When I walked into the dimly lit, palm tree–painted room decked out with an extra-large flat-screen TV, private shower and bathroom, and a sauna pod equipped with surround sound, I thought, Damn, this is legit. I wasn't completely blind to what I was about to experience, but I didn't know what it would actually be like. Infrared saunas are one of those things you just have to experience for yourself. I've read so much about them since influencers and celebrities alike are regulars at popular NYC-based spot Higher Dose. I wanted to see what all the hype was about since it's supposed to have insanely amazing skin and body benefits. Studies show that infrared saunas help with diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome as well as depression and anxiety.
"Infrared is a light that turns into heat as soon as it hits your body. Compared to traditional saunas or steam rooms that heat air, an infrared sauna never heats air, it only heats your inner core body temperature," Richelle Oslinker of Higher Dose explained to me. "It's a really great detox for your body. When you're sitting in our sauna for 30 to 40 minutes, you're going to have a deep, intense sweat. A lot of heavy metals, environmental pollutants, and anything that's stored in your fat cells that you can't get out is released through infrared light." You can burn up to 600 calories in one session because your heart rate increases so much.
Aside from the detox aspect, I was of course intrigued by its skin benefits. "It boosts collagen production, so if you have any sagging spots or areas on your body that need a little help, infrared helps with that," says Oslinker. "It's literally like putting a steamer on your face, deep-cleaning your pores and leaving behind a plump effect. A lot of people who have acne scarring love going because afterward your skin looks noticeably brighter and feels baby-soft."
Oslinker confirmed that the technology of infrared saunas originated in Europe and then were used in baby incubators because the light is safe and nurturing and helps heal the young internal organs of a child. "So we like to call our infrared saunas adult incubators," Oslinker said, laughing.
If you thought I was done, the benefits don't stop there. Infrared saunas are also incredible stress relievers. "If you're dealing with stress and anxiety, give yourself that 30 to 40 minutes to relax and sweat it all out," says Oslinker. It also It's also been proven to help people who have problems sleeping through the night. "I don't drink caffeine, but as soon as I wake up, I go to the sauna and that's what gives me energy in place of caffeine. I come in the morning, and I'm fueled for the rest of the day," says Oslinker, confirming that this holistic approach could potentially replace your morning cup of coffee.
Oslinker continues: "We recommend 30 to 45 minutes of infrared for your body. We also give you chromeotherapy, which is medical grade color therapy—LED skin healing. It's the same experience as if you went to an esthetician and they give you an LED face mask; the same light is in our saunas. The red light helps with acne inflammation, blue helps calm the skin, and green helps with sensitive skin, plus an array of chakra colors. A lot of people who come into our spas are looking for chakra therapy and holistic health. We added chromeotherapy to help with mood-changing lights."
"A lot of our clients have medical issues like Lyme disease, so we have a lot of relationships with doctors," explains Oslinker. "Our saunas help with inflammation in your joints, which is why infrared is one of the top holistic practices for Lyme disease. It decreases lactic acid buildup in your muscles, which makes infrared a good muscle recovering technique, which is also why a lot of our clients are athletes."
After getting the rundown from Richelle, I was game to zone out in my little pod. I took off all of my clothes and went in with a towel. My room was headed to 146˚F. I hooked my phone up to my sauna's surround sound system. I turned on Jhené Aiko's Trip album to relax, and sat my phone in the heat-free cubbyhole so it didn't overheat. I took in a glass of water. Richelle warned me to take little sips instead of big gulps since my body would be adjusting to the heat.
Full disclaimer: I don't meditate. I was hoping this session would help me get out of my head and zone out. I proceeded to lie down and close my eyes. Within two minutes, I was drenched in sweat. The second I walked in, sweat beads immediately oozed out of my body. But it wasn't a sticky sweat I get from working out—it was a thick, oily sweat.
I opened my eyes and a half hour had passed by. My session was the recommended 45 minutes. I got up for an occasional drink of water but never felt too warm. After 45 minutes passed, the ends of my straight hair completely curled up, and I looked like I just took a shower. I felt so zen though, and I completely forgot about all of the things that were stressing me out when I was encapsulated by that LED mood light therapy, which I had on color rotation—it worked.
When I stood up, I felt 10 pounds lighter. It was so crazy. In other words, the detox feeling is real. I looked in the mirror and my skin had this glow that looked lit-from-within. My pores were noticeably smaller, and my skin's texture felt oddly silky.
I was a little taken back because I had to sit down for five minutes—my heart was racing a mile a minute. When I was in the sauna, I felt so relaxed, but once I got out, my heart rate felt like I had just run a marathon. This could be due to the fact that I didn't have a balanced meal beforehand. I ate pretty light that day, so I'd suggest incorporating more than enough protein into your diet before your session.
The day of my session, I was extremely sore from a barre class I had taken, but afterward, my tight joints felt loosened and relaxed. It was like I just stretched for an hour or something (I never stretch—I know—it's bad.) I slept like a baby that night too. And when I woke up the next morning, my body still felt so light and my skin looked glowy. All in all, it felt like an overdue facial—but for my body. My next appointment is already booked.