Infrared sauna for skin health and acne treatment

Healthy skin is often found in lists of infrared sauna benefits. Regular sessions make skin glowing, soft, smooth and elastic, many web pages and articles say. Acne and other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema, get better. But, as majority of such texts is written by people who have an interest in infrared sauna business I’ve decided to question the benefits of an infrared sauna for skin health. I’ve done a small research to find independent data on how our skin is affected by infrared sauna. Here are the results, covering three topics: a) medical studies on topic; b) what people are saying; c) known effects an infrared sauna causes on skin tissue. I was also able to gather recommendations on how to use an infrared sauna to improve your skin.

Medical studies and trials

After searching through the web I’ve concluded that there is not enough support for infrared sauna (or conventional sauna) benefits for skin health. There are studies that concern usage of infrared but they do not study effects of infrared on skin. There is group of studies about light and infrared laser based treatments for acne and other conditions, but they can’t be used to support skin benefits of infrared rays coming from heaters used in an infrared sauna.

Blue/red light or infrared laser therapies work in a different part of spectrum than infrared sauna heater, in the area of visible and near-infrared radiation, while heaters in an infrared sauna work in middle- and far-infrared range. Also, these therapies concentrate high power of radiation in a small range of wavelengths (especially lasers), while in an infrared sauna, heater power is distributed over broad area of spectrum.

Different wavelengths and different distribution of power of wavelengths lead to different effects on human skin. In a treatment of acne, laser or intensive light source is used to damage sebaceous glands under the skin to reduce the excretion of oil, and to reduce the number of bacterias causing acne. Infrared heat in a sauna do not penetrate skin deep enough and do not have enough power to produce similar effect. Infrared just heats the surface of our body.

So, either there is no medical trials that study effect of infrared sauna on skin health and skin disorders, or I wasn’t able to find it. I’m very interested in reading such studies. If you know any, please let me know.

What people are saying about infrared sauna and skin health

On a skin health forums over the Internet there are little discussion about not just infrared saunas, but about saunas as well. Acne.org has forums I found most useful in my research, and there is plenty of threads about if sauna is good or bad for acne and skin. Just search the forums for ‘sauna’.

There is no one opinion on sauna on these forums. There are both positive and negative experiences with sauna. Some people say sauna helped them a lot, while others say it caused a breakout. General opinion is that it depends on skin type, appropriate regimen and hygiene. It is common to use sauna to clean pores and to exfoliate your skin afterwards. Taking a sauna too often can make your skin dry. You should alway wash off sweat right after the sauna and preferably with cold water, to make pores close.

Physiological effect of infrared sauna on skin

An infrared sauna has two major effects on skin: increased skin blood flow and sweating. Both are result of our body thermoregulation response to heat. Increased blood flow carries heat from internal organs to the surface, to releases it to environment, and sweat cools our body by evaporation.

Intensive blood flow should be good for skin, since it brings more oxygen, nutrition and carries away toxins and waste to be excreted by kidneys. Sweating clean pores, excrete wastes from the skin, promotes movement of fluids in the skin. Lost sweat should be replaced, so there is flow of fluids in skin while sweating. It can be called an exercise for the skin and underlaid tissues.

Many of us do not exercise enough and seldom experience intensive skin blood flow and sweating, which can mean that skin is not supplied with nutrients and oxygen, not cleaned from wastes and toxins as good as it could be. Taking a regular sauna sessions thus can help our skin to be more healthy.

But don’t forget that same effects can be achieved by other means, not necessarily with infrared sauna session. Any intensive physical activity or hot environment will trigger thermoregular response of our body and will provide similar results. You don’t have to use infrared sauna to keep your skin in good condition, but you can if you like it and experience and convenience it provides.

Infrared sauna will not cure severe skin conditions, and even can be contraindicated for them, just as intensive physical activity is contraindicated for some illnesses. Consult your doctor before using a sauna if you have serious problems with your skin.

How to find a best regime for your skin

Start small, with two or three sessions per week. Do not stay in an infrared sauna too long for the first times, 15-20 minutes will be enough. Then gradually increase number and duration of sauna sessions. Remember, skin of some people can’t handle frequent sauna sessions. Look how you skin will respond. If it will feel dry it is better to reduce sauna session length and/or frequency. Try different infrared sauna room temperatures.

When you leave a sauna cabin, always wash off sweat from your skin. Brush your skin with sponge to remove sweat and dead skin cells from pores. Some people don’t recommend to use soaps or any other substances while doing it. Also, it is common recommendation to take a cold shower after the sauna which will close your pores, so it will be harder for impurities to enter them.

I think that with right regime and hygiene, when you listen to your skin and how it responds, infrared sauna session will definitely be beneficial to skin health and mild skin conditions, such as mild acne. As skin health improves it will look and feel better.

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