Monday, March 4, 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Saunas and Steam Rooms

Saunas and steam rooms are two popular ways to relax, detoxify, and promote overall wellness. But what exactly are the differences between them and what benefits do they offer? This ultimate guide dives into everything you need to know about saunas and steam rooms.

What is a Sauna?

A sauna is a small room, typically wood-lined, that is heated to temperatures usually between 150°F and 212°F. The goal of a sauna is to make you sweat out toxins and impurities in your body. Saunas use dry heat created by a stove with hot rocks or a sauna heater. As you sit in the sauna, the heat causes your core body temperature to rise, inducing sweating throughout a 15 to 30 minute session.

There are a few different types of saunas:

  • Conventional saunas - The most common type, heated by a stove with rocks
  • Infrared saunas - Use infrared heaters to penetrate the skin more deeply
  • Smoke saunas - Burn aromatic wood like juniper to infuse the heat with smoke

No matter the type, dry heat is used to make you sweat out toxins in a sauna.

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What is a Steam Room?

A steam room, also sometimes called a steam bath, is a moist heat room filled with steam. The humidity level in a steam room typically ranges from 100-114°F. Steam rooms are made up of a steam generator that produces steam, which is released into a sealed room with tile lining all the walls and floors.

As you sit in the hot humid room, your body warms up, inducing a purifying sweat. The main difference from a sauna is that the steam room uses warm moist heat instead of intense dry heat. The steam helps open your pores as you soak in the heat during a 10 to 15 minute session.

Comparing Saunas vs. Steam Rooms

While saunas and steam rooms both make you sweat, they have some key differences:

  • Temperature - Saunas are much hotter, getting up to 200°F whereas steam rooms hover around 110°F since the moisture makes the heat feel more intense.
  • Humidity - Steam rooms have 100% humidity from the steam while saunas only have 10-20% humidity.
  • Air circulation - Saunas have a dry heat with no steam so the air feels lighter. Steam rooms feel more oppressive with the humid heavy air.
  • Material - Saunas are typically made of wood while steam rooms always have tile or glass lining to hold in the steam better without damage.

The overall experience also differs quite a bit - saunas feel like an intense blast of heat that shocks your body into sweating, almost similar to sitting in a very hot dry oven. Meanwhile, steam rooms feel more like soaking in a hot thick mist, with the moist heat working into your muscles to help you unwind and relax.

When it comes down to benefits, saunas and steam rooms both offer health perks from the sweating and heat exposure. But the intensity and style are quite different between the two.

Benefits of Using Saunas

Saunas have been used for centuries in cultures all around the world for cleansing, healing, and mental clarity. Some benefits include:

  • Detoxification - Heating your body makes you sweat out many toxins and impurities from your skin. Saunas help cleanse your body and remove heavy metals, bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and other harmful chemicals we're exposed to. The dry heat opens pores to purge out toxins that make you feel refreshed post-sauna.
  • Stress relief - Sitting in the intense dry heat triggers your fight-or-flight response. As your body works to cool you down, your brain releases endorphins and other mood-boosting hormones that calm your mind, reduce tension, and promote relaxation.
  • Improved circulation - The high temperatures expand your blood vessels, increasing blood flow for improved cardiovascular function. More circulation delivers oxygen all over your body which supports cellular repair.
  • Pain relief - The heat from saunas alleviate muscle tension, loosen stiff joints, and temporarily relieve aches and pains from sciatica, arthritis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and other conditions.
  • Immune system support - Frequent short sessions in the sauna heat up your body and mimic the effects of a minor fever - cascading your immune system into action against illness and infection. Stimulating your immune defenses leaves your body better prepared to fight off invaders.
  • Healthy skin - Profuse sweating clears dead skin cells and unclogs pores which can help reduce acne. The improved circulation and nutrient delivery also gives your skin a healthy glow.
  • Weight loss - A 30 minute sauna session can burn up to 300 calories as your heart rate increases to pump blood to cool your internal organs. Combing sauna use with exercise provides a major calorie burn.

With all these great benefits, it’s easy to see why saunas are a popular wellness practice in many cultures.

Benefits of Using Steam Rooms

Steam room therapy also offers a host of excellent health benefits to reset, restore and heal your body:

  • Muscle relaxation - The warm humid environment helps warm up and relax all your muscles simultaneously, reducing tension and stiffness throughout your body. This makes steam rooms helpful for athletes recovering from intense training sessions.
  • Respiratory relief - Inhaling the steam provides moisture to your airways and lungs, helping clear nasal passages, break up mucus, prevent colds and relieve bronchial congestion or asthma symptoms. The steam also opens blood vessels in nasal and throat membranes for easier breathing.
  • Stress relief - The moist soothing heat induces deep relaxation, as your heart rate slows and your mind stops racing. The steam calms anxiety and melts away accumulated stress. This makes steam showers an excellent natural sleep aid before bed.
  • Pain relief - The comforting warmth loosens up tight muscles and stiff joints. This reduces common aches and pains - excellent for arthritis, fibromyalgia, sciatic nerve irritation, back pain, cramps, headaches and more. The increased blood circulation from the heat also speeds delivery of healing nutrients to damaged tissues.
  • Skin health & cleansing - The steam causes gentle sweating that opens your pores to remove trapped dirt and oil. This cleans, nourishes and rejuvenates your skin cells, leaving skin glowing, soft and smooth. Steam rooms also improve skin elasticity and help reduce the appearance of scars over time with regular use.
  • Detoxification - Sweating out toxins eliminates waste products through your skin over a steam room session. This helps reduce the burden on your kidneys and liver which must filter toxins out of the blood. Ridding impurities boosts proper organ function and blood purity.

Steam room therapy provides profoundly deep relaxation for body, mind and spirit when you need to slow down and hit reset after a stressful day or week.

At Home Saunas vs. Steam Rooms

Thanks to improvements in heating technology, it’s now possible to install saunas or steam rooms in your own home.

Home saunas use new efficient space-saving heating systems to reach sauna rocks temperatures in a compact unit that fits in your bathroom, basement or backyard patio. Many plug into a 110V outlet and come with timer settings from 30 minutes up to a few hours.

Home steam rooms require more technical installations to route the steam generator properly and create a sealed room that keeps steam enclosed inside. This includes waterproof floor, ceiling and wall paneling along with a steamhead control box. But the benefits are nice - start each morning renewing in your steam shower right at home!

Considerations & Precautions

Saunas and steam rooms do come with some precautions:

  • Stay hydrated - Drink water before, during and after sessions to prevent overheating or dehydration which could lead to lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Limit time to 15-20 minutes - Sessions over 30 minutes put too much strain on your cardiovascular system and overheat vital organs. Take breaks outside the room to cool off and go back in if desired.
  • Check with your doctor - People with high blood pressure, heart conditions, varicose veins or implants may experience health complications from the heat, humidity and intensity. Check contraindications with your physician.
  • Avoid alcohol - Drinking alcohol before intense heat therapy can be dangerous and cause fainting or vertigo.
  • Cool off slowly - After intense sessions, be sure not to jump into cold showers or pools which shocks your system. Cool down gradually.

Making sure to follow reasonable time limits and take proper precautions, saunas and steam rooms can offer incredible health and wellness benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about saunas vs. steam rooms:

Which is better - a sauna or steam room?

There’s no definitively “better” option since saunas and steam rooms offer varied benefits. Saunas use dry heat to make you sweat out toxins at extreme hot temperatures up to 200°F. Steam rooms provide moist heat from steam around 110°F to promote deep relaxation. Choose whichever experience fits your wellness goals best.

What feels hotter - a sauna or steam room?

Saunas feel much hotter, similar to sitting inside a scorching 200°F oven thanks to the dry heat blasting your skin. Steam rooms feel slightly less intense at a humid 110°F but the moist heat still induces excellent sweating with a more comfortable experience for longer sessions.

Is sweating in a sauna or steam room more beneficial?

Studies show sauna sweating eliminates more trace toxicants and metals whereas steam room sweating expels more metabolized organic substances. However, both provide cleansing detox benefits from opening pores and inducing profuse sweating to purge toxins.

Can you be in a sauna or steam room while pregnant?

No - extreme heat and sweating pose health risks during pregnancy for mother and baby. Some gentle steam inhalation may offer congestion relief but full steam rooms or saunas cannot be used during the nine months of pregnancy.

How often should you use a sauna or steam room?

Experts recommend using saunas or steam rooms 2-3 times per week for 15-20 minutes per session. This provides health advantages without overtaxing your cardiovascular system. Be sure to build up from one session a week when first starting.


Saunas and steam rooms both provide wonderful benefits - just be mindful of health precautions. Listen to your body, stay hydrated and use sauna or steam therapy as tools integrated into your overall wellness routine a few times a week. Committing to regular sessions can greatly reduce daily aches and stress, strengthen immunity and leave you feeling internally cleansed and renewed.

I hope this guide helps explain all the key differences between saunas vs. steam rooms! Let me know if you have any other questions.

The Ultimate Guide to Saunas and Steam Rooms

Saunas and steam rooms are two popular ways to relax, detoxify, and promote overall wellness. But what exactly are the differences between t...