There are a lot of benefits for your skin if you indulge in regular sauna sessions. Many of these benefits even have scientific studies backing them up to further prove that saunas can do a lot for us.
Just like anything else, saunas should be used in moderation, in order to avoid any of the negative effects from them. Let's take a look at what saunas can do for your skin...
In general, dry saunas make you sweat, which can excrete toxins through the skin, like it was designed to do. Dry saunas usually only have as much humidity (moisture) in them as the surrounding air has (usually little to none) which can dry out skin if not properly taken care of.
Steam or wet saunas seem to have a few more benefits for the skin (based on my research) because of the elevated humidity levels in them. These levels can be as high as 30% in a traditional sauna (when water is splashed on top of the sauna rocks) and 100% in steam rooms.
As I mentioned previously, there are notable benefits to using a sauna on a regular basis but if used improperly or for extended periods of time it can actually have negative effects. Here is a quick list of some of the pros and cons so you can quickly get an idea of what works and what to watch out for..
I searched the web thoroughly and found no evidence that it will tighten the skin. This doesn't mean that it won't work, it just means that a study hasn't been conducted yet to prove whether or not it works.
Sweat does help maintain the body's collagen structures and can reduce the appearance of fine lines, so there may be some validity to the question.
I did find a study that stated that regular sauna sessions can help increase collagen production in the body which would affect loose skin, to some degree. I also found a good forum post where a few people stated that they felt different after using a sauna or performing cardiovascular exercise (sweating) and felt like it was working, but had no solid proof of this.
If I find out more on this topic I will post about it here, to keep this page as updated as possible.
I can not find any information stating that a sauna will help you achieve a tan in any sort of way. Ultraviolet rays are usually what cause our skin to get "color" and not infrared rays.
After a sauna session, the skin will be flush due to the heat of the sauna and will remain that way for a couple of hours afterwards but will return back to its normal tone after that period. There is no evidence that suggests that your skin actually gets darker from an infrared sauna treatment.
There is an article that sums up the effects of UV rays, Visible Light and Infrared rays on the skin, that will help you better understand how the three types of light work and what affects they can have on your skin.
Most saunas use a dry heat, meaning there's no humidity or moisture in the air which can actually cause the skin to dry out. Another element to saunas is the heat that they use and heat is one of the skins worst enemies because he actually dries the skin out very quickly which can lead to problems in people who have sensitive skin.
When your skin gets to dry, it's natural reaction is to produce more oil to help balance out some of those moisture levels. If this happens, this could also be a negative effect for people with sensitive skin or other issues such as acne.
Traditional saunas can have anywhere between 5% to 30% humidity inside the room if you were to splash water on top of the hot rocks. This would eliminate some of the negative effects that the dry air would have on the skin but would not help with the heat issue.
A sauna can help with Psoriasis and it does this by relaxing you and allowing stress levels to subside, which is oftentimes a trigger for existing or new Psoriasis outbreaks. This method can be used to control Psoriasis on a basic level and help to eliminate new outbreaks from occurring.
On the other hand, the heat that a sauna produces increases blood flow to the skin and can make the affected areas more red and possibly irritated. A steam sauna would help with this a little bit because of the added humidity in the air.
Helpful Resources On Psoriasis and Saunas
There are mixed opinions on whether or not saunas can help with Eczema, just like Psoriasis. Some people claim it helped them out a lot (sometimes the only thing that worked) and others that say it irritated it and made it worse.
Eczema is oftentimes treated with sealing in moisture on the affected areas so a steam sauna or a sauna with raised humidity levels would probably work better than a dry heat type of sauna (infrared). Heat tends to irritate Eczema more, in many cases and should be avoided whenever possible.
Livestrong.com recommends a combination of moisturizing creams with sauna use, for a better overall result with regards to treating the eczema. The best thing you can do is give it a try yourself, just keep the sessions under 15 min. in the beginning to see what happens. Try a dry sauna and a steam sauna to see which works better for you, or if it works at all!
Helpful Resources On Eczema and Saunas
There seems to be a bit of a disagreement when it comes to the question of whether or not saunas can help with acne. Some forms of acne will not fare as well from a sauna session and some will have awesome results (what my research showed, anyways). There is an interesting post on acne.org where different people share their experiences with saunas and acne.
There is a method to using a sauna that will determine whether or not it will actually help your acne or just make it worse. One thing to keep in mind is that a sauna makes you sweat and sweating is our body's natural way of excreting toxins through the pores in our skin. If you were to use a sauna and not to shower or towel off afterwards, then all of the excreted toxins would still be on the surface of your skin and could potentially clog your pores, making your acne even worse.
To be sure you get the best results possible, using from a sauna session, be sure to:
From the research I conducted, saunas are very unlikely to cause cancer, if you use them correctly. The biggest concern is the amount of time people spend in a sauna, if the time is too long and too frequently. Infrared saunas are more suspect than traditional saunas because they use infrared light that penetrates the skin.
There are a couple of studies that suggest that the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones, when it comes to infrared rays . Another question was asked on hps.org and it stated that long exposure to heat can "reduce DNA repair efficiency, and promote skin cancer that is initiated by other agents". UV rays are usually the culprit when it comes to skin cancer associated with light.
You can use natural moisturizers (fragrance free) before going into the sauna, if you would like.
Plant derived moisturizers are best for this. You can apply moisturizer during your session as long as it wont clog the pores.
Shower after using the sauna and apply more moisturizer.
Use moisturizers to protect your skin but be sure to shower before and after your session to have a clean base to go off of.
Keep your skin type in mind and use an appropriate moisturizer. For dry skin a water based moisturizer would work and for more oily skin, an oil based moisturizer (plant based) might be a better pick.
Apply before the session and after, making sure to shower first and applying the moisturizer while your skin is damp.