August 22, 2007 A new wave of infrared saunas that use radiant energy to heat the body directly are gaining attention in the international market. Based on technology developed in the mid-60s, these products are seen as a more beneficial and therapeutic sauna experience, use far less power, operate at significantly lower temperatures and according to promoters, they are far more effective at releasing dangerous toxins from the human body. Companies like Carbontech, DiVapor and Sunlight Saunas have been developing sauna units that look like the traditional sauna, but instead of creating steam to heat the air within the sauna, Infrared rays are used to heat the occupants directly.
Traditional saunas work by placing stones over a heat source within a confined space to create a temperature of around 190 °F (92 °C). Water can then be thrown onto the hot stones, creating a ‘steam shock’. The steam helps to heat the air within the sauna and this raises the core temperature of the body, causing an individual to sweat. Inducing the body to sweat has been seen as a valuable therapeutic process for centuries, aimed at cleansing the body of impurities.
What makes an Infrared sauna different is that it is fitted with heaters that emit far infrared radiant heat, which actually heats the body directly rather than the air within the sauna. Typically, Infrared saunas would only have a room temperature of approximately 110-130 °F (41-57 °C), making them much cooler overall than a traditional sauna. Infrared rays are essentially electromagnetic radiation of a wavelength that is longer than visible light, but shorter than microwaves. The closer the wavelength gets to microwaves the cooler the air temperature will be, as the waves are absorbed by objects and not the air. The radiation heats the body through a process called conversion, which deeply penetrates the skin, and increases the body’s core temperature much quicker. This reportedly results in less stifling and unbearable conditions within a sauna, allowing the occupant to stay in longer and sweat more.
Proponents of the infrared sauna have likened the calming rays emitted by the heaters to natural sunlight, saying that after a session in an infrared sauna, you will feel refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated. Benefits listed by manufacturers of the far infrared sauna include:
Infrared saunas are being produced by a growing number of companies, like Di Vapor, who have just released the "Sahara". This infrared sauna retails at £3000 (US$5944), and includes a built-in FM radio, CD/MP3 connection, digital temperature adjustment, session timer and air purifier designed to eliminate bacteria within the sauna environment.
Even though the energy from an infrared sauna can penetrate the skin up to 40mm deep, makers of the saunas state that the products are 100% safe and extremely beneficial to your overall health. This new form of infrared therapy looks likely to rival the traditional sauna for effectiveness and affordability, however the attraction of a steam filled, Finnish log hut sauna, may not just be judged on the end result, but rather the whole experience.