Roxanne, you don't have to put on that infrared light—but if you do, those wavelengths will work some serious magic to detox on a level a traditional sauna can't quite reach.
The beauty and wellness realms have been buzzing with the topic of infrared saunas as of late, and they're a far cry from the sweltering cedar rooms you'd sit in for maybe 5 minutes max when they were stationed next to the hotel pool. Sure, you'll sweat a ton during your 35-minute session, but thanks to the infrared waves, the process isn't unfomfortable in the slightest, thanks to the serotonin and dopamine that get produced in your brain once the light show starts. "A regular, Finnish-style sauna heats you just from the outside, whereas an infrared sauna heats you on the inside as well as the outside since the different wavelengths of light penetrate 3 inches into your body," explains Dr. Josh Kantor of New York City's Chill Space. "This is why you don't feel the stifling heat you would with a traditional sauna, and it's very easy to do. It's very passive, and you're getting multiple health benefits with something that feels good."
The first obvious benefit lies in the sweating aspect—both saunas and infrared saunas are fantastic for removing heavy metals from the body, and according to Dr. Kantor, studies have shown that chemicals have been found in sweat that wouldn't have otherwise been excreted. Infrared saunas in particular can mimic mild exercise. "You burn anywhere from 300 to 600 calories just sitting there, and there are additional anti-aging benefits, as it causes your blood vessels to dilate," Dr. Kantor adds. "Infrared lights have been shown to help with pain relief, strengthening of the immune system, and stress relief as well. You get the endorphin release, and it has a physiological effect on the body."
We can attest to its zen-like qualities—the warmup session lasts anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes upon entering, with the profuse sweating happening toward the tail end of the treatment. The soft, pulsating lights, heat hanging in the air, and liquid coating our bodies, it was almost as if we had been beamed up to some mothership where the extraterrestrial beings were friendly and had a penchant for relaxing, Enya-esque tunes. Before your session, make sure to hydrate accordingly, and be in the right mindset, which is with the end goal of total relaxation. Although you shouldn't partake if you're pregnant, Dr. Kantor believes just about anyone would benefit from 35 minutes in the pod. "Whether you're doing it for pain relief, are trying to detox, or are just in need of some relaxation, the infrared sauna seems to invite all crowds," he adds.