Can You Add Steam to an Infrared Sauna?

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Infrared saunas are great for the mind and body since they feature a unique heating system that heats the body from the inside. This process creates positive physiological changes on multiple levels and promotes deep relaxation, which helps reduce stress levels. Now, when you combine an infrared sauna with other wellness treatments, you’ll find there is a synergistic effect at work. This may make you wonder if you can get the benefits of a steam bath and an infrared sauna simultaneously?

Unfortunately, you cannot add steam to an infrared sauna. They are not designed to be operated in high humidity environments. Adding steam can result in electrical shortages and damage to your infrared sauna and should be avoided. 

Heated infrared saunas are one of the healthiest ways to relax and unwind while improving your cardiovascular system. However, one of the downsides of infrared saunas is the limited number of options when it comes to how to heat the room other than the infrared panel. If you want to learn why steam cannot be added to an infrared sauna or learn more information about steam and infrared saunas, then you’re in the right place.

Why You Shouldn’t Convert an Infrared Sauna to Steam

Infrared sauna cabin

As we’ve explained before in our guide on saunas types, infrared saunas work by using IR panels to heal your body from the inside. These panels are electronic and can be damaged if exposed to too much moisture or hot steam.

Getting liquid (water vapor) from the steam onto electronics isn’t suitable for the infrared sauna; it could irreparably damage it. Additionally, it could result in an electrical shock or fire hazard for the sauna occupants and the building. 

In other words, infrared saunas are not designed to handle high humidity and steam with the room. The main reason is because of the exposed (non-waterproof) electronics inside infrared saunas. Think of it this way; you wouldn’t want your laptop or television in a room with a lot of steam, would you?

If you’re like most people, you answer “NO!” Most people’s reason is that they know the steam would destroy their devices. The same is true for infrared saunas. If you desire to add steam to your infrared sauna, your reason might be because you do not feel hot enough, or you just want more heat.

If that is the case, you can try increasing the thermostat temperature. If you have already maxed it out, there are other options. For example, you can wear a layer or two of cotton clothing or stay in the infrared sauna for longer.

But perhaps, the infrared sauna feels too cool to you because you’re used to an infrared sauna. If that is the case, there’s a reason for that feeling. It’s because infrared saunas do, in fact, have lower temperatures than traditional saunas (infrared: 120 to 140˚F and traditional: 150 to 195˚F).

However, infrared saunas heat your body directly from the inside out. They don’t heat the air in the room directly, which is why the “room temperature” is lower. Infrared saunas do heat your body substantially (on par with traditional saunas); it just feels different, and added heat should not be necessary. 

Is Steam or Infrared Better for Saunas?

Steam rooms like this one (on Amazon) and infrared saunas are both great for relieving physical and mental stress. However, they affect the body differently as the heating mechanisms they use are entirely different. Both have many benefits, and it is near impossible to say one is better than the other.

Additionally, every individual will have different opinions and responses to infrared saunas and steam rooms. The simple answer is – both are great, but you may like one more than the other. So, try both and see what you like best!

How Steam Rooms Works

Steam rooms generally have tiled interiors to trap moisture in. They use steam pumps to completely fill the room with hot steam to raise the temperature. The very dense steam makes it challenging to see just a few feet in front of you. Steam rooms can help clear your sinuses, hydrate your skin, and help you sleep better. 

Because they are so saturated with steam, your skin is never dried out. You will sweat profusely in a steam room, but it will be less noticeable since the room is already filled with steam. To most people, steam rooms feel much hotter than traditional saunas.

However, they are usually around 110 to 120°F (43 to 49°C) compared to traditional sauna’s temperatures of 150 to 195°F (65 to 90°C) – make sure to get a sauna hygrometer like this one (on Amazon) so you can make sure your sauna is the right temperature.

The reasons steam rooms feel hotter are twofold. First, the hot steam is more efficient at transferring heat to your body than hot air. Secondly, since the steam room is at 100% relative humidity, your body cannot cool itself through sweating and evaporative cooling. 

When you sweat in a traditional sauna that has very low humidity, your sweat almost immediately evaporates. When it evaporates, it removes heat from your body through the latent heat of the vaporization process.  

How Infrared Saunas Work 

Man relaxing in a luxury infrared sauna

Infrared saunas are usually wooden interior rooms that warm the occupants with infrared or far-infrared rays. These rays penetrate your body’s tissues and heat them directly. Since infrared rays do a poor job of heating the air, their rooms are much cooler than steam rooms.

With that being said, the people inside are still being heated directly, which makes it an easy and beneficial heating method. Infrared saunas help improve the circulation and oxygenation of your blood. They also support weight loss, decrease cellulite, and improve users’ mood and relax them. 

For most individuals, a quick 10 to 20-minute session in an infrared sauna a few times a week is enough for them to reap significant health and well-being benefits. And since the heat feels less intense, many sauna users can more easily extend their visits up to 30 to 45 minutes or over an hour. However, new sauna users should still limit their exposure and slowly ramp up. This will prevent injuries.

Are Infrared Saunas Worse For Your Skin?

Infrared saunas, including the blankets which we have another full guide on, can have varying effects on the skin of the human body. To expand, infrared radiation makes up parts of the sun’s rays it provides to the Earth (UV-A and UV-B are the more significant part of its rays).

Infrared is the component of the rays that warm your body. If you have ever laid in a sunspot in your home from a window with the curtain pulled back, then you’ve felt infrared (IR) radiation. IR radiation is also why it feels hotter when you step out of the shade into direct sunlight. 

With that being said, the correct amount of IR radiation can be beneficial to your skin. It depends on the wavelength and the duration of exposure. It can promote healing, initiate new cell production, reduce inflammation, and increase collagen.

On the flip side, too much IR radiation can be detrimental to your skin.  It can increase melanocyte pigment and can cause inflammation if overused. Therefore, as with most things, don’t overdo your infrared sauna sessions! Your skin will thank you. 

What is an Infra Sauna?

Alas! There is a way to get an infrared sauna and a steam room hybrid- an “Infra Sauna!” It provides you with the best of both worlds. Infra Saunas are designed to include both infrared heaters and steam generators and are an excellent option for those that want to up the ante and experience two types of heat in a sauna at once. 

Infra saunas are a combination of steam and infrared saunas; they come with digital controls, glass doors, benches, and heater guards. They have wooden interiors, typically made of spruce, hemlock, or cedar. Unlike regular infrared saunas, they include a water bucket with a ladle and sauna rocks.

The bucket and ladle are used precisely the same way as in a traditional sauna. You splash water onto the hot sauna rocks with the ladle when you want to increase the humidity. When the water comes into contact with the hot stones, it flashes into steam. Unfortunately, you still can’t upgrade an existing infrared sauna to accommodate a steam heater; you have to order a hybrid system to start with if you want both. 

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