends to be full of feeling good and togetherness. I don’t think there’s a feature of our little weekend place that promotes that more than the Infrared Sauna we’re so lucky to have in the backyard.
My skin, my sleep, my energy levels and my mood all improve every time I sweat it out.
This post was created in partnership with Clearlight Infrared Saunas, who also provided the sauna for this review. As always all opinions are my own.
All photos by Hannah Garvin Photography