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What Is an Infrared Sauna?

How Spending 45 Minutes in an Infrared Sauna Gave Me Better Skin and Less Anxiety

I cannot meditate. It doesn't matter how many times my life coach, physical therapist, and acupuncturist tell me I need to do it to calm my thoughts; it doesn't feel relaxing to me. My mind races, and I worry about the fact that I am not doing it right and "just breathing." But I've found other ways to feel zen and go into a calmer headspace. And for a multitasker like me, spending time in an infrared sauna is the right choice.

You may have seen celebrities or influencers talk about going to infrared saunas or share images of them on social media since it's quite literally been a hot trend for the past year. Higher Dose — an infrared sauna spot in NYC — easily books up weeks out. Trust me; I've tried to make appointments and haven't been able to get in.

When I finally did get in (for 60 minutes at $65), I loved the experience! Each client gets a private room with a sauna and shower at the 11 Howard location, which feels like a luxury in this crowded city. I spent 45 minutes in the sauna sweating out my toxins while the lights changed colors (this part is connected to chakras, and I'll explain this more soon!). The sauna had a cord for me to plug into my phone and listen to a playlist, which help me unwind. Music is therapy. (Don't worry; there's a closed box to store your phone in so it's away from the heat.) I was even able to snap a few selfies, but I didn't spend the time playing on my phone. Instead, I closed my eyes, listened to my favorite Justin Timberlake album, and let my body detox.

After, I showered and admired my skin. I went in expecting to feel less bloated and more relaxed . . . and that definitely happened. Plus, I slept better that night. But what I had not expected was how gorgeous it would make my skin. My forehead wrinkles smoothed out, my under-eyes flattened, and for lack of a better word, I was glowing.

To help explain how and why this all happens, I chatted with Richelle Oslinker of Higher Dose.

Image Source: Courtesy of Higher Dose

POPSUGAR: OK, So what is an infrared sauna?
Richelle Oslinker: Infrared saunas use heaters that emit infrared light waves that create heat in the body, rather than heating the air, whereas traditional saunas rely on hot coals or steam to heat up a room at an average of 200°F. Infrared heaters warm the body in the same manner as natural sunlight. The technology behind infrared saunas has existed for years, as these heaters are used in neonatal units to warm prematurely born babies. Infrared saunas heat your body up faster, even though they're a lower temperature (our HD saunas max out at 158°F) than normal saunas. This makes you actually release more sweat.

PS: Tell me more about how an infrared sauna is different than a regular sauna.
RO: Normal steam or hot rock saunas heat the air, where the infrared sauna heats the body directly. As a result of this, infrared heats human tissue directly, rather than just the surface of the skin. This makes infrared seven times more effective at detoxifying the body than a traditional sauna. Infrared sauna operates at 120°F to 158°F, making it a more comfortable experience.

PS: What is the recommended heat, and how long should you stay in and why?
RO: We set our saunas to the maximum of 158°F before every 45-minute session, but anywhere from 120°F and up is beneficial. A good amount of infrared is anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to experience an intense sweat.

PS: What are the benefits for hair, skin, etc.?
RO: Infrared therapy is known to assist with detoxification, relaxation, burning calories, pain relief, antiaging, skin purification, cell health, and improved circulation. That's why infrared saunas are loved by so many health, wellness, and beauty experts. When it comes to detoxification, infrared saunas detoxify seven times more than traditional saunas. It can detoxify the body of heavy metals, radiation, and environmental toxins.

As for antiaging, infrared saunas stimulate collagen production to reduce wrinkles and improve overall skin tone all over the face and body. It also contributes to skin purification, since infrared wavelength are the most effective wavelengths for healing the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin. It kills bacteria that causes acne on the face and body.

PS: Explain the benefits of the colors and chakras in the sauna.
RO: Chromotherapy, or light therapy, has been reported to reduce swelling, relieve pain, decrease inflammation, accelerate open-wound healing, and greatly reduce overall recovery after medical/surgical procedures. It is also a therapy for antiaging by reducing appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, crow's feet, and age spots. It energizes skin by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin, giving skin a youthful look. The colors connect in with your body's energy centers and help the energy flow to heal your emotional body.

Color-therapy breakdown:
• Red is believed to increase the pulse, raise blood pressure, and increase the rate of breathing. Red would be applied to support circulatory and nervous functions.
• Yellow, the brightest color used in chromotherapy, has been used to purify the skin; help with indigestion; strengthen the nervous system; treat glandular diseases, hepatitis, and lymphatic disorders; and assist metabolism.
• Green, a color associated with harmony, provides a neutral, positive calming effect.
• Blue promotes relaxation and calm. Blue exhibits tranquilizing qualities often used to relieve headaches and migraines, colds, stress, nervous tension, rheumatism, stomach pains, muscle cramps, and liver disorders. Blue is thought to have a positive effect on all kinds of pain.
• Indigo is used to address conditions involving the eyes, ears, and nose. It has a calming, sedative effect.
[Editor's note: During my infrared sauna treatment, I had a remote to change the colors and stay on any that felt great!]

PS: Why do you think infrared saunas are so popular right now?
RO: Everyone is always searching for that easy way to make themselves feel great (especially in a busy city like ours). Because getting into an infrared sauna requires minimal effort, it's a no-brainer for most people to just set aside a little bit of time for themselves.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Lauren Levinson
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