What You Need To Know About Infrared Heat Therapy

By Jessica Hamlin

Most of us have heard about saunas—and some among us may have even found ourselves in the small rooms filled with dry heat and wooden bench seating. But now infrared saunas and heat therapy are a hot health trend. (Pardon the pun). So why are people getting their infrared sweat on?

The Atlantic reports:

“Infrared saunas use infrared light to heat the body from within rather than the air from without, as a traditional sauna does. Because of this, the saunas are able to operate at a lower temperature, usually around 157 degrees Fahrenheit rather than over 200, while providing the same (science-supported) cardiovascular benefits. Infrared saunas claim the light penetrates skin more deeply than the heat of a traditional sauna, which leads to more sweat, which leads to a more abundant release of ‘toxins.’”

What's The Deal?

Many infrared heat retailers claim infrared heat helps release almost seven times as many toxins compared to traditional heat—but when a reporter for The Atlantic looked into the only source she found for this claim (a textbook on the science of the body), the authors denied it. While our bodies can release salt and small amounts of metals when we sweat, the authors said that they had no specifics on the amount of toxins.

However, other research shows infrared radiation, such as that from infrared saunas, can relieve pain and stiffness, boost immune function, burn calories, and benefit nerves and motor functions.

While I don’t know for sure what happened to my body or toxins when I went to “urban sweat lodge” Shape House a couple of years ago, I felt good, relaxed, and rejuvenated. They gave me loose fitting clothes, escorted me to my own private space, and wrapped me in a thick infrared blanket on a bed in front of a TV where I could watch Netflix as I sweated for 55 minutes. Afterward, I was able to enjoy sipping water and eating fresh orange slices in a small quiet room where guests sit post-sweat and are discouraged from using their phones.

I went three times. (Thanks, Groupon). And each time felt like a “clean” sweat, as opposed to a post-exercise sweat that leaves me feeling gross and in need of a shower ASAP, lest I clog my pores. I found that after I rinsed off my face, dried off, and changed clothes after my infrared sweat session, I didn’t feel icky and my stamina lasted longer throughout the rest of the day, without a full-on shower.