I'm all about eating right/exercising/self-care as a means of being your best self, but when I heard about a "quick fix" that claims to take care of all three in a matter of minutes, I had to try it out. Enter: The Infrared Sauna.
Infrared saunas have become increasingly popular in the US in the last few months (any photo you've seen on Instagram or Snapchat of someone wrapped like a sweaty burrito was taken in an infrared sauna) and tout a lot of miraculous, seemingly magical capabilities. But despite what the internet says, do Infrared saunas really work? I decided to try one and find out (yes, in lieu of going to the gym.)
According to wellness-focused interior designer, Clodagh, who is a huge proponent of the use of infrared saunas in people's homes (her current project, Citizen360 in NYC, includes infrared saunas for all of its residents), infrared saunas can help with detoxification, fighting wrinkles, relieving pain, and beating stress. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Apparently, Oprah and Gwyneth Paltrow think so, and who am I to argue with royalty?
Infrared saunas are apparently more effective than regular saunas because of the way the infrared waves penetrate the skin, which activates the sweat glands. When the waves are applied to the water molecules that make up 70 percent of our body, the molecules start to vibrate which breaks them down and allows toxic materials to be released.
People have been using heat to heal and detox for a very long time, and they first became interested in infrared heat in the 1800s. The true origins of the infrared sauna can be traced back to Japan in the 1960s, when the first patent was secured for the science behind these types of saunas.
The sauna I decided to test was at a place appropriately called Sweat Spa in Kuala Lumpur (where I happen to be living at the moment) and didn't involve any of the burrito-body-wrapping that I'd seen online, which was a little disappointing. The sauna itself was a sort of "box" big enough to fit one person, and had invisible infrared lights in three of the four walls.
I sat (first wrapped in a towel, then straight-up nekkid.) in the box for 45 minutes while the temperature climbed from 132 to 147 degrees Farenheit over the course of the treatment. In case those numbers don't emphasize it enough, let me tell you. It. Was. Hot. It felt like a regular sauna, but somehow the heat felt thicker and more overwhelming. I spent the session reading Marie Claire Malaysia, chugging lukewarm water, and counting the seconds until it was over.
While I was in there, I sweated like crazy. My entire face and body were completely drenched in a way I'd never experienced before, and I found myself wiping my face with a towel at least once every minute. My skin was also super itchy, which I later found out was because of the water molecules vibrating beneath the surface. So at least I now know it was working.
As far as safety concerns go with an infrared sauna, it's important to stay hydrated, and listen to your body if something doesn't feel right. If you have any health concerns or heat sensitivities, you should check with your doctor before heading in for a sweat sesh. According to Clodagh, the best results come from using infrared saunas daily, which is why more and more people are starting to put them in their homes.
When I got out of my personal little sauna box after the 45 minutes were up, other than being totally naked and soaked in my own toxin-filled sweat, I felt pretty freaking amazing. My head was clear, my skin looked gorgeous, and somehow felt more hydrated. Can I say for sure if my one-time sauna treatment will have any longterm effects on my health and wellbeing? No. And the five glasses of wine I drank later that night probably didn't help. But did it do its job in the moment? Absolutely.