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Saunas for Skin Health?

A Dermatologist weighs in.
Saunas for Skin Health?

Saunas have long been touted for their detoxifying effects on the skin and body. But while many believe there are many benefits of sauna for skin and body, saunas have recently come under some scrutiny for being harmful to one’s health. Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

PRO: Saunas provide a natural deep cleansing. Increased sweating caused by the sauna is a simple acceleration of one of the body’s natural mechanisms for ridding itself of impurities. This can also have a positive effect on your pores.

CON: Saunas can over-dry your skin. Heat dries out skin, and the body’s natural reaction to dry skin is to create more oil to balance moisture levels. This could lead to an increase in breakouts and dry skin patches. This can be especially true with too much sauna use or a long sauna session. Limiting your time in the steam prevents your skin from drying.

PRO: Saunas relax and de-stress you. Stress is the ultimate enemy of health and skin. Taking 15–20 minutes in a hot sauna can help relax your mind and body, melting your stress away.

CON: Overheating. The extreme heat inside a sauna can raise body temperatures to unhealthy levels. Doctors caution to never exceed 30 minutes in a sauna, with most recommending 15–20 minutes max.

PRO:  Saunas increase blood flow and blood circulation. While in the sauna, pulse rates jump by 30% or more, allowing the heart to nearly double the amount of blood it pumps each minute. Most of the extra blood flow is directed to the skin.

CON: Circulation is directed away from vital organs. The increased circulation that flows to the skin actually moves blood away from the internal organs. Additionally, blood pressure changes vary by person, rising in some people but falling in others.

How to benefit from the sauna While there are some cons to sauna use, there are still some sauna benefits when used with caution. If you’re going to the sauna, follow these tips* for a healthy experience:

  • Avoid alcohol or medications that impair sweating
  • Do not stay in longer than 15–20 minutes
  • Drink two to four glasses of cool water after
  • Do not use a sauna when you feel ill or are recovering from an illness

Also, be sure to cleanse and/or shower after. While sweating is one of the sauna benefits, it can still clog your pores and lead to breakouts.

Saunas can be great for your mental, emotional and physical health. Just be sure to use them responsibly for maximum benefit.

*Courtesy of Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.