The Ultimate Guide to Saunas: Types, Benefits, and How to Choose the Right One

Timothy Munene Timothy Munene
The Ultimate Guide to Saunas: Types, Benefits, and How to Choose the Right One

Saunas have been used for centuries for various health benefits, including rejuvenation and relaxation. The units originated in Finland and have evolved over the years to be used worldwide.

Whether you’re using the sauna for the first time or are a seasoned enthusiast, it's important to understand the different types of saunas available, their benefits, and how to choose the ideal one for your needs. Join us as we delve further into the world of saunas. 

Understanding the Different Types of Saunas Available

There are numerous types of saunas available for the sauna enthusiast. These include:

·       Traditional Saunas

Traditional saunas are heated by wood or an electric heater. Water is poured on the rocks to generate steam, which heats the unit's surroundings. The traditional sauna can be placed outdoors or indoors, and it takes approximately 40 minutes to heat up appropriately. The temperature inside traditional saunas can hit 185 degrees and sometimes more.

·       Hybrid Saunas

Hybrid saunas are an advanced combination of traditional and infrared units designed for people seeking to enhance their sweating experience. You can use them as either an infrared or traditional sauna or a combination. Usually, their temperature and the time it takes to heat up depends on your choice of heating. 

·       Infrared Saunas

Unlike the traditional sauna, infrared saunas generate more sweat. These units rely on infrared waves to heat up and raise your body’s core temperature. Instead of heating the entire room, infrared heat targets your body. Compared to the traditional sauna, the temperature inside infrared units is way lower. The temperature inside infrared saunas can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Infrared saunas take up to 20 minutes to heat up. 

·       Steam Saunas

Also known as a steam room, a steam sauna heats up by generating steam discharged into the unit at regular intervals. These saunas are popular in gyms and are heated through a steam generator that boils water, converts it into steam, and continually releases it into the unit. While the temperature inside a steam sauna is usually lower, the high humidity makes the unit feel warmer. Steam rooms are made of plastic, glass, and tiles, making them easy to clean. 

·       Portable Home Sauna

Portable home saunas are ideal for steam enthusiasts who enjoy sauna sessions on the go. They are portable and cheaper than the other types of saunas discussed above. To use them, you only need to get inside and switch on the steamer to begin your sauna session. Portable saunas are available in different sizes and shapes and feature an infrared heating mechanism. 

Why You May Need a Sauna

Saunas have become popular worldwide for various reasons, such as:

·       Enhancing Well-Being and Overall Health

Research suggests that having regular sauna sessions can help reduce pain and stress levels. In a study conducted in 2019, researchers revealed that saunas can effectively reduce lower back pain.

Another Finnish study established that using the sauna can lower the risk of developing heart disease and elongate life expectancy. The study further revealed that having three sauna sessions weekly lowers the risk of sudden cardiac-related complications. Besides their physical benefits, saunas help you relax away from the hustles and bustles of everyday life. 

·       Relaxation

Saunas provide an appropriate environment for people seeking relaxation. The body’s response to the heat can promote attentiveness, reduce susceptibility to pain, and make you happier. Spending time inside the sauna also relaxes the muscles around your head and neck.

Regular sauna sessions help you connect with your emotions and can be a great meditation opportunity. Whether you’re a professional athlete or workout enthusiast, saunas help relax your muscles after vigorous exercise. 

·       Glowing Skin

Sweating stimulates the production of more nutrients and oxygen on the surface of your skin, triggering skin cell regeneration and helping your skin look healthier. Regular sauna sessions help moisturize your face and body without using clog-causing harmful chemicals.

As you grow older, managing aging symptoms becomes your core focus. Sweating inside the sauna stimulates your body to produce more collagen, improving the appearance of your skin. The temperature inside a sauna can play a big role in clearing dead skin cells. 

·       Detoxification

Detoxification occurs when the body excretes accumulated toxins from its system through the organs, tissue, and muscles. It is worth mentioning that the sauna is not a detoxifier. However, it facilitates the elimination of toxins via sweating through the skin. Studies have revealed that organochlorinated pesticides (OCPs) and bisphenol A can be eliminated from the body through sweating. 

Choosing the Ideal Sauna for Your Needs

Various considerations should be made before choosing a sauna, as seen below.

·       Size

Studies suggest that the standard sauna height should be seven feet, perfect for reducing heat loss. Still, you can choose a small sauna, four by four feet. But if you plan to accommodate multiple people in the sauna, an eight-by-12-foot sauna would be appropriate.

The available space within your home or compound determines the size of your sauna. Additionally, you must consider how you plan to use the unit. Will multiple people be using it at the same time? What additional structures do you plan to incorporate inside the sauna? Remember, the more structures in the sauna, the more space you need. 

·       Materials

The classic material for saunas is wood, with cedar being the most common. Cedar is a hardwood that hardly splinters. Further, it contains cedarwood oil, which makes it rot-resistant. Additionally, cedar discharges a pleasant scent upon heating. Spruce and pine are popular options that discharge a nice smell when heated. The material you choose should retain heat without making the unit uncomfortable for users.  

·       Seating

What type of seating do you prefer for your sauna? Commercial saunas usually feature benches in tiered rows. Consider having two-tiered benches, with the lower bench as a footrest and step stool for users sitting on the higher bench.

The tiered benches are ideal for multiple-user saunas. Remember, every sauna user will need approximately two feet of space inside and six feet to facilitate reclining. The unit should be between 18 to 24 inches deep for comfort. If users are reclining, then the sauna should have a lounging bench. 

·       Location

Before choosing a sauna, you must choose an indoor or outdoor unit. If you prefer an indoor sauna, having enough space in your surroundings is key. The advantage of an indoor sauna is that nearly all the structures you need are available, making construction less costly and easier. While outdoor saunas can be costlier, they allow you to experiment with the design and size.

If you opt for an outdoor sauna, you must identify an ideal location. Some people build the sauna close to their houses for easy access, while others incorporate it within their swimming pool area. 

·       Heat Source

You can choose between infrared light, an advanced technology, or the conventional external heat source. Traditional saunas use electric, gas, or wood-fired heating. However, sauna owners prefer electric heating, eliminating the manual and tiresome process of heating the sauna manually. 


Saunas offer various health benefits and promote overall well-being. As seen above, there are various considerations to make before choosing a sauna for your needs. Before buying a sauna, it’s important to understand how to choose the one that best suits your needs. 

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