The sauna has been used for centuries by people of many cultures to cleanse the skin, detoxify the organs, and to find deep relaxation. Traditionally, a sauna is composed of wet heat where steam is created by pouring water over hot rocks. As the water evaporates, the air heats up, causing bodies to perspire.
About the Skin
As the largest organ in the body, the skin helps protect us from the invasion of external organisms. Additionally, it helps us absorb and synthesize Vitamin D that we get from the sun's rays, as well as regulate body temperature. Through sweat, the skin is also responsible for helping to releasing toxins.
About the Sauna
In addition to the hot rock sauna, there is also the infrared variety, which allows heat to penetrate the skin up to 2 inches deep. A sauna helps to activate our cells in order to release toxins that are then excreted in our perspiration. Through the action of spending time in a sauna, circulation is improved, dead cells are removed, our immune and lymphatic systems are improved, and the skin softens through exposure to the intense moisture. Spending time in a sauna on a regular basis helps keep the skin clean and the organs healthy by removing dirt and other elements that clog the pores. It also helps to keep the body more alkaline, remove aches and pains in our muscles and joints, and help us access more energy as we become detoxified.
Making the Most of the Sauna
One of the best ways to care for the skin during a sauna is to dry brush the body before entering the moist heat. A natural bristle brush, loofah or rough washcloth, on a dry body helps to remove dead skin cells, allowing the sauna to penetrate the skin in a more efficient manner. In Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, bunches of green branches are often used, whereby the skin is gently swatted to activate blood circulation and to slough off waste before entering the sauna.
The Dry Brush Technique
Using a natural bristle brush, loofah or rough cloth on the skin before entering the sauna is one of the most efficient ways to assist toxins to escape through the skin's pores. If you have any lotion or oil on your skin, rinse it off in a shower and then dry your body. Going from the feet to the top of your body, always brush the skin towards the direction of your heart. Use brisk strokes, but only as hard as you can take it. Once you get used to dry brushing your strokes can become firmer. Seven strokes per each area on the body should be sufficient. Work your way up starting with the soles of the feet, calves and thighs, always brushing the front and the back. Your body will become a glowing pink. Dry brushing opens the pores and oil-producing glands, stimulates the hormones and organs, rejuvenates the nervous system, helps improve muscle tone and prevent fatty deposits, improves the complexion, and helps to avoid premature aging. Dry brushing before every shower, even when you are not taking a sauna, is an excellent way to maintain health.
Note: if you suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease or if you have skin irritations, infections, or broken skin, do not use this technique.
Other Cleansing Tips
Always rinse your skin before entering a sauna. This way you unblock the skin by washing away dry skin cells lingering on the surface. Cleanse your skin with natural products that contain herbal extracts before steaming. Using natural soaps will assure that pores will not become clogged by unnecessary additives. Once you leave the sauna, rinse the skin with cold water to increase your circulation and remove any uric acid crystals or other toxins that may have been released. A general rule for showering is that, unless your body is really dirty, soap up only under your arms and in the groin area to avoid drying out the skin. Once you have gone into the sauna for the last time and have taken your shower, dry off and then use a natural oil or cream to keep the skin soft.
Michele Kadison has been writing professionally for more than 25 years. Her blog, The Body in Form, focuses on vitality, balance and wellness as a way of life. Other publications include Next2Eden, Chefs Without Frontiers, Rockies Travel and more. Kadison has a Bachelor of Arts in writing from Hamilton College.