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Infrared Sauna vs. a Traditional Sauna: Which Is Best for You?

Saunas have been a part of traditional medicine for many centuries. People have always believed there is a benefit to sweating, and there’s something incredibly relaxing about sitting in a sauna and just sweating it all out. But did you know there’s a new option on the sauna scene?

In addition to traditional saunas, infrared saunas have started to make a name for themselves. These saunas work differently than older models and can offer some different benefits.

Keep reading to learn about the differences between an infrared sauna vs. a traditional sauna.

How Does a Traditional Sauna Work?

Traditionally, people who went to a sauna would sit in a log cabin structure around a fire pit with rocks laid over the top. When the fire warmed the rocks enough, these people would throw a bucket of water onto the rocks, creating a great deal of steam. This high heat and humidity were believed to provide a number of wonderful health benefits.

These days, traditional saunas still retain some of the same elements. There is heat and steam which can be wonderful for both your mental and physical health. But most modern saunas use steam generators and glass enclosures so their guests don’t have to throw steam on rocks anymore.

What Is an Infrared Sauna?

Infrared saunas are a more modern spin on the traditional sauna experience. These focus on the heat part of the sauna experience rather than the humidity part. There is no steam, only rays that heat up the body without raising the overall temperature of the room.

There are two basic types of infrared saunas: far infrared and near infrared. Far infrared saunas use rays that can’t penetrate the user’s skin and deeper tissues. Near infrared saunas emit rays that can travel through the skin up to several inches deep, helping to increase their effectiveness.


The methods of action that traditional saunas and infrared saunas use are completely different. A traditional sauna heats the air around you to a degree that your body kickstarts its natural cooling process. This means bringing blood closer to the surface of the skin and opening the pores to release sweat.

Infrared saunas emit a wavelength of light that your body absorbs without heating up the room around you. This absorption starts that same cooling process without having to steam you in the process.


One of the constant components of a sauna, whether traditional or infrared, is that they involve high levels of heat. In traditional saunas, temperatures can get above 185 degrees Fahrenheit. While this is very effective for producing the intense sweating saunas aim to achieve, that level of heat can overwhelm people who are more temperature-sensitive.

Infrared saunas can stay cooler because they focus on heating up the body itself rather than using the room to do so. Infrared saunas keep the temperature between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much more tolerable for those who are sensitive to heat. However, the infrared rays do still induce the intense sweating that characterizes a sauna experience.


As you might expect, traditional saunas have a much higher level of humidity than infrared saunas do. Proponents of the traditional sauna point to this humidity as part of the benefits of a traditional sauna. The steam can open your pores and allow your skin to rehydrate, as well as promote better sleep later on.

Infrared saunas, of course, do not use steam and thus have a much lower level of humidity. Instead, they rely on the sweating mechanism for their benefits. Infrared sauna enthusiasts claim the intense sweating these saunas produce can detoxify the body and help promote weight loss.

Energy Requirements

If you’re considering installing a sauna in your home, one of the big questions you’ll need to look at is the energy requirements for each. Traditional saunas require more power than infrared saunas do since they have to heat up water to boiling point. They can take as much as 6 kw of power to run for one session.

Infrared saunas only use power to run their heating elements, making them much less expensive from a power perspective. They use about 1.6 kw of power per session, about a third of what a traditional sauna does. If you plan to use your sauna often, this can start to make a big difference.

Safe Use

No matter whether you’re using a traditional sauna or an infrared sauna, there are some safety precautions you need to observe. In either case, you’re eliciting extreme sweating, so be sure you drink plenty of water before and after your session. If you start to feel unwell, leave the sauna immediately and get some water; call a doctor if you don’t feel better soon.

Infrared saunas are still new on the health scene, and so they are still being researched. Preliminary studies show that they don’t pose any significant risks, but they should be used in moderation. Stick to sessions under half an hour, and don’t use the sauna more than a couple of times a week.

Learn More About an Infrared Sauna vs. a Traditional Sauna

No matter which variety you choose, spending time in a sauna can be a great way to relax and improve your health. Knowing the difference between an infrared sauna vs. a traditional sauna can help you decide which one you want to invest in. Make sure to stay hydrated, and no matter which model you choose, you’ll love the results you see.

If you’d like to get a sauna for your home, reach out to us at Thatcher. We have hot tubs, pools, fitness systems, and more for you to add to your home. Get pricing for our traditional and infrared saunas today.