A traditional sauna or infrared sauna?


The question I am asked most often, by most people, most of the time is, “Which is better? Traditional Sauna or Infrared.” In the interest of full disclosure I am biased towards traditional sauna. I do not even refer to Infrared as a sauna, but rather as an infrared cabin. Now with that said, let me share some thoughts concerning the most FAQ I am asked.

When trying to answer the “which is better” question for people I first ask them, “What do you mean by better?” I will get a range of responses usually about health benefits, affordability, and comfort. Let me share my thoughts on these three topics.

Health benefits

The health benefits of traditional sauna have been assumed to be true by northern European, Scandinavian, Native American and Russian people for generations, including a sense of relaxation, healthier skin and a general sense of well being. It has only been in recent years that independent long-term scientific studies have confirmed these benefits and a host of others, including reduction of mortality from all causes, reduction of fatal coronary heart disease, reduced risk of stroke, reduction of Alzheimers and dementia occurrence and an increase of human growth hormone and endurance in athletes. These conclusions are documented in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)*

The health benefit claims for infrared cabins are voluminous. A Google search of “health benefits infrared” will produce almost 24 million results! These claims are not generations old, but have only surfaced in the recent past precisely when inexpensive infrared cabins began to be mass-produced and offered to a new generation of online shoppers. Touted primarily for it’s health benefits, infrared cabin health claims primarily originate, either directly or indirectly, from companies that manufacture and distribute infrared cabins. Among the many dazzling health benefit claims are significant weight loss, pain relief, detoxification and reversing fibromyalgia and cancer.

The traditional sauna camp will says these infrared health claims are a hoax being made by hucksters selling light bulbs in a box and calling them saunas…so buyer beware. The infrared camp will characterize the traditional camp as non-scientific and on the wrong side of history. Go figure.


In terms of affordability infrared cabins are clearly less expensive to acquire and operate than traditional saunas. In fact, the huge popularity of infrared cabins in the last ten years is in part due to the lower price point versus traditional saunas. Depending on the size of an infrared cabin prices typically range from $900 to $4,500. No wonder that you will find numerous infrared cabin salespersons set up at Spring Home and Garden shows, when many people have just received their IRS tax refund checks and annual bonuses. For traditional saunas expect prices to start at $2,900 and go higher depending on size of heaters and interior amenities. Also, on an ongoing basis, infrared cabins are less expensive to operate. Most infrared cabins can be plugged into a standard wall outlet and cost less to operate that a traditional sauna with electric heater which requires a dedicated 240V line and breaker. But don’t believe horror stories told by infrared salespeople about the huge electric bills caused by traditional saunas. Depending on your local electric rates and the size of your traditional sauna heater, an hour of sauna use three times per week adds only about $4.80 to your monthly electric bill.


So which is more comfortable, traditional sauna or infrared? The only way to answer that question is to try both types and see which feels best for you. Traditional saunas reach higher temperatures that can range from 160 to 185 degrees. Traditional saunas have upper (where its hot) and lower benches (where it’s less hot). So you can sit or lay down on whatever bench feels most comfortable for you. Infrared cabins have one lower bench and the room usually ranges from 80 to 120 degrees. I suggest to people that they try each kind, traditional and infrared, at a local health club or spa before making a buying decision.

So which is better? Traditional sauna or infrared? Only you can judge from personal experience.