When we learned that Meghan Markle takes time out of her royal schedule to attend infrared sauna sessions, we just knew we had to check it out. Nothing will stop us from attaining that #MarkleSparkle!
Unlike traditional saunas where water is poured on heated stones to produce heat, infrared saunas use infrared lights to heat the body from within. Some of the benefits include improved cardiovascular health, detoxification, and, of course, relaxation. Sound too good to be true? That's because it probably is. Some of the known disadvantages—besides, you know, sitting in a room with naked, sweaty strangers—include dehydration and negative effects from the radiation. Yeah, that doesn't sound like such a dream after all—that is, unless Prince Harry is sitting next to us during it.
Read along to learn more about this controversial activity and see if it benefits the mind and body or if it truly is just a "royal" waste of time.
Pros and cons of infrared saunas
While many people—including celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Busy Phillips, and Gwyneth Paltrow—utilize infrared saunas for its relaxing benefits, it gets mixed reactions from the medical community.
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- Pro: Since the skin is our body's largest organ, it's important that we take time to eliminate its toxins. This can be done by sweating it out in the sauna as the infrared lights warm the body in a way that is similar to how the sun warms the body. This can also be relaxing and detoxifying. Win-win!
- Pro: Along with toxic elimination, infrared saunas help with increased blood flow and circulation. The higher temperatures make the heart work faster, thereby increasing blood flow and circulation. Some of the benefits of this are joint and muscle pain relief.
- Con: Even though infrared saunas are considered dry (even causing the air in the room to feel cool), especially when compared to traditional saunas that produce heat in the air, you can still suffer from the effects of overheating and dehydration. Be sure to stay hydrated and limit your time, as overdoing it could lead to fainting. (Again, we only want that in the event that Prince Harry walks in.)
- Con: It's not suitable for everyone to use, particularly those who have medical issues such as heart disease, cardiovascular conditions, lupus, or multiple sclerosis.
Are there dangers to detoxing?
Detoxing is one of the main reasons people flock to an infrared sauna, but it turns out that it isn't all warm artificial sunshine and obtaining that #MarkleSparkle glow. There are some serious side effects that cannot be ignored. This includes dehydration since you will be sweating profusely through the body, and there is even the possibility of losing too many toxins (yep, you read that right), according to Saunacloud.
"The body has come to rely on the stored toxins inside of it. If levels of useful minerals in the body are low, it will compensate by using heavy metals, for example, by substituting lead for calcium. Once these metals are released through sweating, the body must readjust."
Does it cause cancer?
Along with the dangerous side effects of detoxifying, there are also concerns about radiation. Just Google "infrared sauna dangers" and one of the first things that comes up is articles on whether cancer is associated with this relaxing activity. We've done the research and luckily, the risk is very low.
The main radiation infrared saunas produce is electromagnetic field radiation. It's the same type of radiation that can be found in microwaves and cell phones, and we do not see ourselves avoiding our daily Instagram scrolls or tossing our leftovers in the microwave!
How can I stay safe?
While there definitely are some clear disadvantages to using infrared saunas, relaxation may only be a few sessions away as long as you build up a tolerance slowly, according to Dr. Amy Myers, who says, "If you’re new to infrared saunas, I would recommend starting out with 4-minute sessions at 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit and slowly working your way up to 15- to 30-minute sessions."
Along with that, be sure to limit your exposure, follow any safety precautions, and stay hydrated. Doing so will help you feel good when stepping in for that weekly self-care sesh. You'll be feeling like a royal in no time!
- The Chalkboard: Clean Shakes + Inside-Out Facials: Living Well With Meghan Markle of the Tig
- mindbodygreen: 6 Benefits Of Infrared Sauna Therapy
- Saunacloud: Detoxification
- CBC: Infrared Saunas Have a Celeb Cult Following, So We Got in One to Find Out Why
- The Atlantic: Infrared Saunas Will Not 'Detoxify' You
Sarah is a multi-platform writer and editor. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Vital Proteins, Healthline, Diply, and more. When she's not writing, she's trying to keep up with her border collie, Emmy.