Saunas that use ceramic heaters are commonly known as infrared saunas. Infrared saunas have garnered a great deal of media attention lately, largely for their potential health benefits.

But how do infrared saunas actually work, and what do they do?

What Is Infrared Light?

Non-infrared saunas are heated in a few different ways. Steam saunas use steam pumped in through vents (or generated by pouring water on hot rocks), and traditional dry saunas use a wood-burning stove.

Infrared saunas, however, are heated with ceramic heaters that emit infrared light.

Humans can’t see infrared light because it lies outside of the spectrum of visible light, just like ultraviolet light, gamma rays and microwaves — that’s why infrared cameras can detect things that humans can’t.

Electromagnetic spectrum

The Electromagnetic Spectrum, NASA

What makes infrared light unique is that although we can’t see it, we can feel it on our skin as heat. According to NASA, when an object isn’t hot enough to radiate much visible light, it will radiate infrared light.

Is Infrared Light Safe or Dangerous?

Although infrared light is a type of electromagnetic radiation, it isn’t harmful in the same way that other types of radiation are, unless it’s allowed to reach an extremely high temperature or is concentrated in a narrow beam like a laser.

In fact, infrared light has been found to have a number of beneficial properties:

  1. NASA found that infrared light reduces the painful side effects of chemotherapy and radiation-based cancer treatments.
  2. A study from Kagoshima University Hospital found that infrared dry sauna therapy improved the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome in two patients.
  3. A study from the Osaka City Perinatal Center observed that infrared radiation therapy increases lactation in nursing mothers.
  4. A study from Nishi Kyusyu University suggested that infrared dry sauna therapy can relieve pain, depression and anger in people with chronic pain.
  5. A study from Kagoshima University discovered that infrared dry sauna therapy may improve vascular endothelial function in patients with coronary risk factors.
  6. A study conducted by German researchers revealed that near-infrared light treatment significantly improved the complexion and feeling of skin.
  7. A study from Kyungpook National University concluded that a combination of near-infrared light treatment and treadmill walking has a positive effect on weight loss and abdominal fat loss.

On the other hand, risk factors of using an infrared sauna are low. Plus, infrared saunas also offer all the same benefits as other types of saunas.

Just check with your doctor before using an infrared sauna if you have silicone implants, a serious heart condition, or circulatory problems. Children and seniors should also be particularly careful when using any type of sauna, as they are prone to overheating and dehydration.