Infrared Saunas and The Power of Heat
It seems as though every LA-residing, matcha-drinking, CBD-consuming, Soul Cycle-training man and woman is spending time inside the warm cocoon of an infrared sauna these days.
Not to be confused with the wet, sticky variety you saw at public swimming pools in your childhood, the infrared sauna is the latest trend being touted by the wellness community. But what’s the science behind it? And why is heat so important to our health?
I spoke with Suzanne Tuttle, founder of the chic wellness studio Nimbus & Co found in Bondi Beach and Byron Bay, and she agreed that there is a movement towards a more restorative approach to wellness along with people wanting access to services that promote longevity and act as a preventative for age-related illnesses, “People are also craving the ability to switch off and disconnect form their fast-paced and overly connected lifestyles. Infrared saunas allow people to slow down and support their overall vitality.”
But before we get into the health benefits, how do infrared saunas differ from the old-school hot houses? Tuttle, who offers the service at Nimbus & Co, said it’s twofold, “Firstly, infrared saunas are a lot more bearable, with temperatures ranging between 55 and 68 degrees. More importantly, infrared wavelengths can’t be seen by the naked eye but give off what’s called “radiated heat” which penetrates deep within your skin tissue, muscles and cells. High quality saunas, like those at Nimbus, feature full-spectrum infrared including near, far and mid infrared rays. These three different types of waves target different areas of the body in a really therapeutic way.”
In terms of the health benefits we can expect to see – and feel! – from regular infrared saunas, I now understand why it’s become so popular among people like Gwenyth Paltrow and Olivia Culpo. “The benefits range from detoxification to glowing skin, weight loss and pain relief”, says Tuttle. “Recent research found that regular exposure to near infrared wavelengths may assist in skin rejuvenation and reduce the appearance of fine lines.” This study here, supports this claim in it’s findings where patients experienced a “protective effect” on their skin’s physiology, pH level and water-holding capacity (hydration) after regular sauna use.
But it’s not just for beautiful skin! Tuttle explains, “Another great study viewed the benefits of regular infrared sauna use to remove heavy metals and toxins from the body. The study found that it has the power to help remove arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury.” This makes a lot of sense when you consider that so many chronic and autoimmune diseases are toxins, and most environmental toxins weren’t even known to humanity until relatively recently. We also know that sweating is one of our body’s natural ways to flush out those toxins, and infrared saunas help you get your sweat on.
Physical benefits aside, I think the impact of this new wellness trend on our happiness and stress levels is particularly exciting and Tuttle agrees, “Our clients range from mums wanting some well-deserved alone time, to corporate works wanting an escape after a crazy day at the office, to anyone who does high intensity exercise looking to speed up their recovery.” Personally, I love this study which show’s the effect of infrared saunas in reducing cortisol (stress hons!!) and this study which examined how the saunas, along with regular exercise and a high-fat diet, raise BDNF levels to reduce anxiety and depression.
Now I just need to find an infrared sauna studio as chic as Nimbus & Co in Auckland!