Traditional Finnish Sauna vs. Dry Cedar Sauna vs. Infrared Sauna
In this blog post, we’re going to break down the differences between a traditional Finnish Sauna, infrared sauna, and a dry cedar sauna and explain how each one works.
If you’ve been to Sauna House before, then you may have noticed that we have three different types of saunas. We know what you might be thinking: why in the world do you need three types of saunas? Isn’t one enough?!
Well, for one, our name is Sauna House! If anyone’s going to have multiple types of sauna, it’s going to be us.
All jokes aside, we chose to have three different saunas because they each operate a little differently, giving you a slightly different experience. And we want you to be able to experience the heat in the style you prefer.
Let’s dive in!
Traditional Finnish Sauna
Traditional saunas use extreme ambient air temperature and a little moisture to elevate your core temperature.
Our Traditional Finnish sauna usually runs around 177°F at 30%+ humidity. We’re sure we don’t need to tell you this, but that’s HOT. For reference, red meat only needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F for it to be considered “done enough” for safe consumption. But please don’t worry—the sauna isn’t going to cook you alive! Actually, your internal body temperature only increases a degree or two during each session.
Another key point about the traditional Finnish sauna is that there is moisture involved. Finnish saunas have the option to pour water on hot rocks which release a bit of steam and humidity into the air known as “löyly” in Finnish. (Of course, it's proper sauna etiquette to ask others in the room if they're okay with pouring the water first!). Usually, a traditional sauna has a humidity level between 20-40%. (Note: this moisture is still nowhere near that of steam rooms which hover near 100% humidity.)
As part of our Hot Cold Relax therapy, we advise that most people spend about 10-15 minutes in a Traditional Finnish Sauna.
Dry Cedar Sauna
Next up is our dry cedar sauna.
Dry cedar saunas use just extreme ambient air temperature to elevate your core temperature.
Like a traditional Finnish sauna, a dry cedar sauna ranges from 185-200°F but we keep ours at 193°F. The main difference is that you won’t find a bucket of water with a ladle to pour over the rocks. And thus, there is about 20% humidity in a dry sauna (hence the name “dry!”).
Think about the difference between a 90 degree summer day in Atlanta (a very humid city) and a 90 degree summer day in Las Vegas (a very dry city). While the temperatures are the same, the feeling you get when you walk outside is quite different! The more humid, the more sweat.
Another major difference with our dry cedar sauna is the smell and the view. Our dry cedar sauna smells like—you guessed it—cedarwood. Some guests say it feels like an aromatherapy session but we just think it smells nice. In our dry cedar sauna, you’ll also experience a soft light coming in from a north-westerly facing window and enjoy a view of a small portion of our 90+ indoor plants. And finally, our dry cedar sauna is located downstairs in our silent sauna and lounge area, making it a great place to zen out in quiet.
As per our standard prescription for Hot Cold Relax therapy, most people spend around 10-15 minutes in a dry cedar sauna.
Last but not least let’s talk about the newest type in the world of saunas: infrared.
Unlike a traditional Finnish and dry cedar sauna, infrared saunas use a form of light wave to create heat in the room and elevate your core temperature. Depending on the setting, our infrared sauna typically ranges from 125-155°F. That sounds like a walk in the park, doesn’t it? It kinda is.
The way the infrared works is a bit technical, but let us try to explain. You may have heard that there are certain frequencies of light and sound that the human body isn’t capable of perceiving. It’s kind of like that with infrared. When you step into an infrared sauna, you’ll feel its warmth. But you can’t see energy emitted from the infrared sauna panels as it is very close to the same wavelength as the energy that the human body emits.
These waves penetrate our body tissues, increasing your internal temperature and creating sweat that just never seems to stop once you get it going. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, you haven’t sat in the infrared long enough!
Fun fact: in many parts of Europe they have banned the term “infrared sauna,” refusing to bastardize a traditional sauna with such low temperatures.
Infrared exposure is designed to be lower temp but longer so our Hot Cold Relax therapy changes slightly. We recommend spending about 20+ minutes in an infrared sauna.
Note: Sauna House believes there is lacking data for infrared sauna health benefits and that many online claims are taking proven health benefits of traditional sauna and repurposing it for infrared. We do think there are some benefits for specific groups of people trying to battle autoimmune or Lyme disease.
So which is the right sauna for me?
People have been using saunas for thousands of years. This was long before we had electricity or knew that something named a photon ever existed. Largely it’s agreed that heat exposure has proven to be one of the most powerful tools in maintaining personal health and improving strength training and endurance. But as for which is better, for the most part, there isn’t any reputable data to support claims that one type of sauna is better than the other. There is data that says hotter is typically better.
Now, of course, there are anecdotal case studies and non-researched backed nor peer-reviewed articles that come out all the time. So yes, there are some cases of immuno-compromised people using infrared as a particular treatment method with success. But, and you might not like to hear this, in terms of average benefit for general personal maintenance in your wellness routine, traditional is better. The evidence says that you experience the benefits of heat exposure in each environment but hotter temps have some proven advantages, and the rest if just conjecture — or someone selling you something.
The point is, today we can’t crown “a better sauna,” but you can say there’s just a better sauna for you! That’s whichever one you like and would enjoy using the most. So come in and try them all! See how you feel before and after. Keep experimenting until you find what makes you feel best and stay hydrated!
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