What Is an Infrared Sauna and How Does It Work?

Golden Designs Hanko 2 Person Traditional Sauna GDI-7202-01

Infrared saunas are quickly stealing the spotlight, becoming one of the most sought-after sauna experiences out there.

And it’s not surprising to see why:

  • They use infrared waves that penetrate deep into your skin, wrapping you in a comforting warmth from the inside out. No sweaty oven feeling; just pure relaxation.
  • They operate at lower temperatures than traditional saunas, making them a gentler option for those with sensitive skin.
  • Their deep-penetrating infrared waves work like an internal power wash, flushing out toxins like mercury and lead in your body.

Bonus: If you're all about saving the planet while basking in the warmth, these saunas are your eco-conscious partners in crime. They are energy-efficient and use less power compared to traditional saunas.

At Sun Valley Saunas, we only work with top sauna brands like Golden Designs, Dynamic Saunas, and Maxxus Sauna to deliver the crème de la crème of infrared saunas right to your doorstep.

We believe that understanding how these powerful wonders work is crucial, which is why this comprehensive guide dives into the science behind them.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what infrared saunas really are, what sets them apart from the rest, and why investing in one can lead to a treasure trove of health benefits, from enhanced circulation to stress reduction

So let’s get started.

What Is an Infrared Sauna?

An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses infrared heaters to emit infrared light experienced as radiant heat, which is absorbed directly by the skin, rather than heating the air around you.

Golden Designs Catalonia 8 Person Ultra Low EMF Infrared Sauna

When infrared light waves come into contact with your skin and body, they gently penetrate deep into your tissues, creating warmth from within, just like how the sun warms your body on a sunny day.

The heat generated by infrared saunas is more localized and focused on your body rather than heating up the entire cabin.

As a result, the surrounding air in the infrared sauna remains at a lower temperature, typically ranging from 100–150 degrees Fahrenheit (38–66 degrees Celsius).

Because of the more gentle and targeted nature of infrared heat, the overall experience in an infrared sauna is more comfortable.

The lower temperature makes it easier to breathe and reduces the risk of feeling overwhelmed or suffocated during longer sauna sessions, typically lasting 40–45 minutes.

How Does an Infrared Sauna Work?

An infrared sauna works by using infrared panels to emit infrared light, which is a form of electromagnetic radiation.

These saunas use infrared light waves to heat your body, unlike traditional saunas that work by heating the air inside the cabin using wood sauna stoves or electric heaters.

To truly grasp the marvels of infrared saunas, we must explore the captivating realm of radiation and its diverse effects on our bodies.

Different forms of radiation exist within the electromagnetic spectrum, each distinguished by its unique wavelength.

Some types of radiation have shorter wavelengths than visible light.

These include x-rays which are mostly used for imagery purposes, and ultraviolet rays—the fiery rays from the sun that give you that sun-kissed glow.

Others, like infrared radiation, have a longer wavelength, which though invisible to the human eye, is no less enchanting.

Fun Fact: The electromagnetic spectrum has a multitude of positive applications, and its latest and most advanced endeavor lies within the realm of saunas.

Infrared Radiation’s Role in Transforming the Sauna Landscape

Golden Designs Reserve 3 Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna, GDI-8030-02

For ages, traditional saunas have been cherished for their fitness and relaxation benefits, captivating people from all corners of the globe.

But even the most beloved traditions can have their downsides, and in the case of traditional saunas, the scorching temperatures were a bit too much to handle for some, especially those sensitive to heat.

As a result, they had to cut their sauna sessions short, robbing them of the chance to fully enjoy all the sauna benefits.

This challenge led to the quest for a better sauna experience, and infrared radiation emerged as the most viable option.

Scientists discovered that this remarkable form of radiation had the ability to penetrate the skin up to 4 centimeters and could transfer its energy as heat.

It was these unique attributes that caught the attention of sauna enthusiasts worldwide.

Within no time, infrared saunas were birthed through innovative infrared technology which harnessed the power of infrared radiation.

And thanks to the lower room temperatures these saunas produce, you can now enjoy longer sauna sessions in a more comfortable environment, making sauna-ing an excellent addition to your wellness routine.

The table below highlights some differences between traditional saunas vs infrared saunas.

Aspect Infrared Saunas Traditional Saunas
Heat Source Infrared heaters emit heat directly to the body. Heated rocks or stoves warm the air.
Temperature Lower ambient temperature (110-140°F) but still effective due to deep penetration Higher temperature (160-200°F) heats the air
Heating Time Quick warm-up time (10-20 minutes) Longer warm-up time (30-60 minutes)
Health Benefits Potential for detoxification, relaxation, pain relief, and improved circulation Similar benefits but primarily via heated air
Comfort Heat can feel gentler due to lower air temperature Dry heat might feel intense for some
Breathing Easier to breathe due to lower humidity Higher humidity can be challenging for some individuals
Installation Can be portable and easier to install Often requires dedicated space and professional installation
Energy Efficiency More energy-efficient due to direct heating Requires more energy to heat the air
Maintenance Generally low maintenance Regular maintenance of heating elements and rocks
Safety Lower risk of burns due to lower air temperature Slightly higher risk of burns from heated surfaces

Infrared Saunas Vary Depending on the Respective Infrared Spectrum

Infrared sauna types vary depending on the respective infrared spectrum they use.

The infrared spectrum generally consists of three main types of infrared waves:

  • Near-infrared (NIR) waves: They have the shortest wavelength (0.78–3 μm) but possess a unique ability to penetrate the deepest into your body.
  • Mid-infrared (MIR) waves: They have a longer wavelength (3–50 μm) that delves deeper into the soft tissues of your body, reaching hard-to-reach areas and increasing blood circulation.
  • Far-infrared (FIR) waves: They have the longest wavelength (50–1,000 μm) and are the closest among the wavelengths to the infrared heat emitted by your very own body.

    These waves resonate with your body's natural heat generation, creating a symphony of deep warmth that raises your core body temperature.

Each infrared wave produces a corresponding infrared sauna type, as we shall see below:

1 - Near-Infrared Saunas

A near-infrared sauna primarily utilizes near-infrared waves for therapeutic purposes (also called infrared therapy).

These saunas emit near-infrared light waves that can penetrate up to 3–4 centimeters into the skin, making them effective for:

  • Targeted muscle relief: The deep penetration results in improved blood circulation in targeted muscle areas, ensuring the muscles receive the right nutrients they need to recover quickly.
  • Skin rejuvenation: By promoting collagen production, near-infrared waves can help improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and overall skin texture.

Golden Designs Barcelona Select Elite 1-2 Person Near Zero EMF Far Infrared Sauna, GDI-6106-01 Elite

"Every other day I thoroughly enjoy the comfort cabin with the fun “light show”. Go ahead and order one. Enjoy." - Case Breeuwsm, Verified Buyer

2 - Mid-Infrared Sauna

In a mid-infrared sauna, specialized infrared heaters emit mid-infrared light waves that penetrate deeper into the body's soft tissues compared to near-infrared waves.

These waves can reach depths of up to 1–2 inches (2.5–5 centimeters), providing a more comprehensive and immersive therapeutic experience.

Mid-infrared saunas are also known for their ability to provide deep relaxation and stress relief. The gentle and enveloping warmth of mid-infrared waves can help soothe tense muscles, ease stress, and create a sense of tranquility.

3 - Far-Infrared Sauna

Barcelona Select 1-2 Person Low EMF Far Infrared Sauna, GDI-6106-01

For a far-infrared sauna, such as the Barcelona Elite 1-2 Person Ultra Low EMF Far Infrared Sauna pictured above, specialized infrared heaters emit far-infrared light waves that can deeply penetrate the body, reaching depths of up to 1.5–2 inches (4–5 centimeters).

This deep heat absorption sets far-infrared saunas apart.

One of the key advantages of far-infrared saunas is their ability to promote relaxation and detoxification.

The soothing warmth of the far-infrared sauna encourages the release of endorphins—the delightful feel-good chemicals that uplift your mood and leave you feeling relaxed.

And as the far-infrared waves penetrate deep into your body, they activate the sweat glands, leading to an increase in perspiration.

Sweating is a natural way for the body to release toxins, heavy metals, and impurities, leaving your skin looking rejuvenated and less prone to pimples, blackheads, and acne.

With this, you’ll also get to enjoy other benefits of skin detoxification such as:

  • Brighter and clearer skin since the detoxification process helps to clear out blemishes, pores, and blackheads
  • Firm and tightened skin which leaves your skin looking and feeling younger, thanks to the stimulation of collagen and production of elastin
  • Hydrated skin since the sweating and heat induced in the infrared sauna stimulates the skin’s sebaceous glands which are responsible for keeping the skin lubricated

Note: Some infrared saunas are designed to provide a combination of all these three types of infrared waves. They’re commonly known as full-spectrum infrared saunas.

These saunas use heaters that release all three types of infrared waves—near-infrared, mid-infrared, and far-infrared.

Each of these wavelengths offers its respective benefits, making full-spectrum saunas an excellent sauna option to enjoy a wide range of therapeutic benefits, from deep relaxation to improved circulation through heat therapy.

The table below highlights a few examples of our full-spectrum infrared saunas including:

Golden Designs Reserve 3 Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna Almost Heaven Spectrum 2 Person Indoor Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna Golden Designs Reserve 4 Person Near Zero EMF Far Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna

Golden Designs Reserve 3 Person Near Zero EMF Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna

Almost Heaven Spectrum 2 Person Indoor Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna

Golden Designs Reserve 4 Person Near Zero EMF Far Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna

This sauna comes with:

  • Chromotherapy Lighting System
  • Nakamichi FM CD Radio with Bluetooth and Auxiliary
  • 2 Himalayan Salt Bars
  • 3 Carbon PureTech Near Zero EMF Heater Emitters
  • 5 Full Spectrum Near Infrared Red Heat Emitters
  • 5 Year Warranty

This sauna comes with:

  • Bluetooth Stereo
  • Tempered Glass
  • Hemlock Construction
  • Chromotherapy Lighting
  • 1 Year Components Warranty

This sauna comes with:

  • Chromotherapy Lighting System
  • Nakamichi FM Radio with Bluetooth and auxiliary
  • 1 Himalayan Salt Bar
  • 3 Carbon PureTech Near Zero EMF Heater Emitters
  • 5 Full Spectrum Near Infrared Red Heat Emitters
  • 30 Day Money Back Guarantee
  • 5 Year Warranty

These models come in different capacities, some spacious enough to fit up to six individuals, while others compact enough for only one or two people.

Check our wide collection of full-spectrum saunas and other categories of infrared saunas (near and far-infrared saunas).

Get Your Infrared Sauna Today

From improved circulation and detoxification to relaxation and better overall health, infrared saunas offer something for everyone.

Watch this video of a doctor explaining how infrared saunas can improve health and recovery.


"We are enjoying our sauna. It was easy to put together. Sun Valley Saunas was very easy to work with. Our sauna arrived quickly and is of very good quality." - James S., Verified Buyer

Wes McMahon

Wes McMahon, is the founder of Sun Valley Saunas and a seasoned ski town sauna enthusiast. In early 2021, Wes transitioned from being an attorney and sauna aficionado in Sun Valley, Idaho, to founding Sun Valley Saunas. His deep appreciation for the Finnish sauna tradition has helped him understand and select high-quality, hand-built saunas for customers throughout North America. Combined with his understanding of the therapeutic and communal benefits of sauna culture, he advocates for the wellness practices that saunas can bring to your overall health. Got questions? Get in touch by calling 1-855-963-5665 or

Important: The information provided in our articles about saunas and related topics is intended for general informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your healthcare practitioner before using saunas, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are pregnant. Individual health needs vary, and what benefits one person may not be suitable for another.


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