With promises to cleanse, heal and boost your mood, infrared saunas are quickly becoming a favored indulgence among New Yorkers. And spots like HigherDose and Cryofuel are upgrading the therapeutic sauna seshes complete with curated music and prismatic lights. So do these rainbow sweatboxes live up to the hype? We jumped in the hot seat (sorry) to learn more.
So wait, how’s it different from a regular sauna? Unlike the classic schvitz you’d find at many gyms and spas, an infrared sauna uses a form of radiant heat to warm the body directly rather than warming the air around you. And if you need a science refresher: Infrared is the term for radiation with longer wavelengths than visible light, and it’s something that’s naturally emitted by the sun. Additionally, infrared saunas are often equipped with colored lights, with the idea that different colors provide different benefits (e.g., blue may promote relaxation and calm, whereas red may enhance energy.)
What are the supposed benefits? Like everything in the wellness sphere these days, the goal here is detoxification. As Ben Feinson, owner of Cryofuel, explains it: “Infrared heats human tissue directly rather than just the surface of the skin,” and asserts that it’s “seven times more effective at detoxifying the body than a traditional sauna.” Other reported benefits include decreased cortisol levels, increased serotonin and dopamine, boosted collagen production, improved blood flow and pain relief. While there’s still limited scientific evidence supporting these claims, the practice is considered safe for most people—and we can think of worse ways to spend an hour than in a toasty, Technicolor pod.
What does a typical session look like? Most spas or offices will arm you with a bottle of water and towels. You’ll be taken to your own private sauna room that sometimes has a shower. At Cryofuel, you can connect your phone to the Bluetooth and listen to your own music, podcast or audiobook in the sauna—or even play Nintendo Wii (!)—to pass the time as you sweat it out for 30 minutes to an hour underneath changing rainbow-colored lights.
Am I going to fry to a crisp under these lights? Nope. Infrared saunas are actually very gentle and much less stifling than traditional saunas—they clock in at 100 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, as opposed to hot-rock or steam saunas which can climb as high as 200 degrees. Katie Kaps, co-founder of HigherDose, describes the sensation as “similar to lying in the sun on a warm day and feeling the heat radiate to the core of your body.”
OK, but seriously, what does it feel like? Expect to sweat a lot—but then feel amazing afterward. I floated out of my 55-minute session relaxed and glowing, as if I’d just gotten a massage and a facial (sans painful extractions). I slept soundly and uninterrupted that night.
Is there any reason I shouldn’t try it? Infrared is generally safe for most people, but not recommended for women that are pregnant or breastfeeding, people with heart conditions or those with diabetes, to name a few. When in doubt, check with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you.
How much will a typical sweat sesh set me back? Prices start at $45 for half an hour, and $65 for an hour. Or grab a buddy to help you pass the time for just an added $15 at HigherDose. And Classpassers, take note: We spotted sessions at spots including Area Yoga and Brooklyn Athletic Club, in case you find yourself with extra credits to burn…no pun intended.
Food influencer Marisel Salazar is a member of the Coterie by PureWow.