Welcome to Month of Me, where every day in January, we'll be publishing a new fashion, beauty, or wellness article featuring a first-person account of shaking up an old habit, pushing beyond a comfort zone, or simply trying something new. Follow along for 31 days of storytelling, including what it's like to quit alcohol for 80 days, try Beyoncé's very strict diet, or completely overhaul your closet.
Name: Erin Jahns, beauty editor, Who What Wear
What did you try? I used Sunlighten's at-home portable solo sauna system almost every day for a month.
Why did you try it? By the end of 2019, my body was in a state. I had so much fatigue, accrued stress, and, not to be dramatic, but I just felt ill in general. (I also wasn't sleeping well, which wasn't great.) Previously, I've gone through phases of going to Shape House in West Hollywood once or twice a week (and it did wonders for my sleep and overall equilibrium), so when Sunlighten offered to send me one of its portable solo sauna systems, I was all about it.
Basically, the system (which is dropped off to your house and which you put together—no worries, it's easy!) is like a little cacoon you lie in for 30 to 45 minutes while your body reaps the benefits of infrared. If you're unfamiliar, infrared warms up your core body temperature (versus the skin's surface) which can have benefits like lowering blood pressure, aiding in weight loss, and more. Sunlighten's website has tons of studies and articles if you're looking for more information! I wasn't looking to lose any weight, per se, but was hoping a regular sauna ritual would help ease my anxiety, improve my sleep and ability to relax, clear my skin, and, hey, if I felt a little leaner afterward, I had no issues with that either.
Photo:Courtesy of Sunlighten
How did you prepare? I didn't really have to prepare. Sunlighten dropped the sauna off on my doorstep, and I was sent easy-to-follow instructions from the brand to set it up. I kept the sauna in my living room—we have wood flooring, and conveniently, the Sunlighten sauna is a completely self-contained unit. Since absolutely no water is used, it can go on concrete, wood, laminate, vinyl, carpet, stone, etc.
What happened during the whole process? Since my workweeks and nights can get pretty hectic with deadlines, events, and meetings, my goal was to use the sauna for a minimum of four nights per week. (Though, you can definitely use it every day, according to the brand.) I typically timed each session to be about 45 minutes since the last 15 is when I really noticed my body heating up and sweating, which was what I wanted. No pain, no gain, right? Just kidding, this is totally not painful, and the Sunlighten system has a really handy temperature setting dial so you can adjust the warmth to what's manageable for your body. Everyone is different, and it will probably take some trial and error until you find your hot spot.
This customizability factor, in addition to the convenience of being able to sauna and promptly shower from the comfort of my own home, is one of the reasons I love the system far more than Shape House, where you have limited control over settings and the overall environment. Plus, Sunlighten is the only portable sauna on the market boasting built-in chromotherapy lighting. According to the brand, this LED lighting provides the ancient healing method of light and color therapy, which is touted to improve health and harmony.
Also, for what it's worth, I usually sauna'd completely nude with towels underneath to soak up my sweat. That said, you can totally wear shorts, a bathing suit, a sports bra, or whatever else feels most comfortable for you to sweat in. (Sunlighten also has a specially designed Bamboo Carbon Body Wrap, which doesn't have any bearing on the effectiveness of your sauna session but is just another cover-up option.)
Photo:Courtesy of Sunlighten
Any challenges? Not really! I'll admit that at first, I was intimidated by putting the sauna together (it looks way more complicated than it actually is), but that ended up being no problem. I did notice after a few days of sauna'ing in a row, I felt a little fatigued, but I'm also horrible at drinking enough water throughout the day, and once I increased my intake (and chugged post-sauna and before bed), that totally went away. Overall, my Sunlighten sauna sessions became a ritual I really looked forward to at the end of the day.
Any surprises? After I figured out how much I had to hydrate myself to feel non-fainty post-sauna, I was actually really surprised how much my daily energy levels in addition to my ability to stay focused and calm improved. It's hard to describe, but I felt less nervous and more like I could easily take on whatever the day had in store for me. I hesitate to talk about it, but I do suffer from depression and anxiety, and while I know regular sauna sessions aren't the answer to my struggle (and aren't a feasible or realistic option for many!), I definitely noticed that the ritual seemed to pacify and alleviate some of my symptoms. I'm always a bit skeptical when it comes to wellness practices or trends that boast lots of lofty claims (as infrared saunas do!), but making it a regular practice really turned me into a believer, and I think it could be really beneficial for people who deal with mental illness.
Photo:Courtesy of Sunlighten
How did you feel afterward? What kind of changes did you notice? As I mentioned, I definitely noticed that I felt calmer and more relaxed after using the sauna, which is why I chose to always use the system before bed. I also felt like my sleep quality drastically improved, and I woke up fewer times throughout the night and felt refreshingly well-rested when my alarm would sound the next morning. I'm not sure if the increase in energy I noticed was part of the detoxification perks associated with saunas or a happy side effect of the improved sleep, but I also felt like I had more stamina—emotionally and physically—to get through long days at work.
You do sweat a lot, so I think my skin went through a few growing pains as far as some clogged pores and breakouts, but after I started to shower and wash my face (like twice) immediately post-sweat, that seemed to go away. Last but not least, I work out almost every day, and I definitely noticed that my body seemed to recover more efficiently after I started to regularly use the solo system. Plus, I experienced fewer aches and pains, in general.
What did you like about it? I loved the convenience, ease, and all the amazing benefits I noticed. Sadly, I have to give the sauna back, but thanks to the amazing difference I've noticed in my overall well-being, I'm going to try to start infrared sauna'ing at least once or twice a week again.
Photo:Courtesy of Sunlighten
What did you hate? Honestly, nothing.
Would you try it again? One million percent! I'm so sad I have to stop!
Any advice for someone who is thinking about trying it? My biggest advice would be to do your research and find a high-quality sauna system (or house!). Regular sauna sessions do have a huge impact on your body, so I would clear it with your doctor and make sure the routine and how often and for how long you want to do it is given the green light by a medical professional you trust and who is familiar with your health history. Children shouldn't use saunas, and if you have any underlying medical conditions, are pregnant, or are breast-feeding, you should also make sure to talk to your doctor. (Please!)
Keep scrolling for 11 wellness products and supplements I used during my month of using the sauna. (I'm obsessed!)
Seriously, these are the only probiotics I've ever taken that haven't left me feeling bloated or lethargic. I love that they have both enzymes and probiotics (essential for nutrient breakdown) plus the added benefits of prebiotic fiber to make sure my gut has everything it needs. I take one capsule 30 minutes before breakfast and dinner.
Before bed every night, I put three droppers-full of this chlorophyll concentrate into a glass of water and chug. Chlorophyll is an amazing detoxifier, and I'm convinced it's helped clear my skin and also helped me feel less bloated when I wake up the next morning. These drops are an essential part of my nighttime routine, and I make sure I bring them with me when I travel.
Taking a consistent dosage of magnesium every day has been game-changing for me. I usually take it right before bed (this new Moon Juice launch tastes so dreamy and immediately disappears into water), and it helps me sleep, stave off stress, and feel less bloated. It's basically a magical supplement I've been telling everyone to look into if they suffer from any of the above issues.
Regardless of whether or not you're a crystal person, is there really a chicer way to get your full eight cups of H2O a day? Doubt it.
Normally, green powders make me gag. But not this one! Designed by Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, board-certified, registered dietitian and nutritionist, Superstar has been a skin-clearing, energizing, all-around wellness saving grace ever since I began dumping it into my morning smoothies. It's a multifunctional, full-spectrum supplement boasting a unique adaptogenic formula made with a base of ceremonial-grade matcha and moringa leaf plus tons of other nutrient-rich superfoods chock-full of the vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, alkaline greens, and phytonutrients your body is craving. Flu? We don't know her. Any wellness junkie will be obsessed.
I'm super picky about protein shakes and generally prefer to make my own smoothies, but when I'm in a bind, I love Owyn's yummy, clean, plant-based option.
Not only is this bar actually hot pink (so cute!), but it also tastes amazing (like strawberry and coconut but not too sweet) and features a patent-pending skin-beautifying ingredient proven to keep your complexion looking clearer, firmer, and brighter.
Everyone deals with bloating, and no matter what any supplement or diet or what have you may say, nothing beats bloat 100%. That said, I've found taking one capsule of Hum Nutrition's digestive enzymes before lunch and dinner really helps with post-meal bloat and, um, daily regularity.
I'm obsessed with these latte-flavored chews from Goop. They're basically a delicious, bite-sized dose of caffeine that gives you the 3 p.m. kick you need without dooming your ability to fall asleep later on.
This detoxifying powder is the newest launch from Goop's G.Tox line. It comes in handy, pre-packaged powder "shots" you just dump into a small amount of water. The formula is designed to benefit both your skin and body by combatting the formation of free radicals, which can be caused by poor diet, alcohol, stress, and environmental toxins. Key ingredients include milk thistle extract, a strategic blend of nutrients like selenium, zinc, magnesium, glycine, and pantothenic acid, along with the powerful antioxidants resveratrol and vitamin C.
My system doesn't always love melatonin. I prefer this strategic mix of actives designed by the queen of perfect skin, Dr. Barbara Sturm. It features a high-quality blend of Saint-John's-wort; vitamins B3, B1, and B6; and 5-HTP.