The American Academy of Dermatology has declared November Healthy Skin Month, so we’ll remember to take care of our largest organ. Your grown-up birthday suit weighs about eight pounds and covers about 22 square feet. Researchers are finding that regular sauna sessions of up to 20 minutes can help keep your skin in top shape.
Saunas have a rich history of relaxation and rejuvenation, dating back centuries to when the Finnish would make theirs by digging huts into mountain sides or building log cabins. Although their look has evolved, saunas remain a fixture of modern beauty regimens for countless people who cite amazing benefits to their skin.
Are saunas good for your skin? What is it about them that leaves you feeling so refreshed? We spoke with board-certified dermatologist Dr. Erin Gilbert, MD, PhD to discover the relationship between saunas and your skin.
When you have irritated skin or develop an acne breakout, you want to find a solution fast. You may have tried countless facial cleansers, creams, or maybe even over-the-counter antibiotics with limited success. Many of these products try to cleanse your pores in your skin. Your body does this naturally with sweat and spending time in a sauna is a great way to sweat, a lot!
Have you thought about trying an infrared sauna to aid your skincare routine? One of the many health benefits of saunas is clearer pores and improved acne. Along with providing all-natural treatment for your acne, you can protect against future acne and pimple breakouts. Find out exactly how you can get better-looking skin naturally by spending time in your personal sauna.
What are the benefits to the skin from going into a sauna?
A benefit is that of increased circulation that comes with heat. It is through the blood that oxygen and nutrients feed the cells in both our skin and body, which are absolutely essential for keeping the metabolism of the cells acting young and making the repair processes function efficiently. All of this slows down with age, so I’m a real advocate of stimulating blood flow to the skin.
Why it’s good to sweat
According to Harvard Health Publications, you can lose up to a pint of sweat during a sauna session. The sweat flowing from your body will help wash away toxins in your skin, leaving your skin rejuvenated. Make sure to stay hydrated both before and after spending time in a sauna to maximize this benefit and stay healthy.
Sweat also plays a role in regulating your body temperature and may help fight infections. Excessive sweating in a sauna may increase your levels of dermcidin, a protein that fights harmful bacteria.
To best understand the benefits of sauna, you’ve gotta appreciate the restorative properties of sweating. Look at it from a fitness perspective: As you exercise, you boost your heart rate, blood flow, and circulation. At the same time, your pores get bigger. And the sweat flushes out the toxins that were hiding in those same pores. Fewer toxins mean fewer clogged pores, which mean smoother skin.
Replacing intense activity with high temperatures has a similar effect. We know because we asked a dermatologist. “The heat from the sauna increases blood flow, which in turn leads blood pressure to drop,” says Marina Peredo, M.D., of Skinfluence NYC. “The heart beats faster and more efficiently. As with exercise, the increased circulation means that more nutrients are being delivered to the skin.”
Keeps the skin young
Your skin, like any other organ, has a system on which it works. A sauna creates efficiency throughout the body, allowing organ systems to function more effectively. Regular sauna use creates efficient skin that breathes and functions, keeping you young. If you’re focused on a younger appearance, you’ve got to keep your skin functioning like it did when it was younger.
Once you remove the oils, dirt, and debris clogging your pores, this leaves behind a smoother, younger-looking complexion. This doesn’t happen after a single session however but rather, occurs after multiple sessions over the course of weeks. Then, after a few months, the difference becomes even more noticeable.
The increased moisture and how heat completely surrounds the skin can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Saunas have been called anti-wrinkle for their ability to cut down on wrinkle development and to help make them look smoother, more even.
Saunas are like exercise for your pores.
Dr. Gilbert says, “The thing about saunas is that you’re getting pore dilation, you’re opening up your pores.” Pores are designed to help us regulate our temperature, she explains. “What you’re doing in a sauna is you’re saying, ‘Hey guys, it’s really hot in here, I need to get cooler.'” Part of the way your body cools down is by opening your pores and sweating. Being in a sauna, therefore, is like “exercising your pores.”
Another study in Germany found that regular sauna use “leads to a more stable epidermal barrier function, an increase in stratum corneum hydration as well as a faster recovery of both elevated water loss and skin pH,” according to Medical News Today. The stratum corneum protects lower levels of the skin, and damage at this level can alter pH at the surface that could lead to infections or damage.
A sauna, particularly an infrared sauna, moisturizes the skin from the inside out. It’s an all-natural, chemical-free way to treat your skin to the utmost in moisture. Moisture from a sauna plays a significant role in reducing signs of aging. What would normally appear as dry skin is suddenly infused with warmth and moisture.
For best results, cleanse and moisturize your face and body when you finish your session. The sauna’s heat can dry the skin, so stay out if you have sensitive skin or some skin conditions. As always, check with your doctor if you are unsure about a sauna’s benefits for you.
With all these benefits for your skin, the sauna can make you look as good as you feel. Check out the Finnleo line of saunas at Olympic Hot Tub and sweat your way to that healthy complexion.
Spending time in a sauna can help increase circulation.
Spending time in saunas means you’re getting improved circulation to your skin, which, Dr. Gilbert says, “is effectively going to make your skin look healthier and better.” The increased circulation means more nutrients are being delivered to your skin, she explains, and more blood flow will see your skin glow with a rosier, healthier complexion.
Another way to help reduce your acne is with improved circulation through your body’s lymph system and bloodstream. When you sweat in the sauna, this draws additional oxygen and nutrients to the skin’s surface. As a result, you benefit from healthier-looking skin through skin cell rejuvenation. This process also aids in moisturizing your face and body naturally and without any toxic or clog filling chemicals.
Saunas may not be ideal for sensitive skin types
Saunas may cause discomfort for those with sensitive skin. This is because Dr. Gilbert points out, people with sensitive skin have sweat with a higher concentration of salt in it, and this can lead to irritation. For people with rosacea, saunas can be worrisome. Dr. Gilbert explains that because saunas can “encourage and permanently alter the number of red blood cells on your face,” it may mean that individuals who suffer from rosacea may not be able to recover from blushing as rapidly. Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis may also be irritated by saunas, so if you have either of these, it’s best to check with your dermatologist before trying out a sauna.
Tips for Better Skin Through a Sauna
Prepare areas of your skin that need attention before entering a sauna:
- Use the right facial cleanser
- Drink plenty of water
- Make sure to activate your pores with gentle abrasion
- Make sure you are actively sweating
- Take a cold shower immediately after your sauna break
- Consider a hypoallergenic lotion to hydrate your skin
When you are getting ready to visit the sauna for your skin treatment, take some steps to get the most out of your experience. Start by prepping your skin, particularly in the areas where you are suffering from an acne breakout.
If you have acne on your face, use a facial cleanser that is specially formulated for your skin condition. Also, make sure the cleanser is gentle enough to protect your skin from further irritation coupled by the heat of the sauna.
The goal is to remove any sweat, oil, or makeup from the skin. This helps induce the cleaning process and protects against further pore-clogging while in the sauna. You also want to drink plenty of purified water. Bring a bottle of water with you to the sauna and drink as you sit for the best results.
The water will aid in naturally filtering the toxins from within your body. This will help in preventing future acne breakouts due to hormones, chemicals, and other toxins. These toxins can cause flare-ups when released through the pores when you sweat.
Begin wrapping up your routine by taking a cold shower right after you get out of the sauna. In addition to cleaning your body from the sweat, sebum, and toxins released through the session, you treat your pores. The cold temperature shrinks the pores and closes them, which protects against acne.
Finally, after you have showered in cold water, moisture using a hypoallergenic lotion that will not clog your pores. Consider a non-perfumed, non-dyed, all-natural lotion that is free of toxins and chemicals. This can help extend the benefits of sauna treatments for your skin.
The Perfect Sauna Routine
Regardless of why you’re sauna-ing—to relax after a workout, or because you got wasted at the après-ski the day before and need to recover—you should wash your face first. You’ll want to remove any sweat buildup from a workout, especially if it’s started to dry, as well as any grime and product that has accumulated throughout the day. Since you’re going to be sweating profusely in the sauna, you want a clean canvas, preventing any pores from backing up.
Remember that you’re aggressively dehydrating your body. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after a sauna. This is imperative.
Don’t stay in the sauna for more than 10 minutes at a time. The heat has diminishing returns on your circulation and body functions. If you can, alternate with a cold plunge in the pool or a roll in the snow. If you’re at the gym, hop in a mild or warm shower to first cleanse the sweat away from your face.
“Sweating releases a high amount of salt, which needs to be washed away immediately after sweating,” says Peredo. “The combination of salt, sebum, and bacteria contributes to breakouts.”
Peredo also warns of buildup on the scalp: “What happens to the skin happens to the scalp, causing inflammation around the hair follicles and irritation.” So be sure to rinse your hair thoroughly and use your fingers to scrub away any grime—whether or not your shampoo.
After cleansing, immediately lower the water temperature: Cold water will bring the blood back to your body’s vital organs, and it will help the pores contract back to their resting size. You don’t want them to remain open, and you don’t want them to close until you’ve washed away all the salt and sebum that pours out while you’re sweating.
Many people will go back into the sauna after a cold shower. Limit this to one additional sauna session, so long as you follow with another cold-water submersion.
After your final rinse, dry off and then moisturize; the hot temperature can have lasting drying effects on your skin, so now is when you can restore hydration.
Sauna for Acne and Pores
Clogged pores and blocked glands all contribute to acne. Fortunately, a trip to the sauna can help you alleviate both of these beauty and health problems. You can get pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, and boils as a result of these conditions. This is due to the sebaceous glands that are located in the skin. These glands encircle hair follicles and are beneficial for generating sebum.
Sebum is a naturally occurring, healthy moisturizer that has the consistency of wax. While sebum is vital for keeping your skin moist, it also provides your skin’s cells with important nutrients. These nutrients help give your face a youthful, dewy appearance.
Showering helps remove dirt and oils from your body. However, Dr. Andrew Weil states on his website that taking a sauna creates heavy sweating that rinses out pores and glands. Moreover, saunas can eliminate infections and toxins. The website Saunafin mentions skin is the largest organ in the human body, and it emits thirty per cent of the body’s wastes. When a sauna induces heavy sweating, your body will detoxify by opening skins pores and removing impurities from within. When wastes and toxins are removed, unsightly skin conditions like acne, pimples and blackheads are less frequently problematic.
When the wax-based sebum, dead skin cells, bacteria, dirt, or bacteria get lodged in your pores or glands, this leads to acne. Going to a sauna and sweating through your pores is an excellent way of filtering out these impurities. As a result, you benefit from less acne without any expensive creams, harsh beauty treatments, or prescription medications.
Be sure to take a shower after visiting a sauna.
If you have an adverse skin reaction after visiting a sauna—even a few hours later—and your skin is feeling itchy, it may be because the salt is still sitting on your skin. Taking a shower or washing your face can help alleviate this discomfort. If you’re brave enough to try it, a cold shower after the sauna will create a circulatory shock of sorts, which can be very rejuvenating for your system and your skin. Regardless of the temperature of the water, “to prevent any irritation, and also for the sake of those around you in any enclosed spaces,” Dr. Gilbert advises, “you should shower after the sauna.”
Inflammation in the body can lead to chronic conditions. Normally, we don’t associate inflammation with the skin, but it does, oftentimes presenting in the form of swelling, heat, and redness. A sauna reduces inflammation in a big way, providing your skin with the chance to exist without negative, inflammatory influence.
Sauna for Collagen Production
As we age, our goal often moves from treating acne to treating signs of aging. One of the biggest signs of aging is a loss of plumpness to the skin. This plumpness comes from collagen, which is naturally produced by our own bodies. However, as we age, our bodies slow down this production.
Collagen is so beneficial because it provides our organs and tissue, including our skin, elasticity, and strength. When you visit the sauna and sweat, this increases the production of collagen in the body. You are also able to benefit from dead skin cell removal thanks to the heat of the infrared sauna.
Skin looks younger without dead skin cells clouding it up, de-colouring it, and covering up new skin trying to get to the surface. Cells are always replenishing. To give sight to what’s new, what’s old needs to be washed away. Through a sauna, this is what you get, and in return, a bright complexion achieved.
Choose Saunas for Skin
Now that you understand the health benefits of a sauna for skin, it is time to find your next personal sauna by Finnleo. We offer European-quality saunas for home gyms and master bathrooms to elevate your home self-care experience. Our design team will work with you to create the ideal sauna for your space.
How can a sauna be bad for the skin?
The drawback of a sauna is that temperatures are much hotter than in a steam room so while they can increase blood circulation and offer the benefits as mentioned above, someone with a lot of redness in their skin should avoid using a sauna altogether. It’s important to note that since heat rises, it won’t be as hot for any type of skin if you sit on one of the lower benches versus the top bench. I remember this all too well from my young sauna days. My sister’s and I would complain about it getting so hot, and how we couldn’t breathe and my grandmother was always telling us, “Move to the bottom bench!” And yes, it was much less hot down there.
Also, saunas are a drier heat because the temperatures are between 170-212 degrees making a less humid environment, anywhere from 5-20%. While they will provide a little hydration to the skin, they are considerably less beneficial for hydration than a steam room. Similar to use with a steam room, always apply a moisturizer immediately on the skin afterwards to keep the hydration in the skin and prevent evaporation when the air is dry.
Lastly, for those prone to melasma (dark brown patches on the skin from hormones), the heat may also increase the possibility of making discolouration more prominent since heat inflames the skin, raising the skin’s internal temperature and waking up melanin cells. The goal with any type of pigmentation is to calm overactive melanin cells with soothing anti-inflammatory ingredients like licorice and stable vitamin C as found in Vitamin C&E Treatment and so unnecessarily creating more stimulation of melanin with heat is never a good idea. If you are someone prone to pigmentation and are trying to get it to fade, an important goal is to keep the temperature of the skin as cool as possible, so this would mean avoiding being outdoors on extremely hot days, steam rooms, saunas, and hot yoga.
In summary, from a hydration standpoint, both steam and saunas are beneficial. Still, many topical products can provide an easier and quicker way to hydrate thirsty skin cells if that’s the goal you’re going for.
Sauna anti-aging benefits are preventative, can be a treatment to existing problems, helps to strengthen the skin as an organ, and provides you with the chance to regain youth lost or hang onto what you’ve yet to lose. Maintain, maintain, and maintain.