Do Infrared Saunas Actually Make You Happy?

Leandra Medine Infrared Sauna Man Repeller-20

Apparently, everyone is talking about infrared saunas, which I did not know until my husband asked if I wanted to try one at the end of December.

I’m down for just about anything (including a complete sugar and/or tequila diet), so following a trip to L.A., we booked a 30-minute session at HigherDOSE, an infrared sauna spa that also includes a Nutridrip station (that thing where you have an IV full of immunity-boosting nutrients poked into your vein) and a paradoxical bar boasting cocktails like an Ashwaganda margarita. I mention that we were in L.A. because I’m not sure we’d have been able to justify spending over a dollar a minute to sit in a wooden hot box with strobe lights (just kidding, they’re chromotherapy lights), had we not just been in the capital of $10 turmeric cappuccinos.

The spa is on the lower level of a health food eatery called Alchemist Kitchen that also sells essential oils and assorted powders that effectively promise to increase your lifespan. There is plenty of Moon Juice in stock, too, and if I’m being really honest, I am a big fan of the $6 Japanese pour-over they sell.

I knew nothing about infrared heating when I arrived at the sauna and was greeted by an information pamphlet, set of robes, an auxiliary cord (so we could play music — or probably guided meditations) and what looked like a fairly generously sized standing shower but was actually the sauna. Within the first five minutes of disrobing and entering, the temperature rose to 157 degrees. Within the first ten minutes, I was sweating from every pore in my body — some I didn’t even know I had (e.g. those inside my ear?). I read in the pamphlet that infrared saunas shit on regular saunas because they heat the body as opposed to the room but I stopped reading after the welcome page; I wanted to gauge the effects of infrared on my own without expecting whatever that little booklet would tell me.

So how did I feel following session #1?

Infrared Sauna higherdose Leandra Medine Man Repeller

Playing with the chromotherapy lighting; Chromotherapy is the science of using color to adjust your body’s vibrations. 

Like I had just completed a SoulCycle class. My heart was beating fast, but in a way that felt healthy as opposed to over-caffeinated. I was famished. After I cooled down and put my clothes on, I continued to sweat for the next few hours. I suppose that this was a result of the gradual heating thing. I slept like a g-dang baby that night — like I had taken a really hot bath and then somersaulted straight into a fresh bed.

I woke up bouncy the next morning, but this could have been due to a number of variables least not being that it was the end of December, I’d just been on vacation and don’t forget, there were turmeric cappuccinos! I booked another session for two weeks later. By then, I’d be back at work so whatever effects I experienced that could have been attributed to time of year would have been corrected. I also called HigherDOSE to learn more about the saunas, at which point I was fed six purported benefits which I held up against how I felt at the following session.

They said: You will relax. Cortisol levels (the chemical released in your body when you’re stressed) are suppressed and serotonin (essentially, a naturally occurring happy drug) increases.

I felt: Like this was probably true. I walked in fairly overwhelmed, not in a bad way, but I was still racing against the pace of the day I’d just endured. Within ten minutes, I was a complacent slug.

They said: Your body will detox the heavy metals, radiation and environmental toxins that it is exposed to.

I felt: Nothing really in relation to this one.

They said: You will be relieved of any pain you might be feeling. The heat penetrates tissue, joints and muscle to relieve aches and shit.

I felt: No physical pain to start with, thankfully, but I also feel confident adding that the sauna might quell emotional pain if only because this has been the most delightful January I’ve experienced in recent memory.

They said: You will lose weight — up to 600 calories! Just sitting! Reason being that there’s an increase in cardiac output as your body attempts to cool itself, which also affects both heart and metabolic rate.

I felt: This has to be true, why else would I a) continue sweating for hours after the treatment b) feel like I just did SoulCycle? I’m not trying to lose weight though, so the sauna has been a fantastic excuse to load the fuq up on buttermilk biscuits from Egg Shop post-session.

They said: There are potent anti-aging properties associated with infrared because it is the most effective wavelength for healing of the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin. I don’t know exactly what this means but I guess those are the layers that matter. Infrared also stimulates collagen production.

I felt: Like a baby’s bottom! But maybe that’s because I’ve been wearing a ribbon in my high ponytail.

Conclusion? I’m going back next week. For sure.

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

More from Archive