A post-sauna shower is an important part of the sauna experience. However, you shouldn’t use soap after spending time in a sauna. Soap, shampoo, and other cleansers can undermine the positive effects saunas have on the skin. Not only that but using soap after a sauna is completely unnecessary and a waste of money and your products. If you’d like to use it, do so before entering the sauna.
You shouldn’t use soap after the sauna, because your hot, open pores are more vulnerable to getting clogged with anything you apply to the skin immediately. You should rinse off after sauna use, and showering with soap before the sauna can prep your skin and keep your sauna cleaner over time.
Using soap after a sauna sabotages all the great benefits your skin reaps during the sauna experience. Doing so can cause irritation or leave a film on your skin. Instead of reaching for the soap afterward, all you need to do is rinse off. Your body takes care of the rest.
Effects of Sauna Use on Skin
Saunas are beneficial to the health of your skin. The function of a sauna is to raise your body temperature and cause you to sweat. The effects of this go beyond relaxation. A sauna’s heat ignites your body’s internal systems in a way that nourishes your largest organ: the skin.
When you’re basking in the heat of a sauna, the body’s systems kick in to cool you off in the form of sweat. To increase perspiration, your heart rate accelerates, increasing blood flow to the skin. This increased circulation makes your pores dilate so sweat and other toxins can escape. With the extra blood flow also come more nutrients to feed the skin.
While sweat and toxins are released immediately and your skin gets short-term benefits, regular sauna use has long-term benefits for the skin, too. Sauna use prompts your body to make collagen, a substance that keeps the skin elastic and strong.
Collagen production naturally decreases with age, but spending time in a sauna regularly can help the body continue to make collagen. Because of sweat and toxins leaving the body and nutrients flowing to the skin, saunas can improve your skin’s health and appearance. Regular use is associated with reduced:
- Blemishes like acne and blackheads (and, according to some reports, scarring)
- Signs of aging like wrinkles and thin-looking skin
- Inflammation and resulting swelling and/or redness
Exfoliating, or gently brushing your skin with a soft brush while you relax in the sauna, can deepen the benefits by stimulating your skin, encouraging blood flow, and efficiently removing salt and toxins carried to the skin’s surface by sweat. Perspiring while in the sauna helps your skin. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you want the sweat to linger and cling to you afterward. You should shower when you’re done—but not with soap.
Should You Use Soap After a Sauna?
Sweating while in the sauna is desirable. It’s important to rinse off when you leave the sauna, though. While a post-sauna shower is an essential part of your experience, you don’t need to use soap while you’re rinsing off. Sweating releases a lot of salt. It also carries other substances out of your body and onto the surface of your skin, including toxins like bacteria.
In terms of anatomy, it’s the sebaceous glands of your skin that produce sebum, a substance that, while protective, can build up and clog pores. It’s crucial for the health of your skin to shower these substances away after using the sauna. If you don’t, these will dry and stick around as your pores close, leaving an unpleasant film and blocking your pores.
To maximize your post-sauna rinse, cleanse your body, including your scalp (that’s skin, too) with water only. Don’t use soap, shampoo, or other cleansers because, after the sauna, your skin is hot with open pores and thus vulnerable to irritants.
Just as you can do while sitting in a sauna, you can facilitate the cleansing process by rubbing your skin lightly with your hands, a gentle loofah (on Amazon), or a skin scraper (a flat tool for ridding the skin of surface grime). End your rinse-off with cool or even cold water. This will help reduce your body temperature and reset your circulation (or in other words, your body’s state of homeostasis), diverting it away from your skin and closing your pores in the process.
Should You Use Soap Before the Sauna?
You should use soap before the sauna. Showering and cleaning with soap before sauna use prepares your skin by beginning to clear your pores of existing sweat, oil, dirt, dead skin cells, and other substances. That way, there’s less debris blocking the path of perspiration once your pores open and the natural cleansing process begins. This helps keep the sauna clean as well.
Using a premium soap (on Amazon) before the sauna won’t damage or irritate your skin. It can even make your pores cleaner than just a quick, soapless rinse would. You can buy fancy sauna soaps like these bars (also Amazon) that smell great and act as a kind of aromatherapy as you bask in the heat. These aren’t necessary, though. You can get the same cleansing benefits from your ordinary, inexpensive daily soap. Using soap before the sauna benefits your skin, but the advantages don’t stop there.
We have a separate guide on the best ways to clean your sauna and keep it clean over time, but one important way to do that is to make sure you’re clean before stepping inside your sauna. This will prevent unwanted residue and odors from building up and making the sauna less pleasant to be in.
Using the sauna should leave you feeling great. The goal is to feel both relaxed and revitalized inside and out. Ideally, your skin will feel soft and smooth and have a healthy glow from the process of warming and releasing unwanted substances through opened pores. Using soap during or after sauna use won’t give your skin this wonderful afterglow but instead can leave you feeling tight, dry, itchy, and generally uncomfortable. Use soap right before entering, rinse it off thoroughly, and then let the sauna process work its magic on your skin.