If you go to the sauna regularly, you’ll already have a sense of how the sauna is a place to de-stress, unwind, and be one with your body. It’s a great experience to use the sauna before or after a workout, or just in general as part of a wellness routine. But one thing that’s not super apparent when you first start using the sauna is what you should wear in it. You’ll notice people wear specific things, and so knowing a little about what you should be wearing and why will enhance your sauna experience.
You should wear something comfortable and absorbent when you go to the sauna. This may mean workout clothes or a cotton shirt and shorts, or it may mean wearing only a towel wrapped around you. It’s beneficial to wear something that absorbs sweat, though, to prevent staining of the wood and to put a clean layer between you and the sauna if you’re using public facilities.
Saunas are meant to make you sweat, so you don’t want to wear your business clothes, date-night clothes, or club clothes. One thing you might not think about is that you also shouldn’t really be waearing your Apple Watch or Airpods in the sauna due to the high heat.
Why What You Wear in the Sauna Matters
Saunas are typically small rooms that are heated to nearly-scorching temperatures. That means, on average, your sauna sessions will be heated to somewhere between 150°F and 195°F depending on where you go. This temperature is supposed to make you sweat, and you want your pores to be open and available to sweat out any toxins you might have.
Within a few minutes, your body will start to heat up. After no more than ten minutes, you’ll begin to sweat heavily, and after twenty minutes you’ll probably be drenched. You need to have breathable clothes or material up against your skin so that the sweat is wicked away, allowing your body to keep sweating. So, most people prefer to go into your sauna session in absorbent clothes or wrapped in a towel. Some people recommend going into a sauna naked or in a bathing suit, and simply putting the towel underneath you to protect the wood. The theory behind this is that the direct contact between the hot air of the sauna and your skin can have added benefits like:
- You not having to worry about what to wear or dealing with sweaty clothes
- The sauna will penetrate your skin deeper.
- You’ll sweat in more areas which can help draw out deep toxins.
- Some claim this is more relaxing.
Obviously, your specific sauna experience will come down to personal preference here. You probably don’t want to strip down in a public sauna, for instance, but those with a personal or private sauna might try multiple things here to see what gives them the best effects. When in doubt, just wear your cotton shirt and shorts or workout clothes and figure out if you want to optimize or try other clothes later. As long as it’s breathable, it won’t make or break your sauna experience.
The Best Options for Clothing to Wear in a Sauna
Now that we’ve though through the theory behind what clothes you might want to pick to wear in the sauna, let’s to recap. Whether it’s a portable sauna, an infrared unit, or a steam-based sauna, your best bet for a great sauna experience will be to pick a clothing option from this list:
- Workout clothes, which are typically breathable and likely already sweaty in this scenario
- Any cotton clothes that are absorbant and breathable (not too tight), and probably short sleeves and shorts will be better than long, all things equal
- Nothing but a towel wrapped around yourself
- A bathing suit, with a towel folded under yourself
- Nothing but a towel folded under yourself
What Not To Wear In The Sauna
For the sauna, you will want to avoid dressing in nice clothes, obviously, but there are some other types of clothing you should avoid to make sure you’re getting the sauna experience you’re hoping for. While the options above are great places to start and experiment with, here are a few things to avoid.
Tight Fitted Clothes, Shoes, Compression Sleeves, and Sports Bras
Tight-fitting clothes restrict the skin’s ability to breathe. And the real purpose of a sauna–sweating and opening up all of your pores–a tight-fitting piece of clothing is going to interfere with that directly by preventing your skin from relaxing, scrunching it up in places. And if the material isn’t right, it will lead to you overheating or even skin irritation.
If you like to hop in the sauna right after you work out, you may think it’s simpler to just leave your tennis shoes on. If you work out in any kind of compression sleeves or braces, like a simple knee brace, you might just think of it as part of your clothing and not remove it before getting in. You should really avoid wearing shoes or any kind of support clothing or braces into the sauna, because they’re made of different kinds of materials that can release fumes when cooked. For instance, a knee brace with some plastic componants is not designed to be baked in a sauna. For shoes (especially cheaper or worn out shoes) the high heat can cause the glue to separate, which means when you leave you might leave your soles behind!
When it comes to bras, avoid anything with metal components like an undewire or hooks in the back, because they’ll heat up more than the fabric and may lead to you getting burned. You’re most likely considering a sports bra
If you are wearing a bra with any metal, those pieces may get too hot and hurt you. If your sports bra has dye in it, this could bleed and turn your skin a different color. While a bra with an underwire in a sauna is probably not something you’re considering, some of the discussion above apply to sports bras as well: if it’s too tight, it can be uncomfortable and prevent some of the relaxing and pore opening you’re in the sauna for in the first place.
Jewelry and Wearable Tech/Fitness Trackers
Anything metal will heat up with the air. This may cause you discomfort or even burns. Any jewelry you have on, like necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings should be left outside the sauna if it’s reasonable to do so. In some cases, rings and non-removable piercings might not be a big deal, but just pay attention and cool these items down with some cool water if you have to jump out because they’re getting uncomfortable.
When it comes to Apple Watches and Airpods, as mentioned earlier in the article, these are no-gos for the sauna, as basically, any wearable tech is. From Fitbits to off-brand heart rate monitors or smartwatches, the high heat of a sauna is just not what these devices are designed for, and they may fail for any number of reasons if you take them in the sauna with you.
What Accessories To Avoid In The Sauna
Here are some things that you need to avoid bringing in the sauna. They may bother others or they may be destroyed due to the heat and moisture of the sauna.
A loofa is a scrubby brush that allows you to exfoliate your skin while wiping off the sweat. It helps you shed the first layer of dead skin cells. Though this may be fine to do in your own sauna, if you are in a communal sauna, you should avoid it to help prevent the spread of germs.
As described above, most electronics should be avoided when going into the sauna. Cellphones are great for tracking your workouts or maybe just keeping the music going while you’re working up a sweat, but they shouldn’t be brought in the sauna. Not only could the phone break, but it will distract others and, if we’re honest, it will distract you from what could be a relaxing, mindful experience. To each their own, but sauna aficionados consider being alone with your thoughts one of the things that enhance the sauna experience, adding an element of mindfulness and solitude.
Lotions and Makeup
Anything with fragrance may bother other people. On top of that, wearing lotions will clog your pores, and it will be harder to get rid of the toxins in your body. It is not a good idea to go into a sauna with a full face on. Makeup, like lotion, will clog your pores and cause massive breakouts when mixed with sweat. It will also give you a very streaky appearance after the sauna.
Most makeup is liquid-based or powdered-based; the minute you start sweating, your makeup will melt. This melted makeup will run down your body and clog the pores it touches. The toxins will not be able to leave your body in these areas. It is best to rinse off all lotions and makeup in the shower before getting in the sauna.
Caveat: What to Wear in a Sauna Blanket
The above discussion really only applies to the large-scale saunas that you walk inside. There are also sauna blankets, though, like the Higher Dose V3 (link to their site) which we explore a lot more in a separate article. For the purposes of this discussion, though, the rules for clothing are a little different: in a sauna blanket, you don’t want anything tight fitting, but you do want a layer of absorbent material covering your whole body.
That means long sleeves and pants, and even socks. This is because the infrared elements in a sauna blanket are right next to you body and you need a layer of material to both absorb sweat and keep the heating elements separated from you.
Find What’s Right for You
Some countries believe the only way to go into the sauna is fully nude. Others believe one towel around the waist is the proper way to do it. If you are comfortable going nude, you can try that, but wearing a towel, cotton clothes, or just your normal workout gear is going to ensure you have a good experience in the sauna. Leave the tech outside, and avoid any tight-fitting or non-breathable material, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a great, relaxing sauna experience.