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- I recently purchased an infrared sauna blanket from Amazon, and it’s the best wellness decision I’ve ever made.
- Studies suggest that infrared light therapy has a bevy of medical benefits, from reducing inflammation to clearing skin issues, improving digestion, contributing to weight loss, and easing anxiety.
- Doctors agree that 20 minutes of infrared sweating two to three times a week strengthens the cardiovascular system.
- I personally use my infrared sauna blanket for 50 minutes a day — and I’ve never felt more energized and glowing (or less bloated) in my entire life.
I’m the first to admit I’ve tried some wacky things in the name of wellness. I once ate raw garlic cloves every morning for two weeks straight as a natural alternative to antibiotics. (Not advised, if only for the garlic breath.) I brush my hair with a comb carved from clear quartz crystal to purify my crown chakra. (Totally advised, if only for the aesthetic.)
Most recently, I dropped $400 on an infrared sauna blanket from Amazon so I could "detox" daily from the comfort of my own home — but that one’s not as "out there" as it sounds. In fact, experts agree that infrared sauna therapy can improve digestion, reduce pain and inflammation, benefit cardiovascular health, and even clear up acne.
The benefits of infrared sauna therapy
I experienced the benefits of infrared sauna therapy first-hand almost a year ago. It was two months before my wedding, and I didn’t fit into my dress. Desperate to lose a little weight before the big day, I added bi-weekly sauna appointments to my nutrition and fitness plan.
But what I noticed most after a couple months of regular sweat sessions wasn’t the weight loss (although it helped in that department — my wedding dress fit like a glove). It was how energized I was afterward. How completely glow-y my skin looked. How cooking for an hour at 170° motivated me to make better choices for the rest of the day; I just felt healthier and happier and wanted that feeling to last as long as possible.
"Infrared saunas (sometimes called far-infrared saunas or near-infrared saunas) are a type of sauna that uses heat and light, in the form of infrared light waves, to help ‘detoxify’ the body via sweat and to promote relaxation," he tells Business Insider. "Proponents of infrared saunas often turn to this type of holistic treatment in hopes that sessions can provide joint and muscle support, speed up the metabolism, promote weight loss, help rejuvenate the skin, improve circulation, promote cardiovascular healing, and help with sleep quality."
Dr. Axe notes that scientific study in this area is limited but promising. But if you’re a believer in anecdotal evidence, take my word for in: Infrared sauna sweating is better than a juice cleanse.
At first, I indulged in regular infrared treatments at Shape House, an "urban sweat lodge" with locations in Los Angeles and New York City. While typical sweat lodges feature steam saunas, Shape House uses far infrared technology. You’re essentially wrapped up like a burrito in a plastic covering, which is then heated up to 170° for 50 minutes using infrared light to build heat in the body.
"Infrared saunas differ from regular heated saunas because they emit light that directly penetrates your skin," Dr. Axe explains. There’s no steam, no humidity, and no hot air; this makes it much easier to breathe and withstand high temperatures for a longer amount of time. But at around $50 per appointment, my Shape House habit wasn’t one that I could keep up without that wedding budget.
I went without regular sweat sessions for a few months, which only confirmed how powerfully they affected me: My digestion felt sluggish and my stomach was bloated, my acne returned, and I was low-energy and anxious more often than not.
Naturally, I looked into at-home infrared sauna blankets to get back on track on a budget.
My search for an affordable, at-home infrared sauna therapy brought me to Amazon
"Infrared sauna blankets are similar to heavy sleeping bags; you enclose yourself in one as it omits infrared rays and builds body heat," Dr. Axe says. "Some advantages to using an infrared blanket include affordability; the fact that it’s compact, lightweight, and portable; the convenience of being able to use it at home; and versatility — it can be used in bed, on the floor, or in a chair."
These can run anywhere from $100 to $1000, and after doing extensive research, I found The One: the Gizmo Supply 3 Zone Digital Far-Infrared Heat Sauna Blanket, priced at $400 on Amazon — the cost of one month’s worth of Shape House treatments — with over 70 five-star reviews. Just two days later, it was at my door. (Thank you, Amazon Prime.)
Setting up and using the Gizmo Supply infrared sauna blanket
Thankfully, the Gizmo Supply blanket is super easy to put together. It comes with a control box and a sleeping bag-esque blanket, which need to be connected via a series of three clearly-labeled wires. Each wire feeds into a section of the blanket, and all three sections can be separately heated anywhere between 35° Celsius and 85° Celsius (about 95° Fahrenheit to 185° Fahrenheit) for up to an hour. You just select your desired temp and time, get in, sweat profusely and semi-uncomfortably, and wait for it to beep when the session is over… kind of like an oven.
"Frequent, short infrared sauna sessions seem to be effective for providing the health benefits mentioned above," says Dr. Axe.
A recent study linked "20 minute treatments three times weekly over a period of two to three months" with increased heart strength, so that’s a good place to start. I personally follow the Shape House method and sweat for 50 minutes at 80° Celsius, every single day. I’m certifiably obsessed.
Once I started my daily at-home treatments, I noticed an almost immediate improvement in my bloating, skin, energy, and mood. It turns out, a good sweat will do that to you.
Sweating is the body’s natural method of detox, and far infrared heat is said to induce a whopping seven times more sweat than a standard steam sauna. This essentially flushes toxins out of the body via a process called "lymphatic drainage," boosts metabolism, and increases your energy levels.
Besides this internal flush, the act of sweating is a kind of "skin detox" in and of itself. As your pores open and sweat pours through, its antibacterial properties kill acne-causing bacteria and rinse away any dirt and debris sitting on the skin’s surface.
"Aside from your liver, your skin is one of your greatest tools to detoxify your body," Katie Dunlop, the founder of Love Sweat Fitness, tells me. "Being that it’s our largest organ, it’s kind of our first line of defense — and sweat allows us to get rid of toxins through the skin, leaving it fresh and rejuvenated."
"Sweating also means increased blood circulation throughout the body," she explains. "As your heart rate increases, so does the blood flow to the skin, bringing along with it lots of vital nutrients and fresh oxygen. The benefit is it’s happening from the inside out, so not only is your skin getting the amazing oxygen and nutrients it needs to promote collagen growth, but you’re also able to detox and expel toxins simultaneously."
I swear, my skin never looks more rosy and glow-y than after a sauna session.
Infrared power is more than just physical, though. With regular use, I find my anxiety symptoms are lessened. I think this is partly due to the fact that lying in the blanket for nearly an hour gives me a chance to meditate and reflect — it’s one of the only times of my day not consumed by my laptop or phone.
In addition, "It’s believed that infrared saunas promote mental health through activating the parasympathetic nervous system," Dr. Axe says. "Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system helps to make you feel calm, allows the body to handle stress, and counteracts the effects of the sympathetic nervous system’s ‘fight or flight response.’"
Some potential downsides and health concerns to consider before using
As amazing as I feel inside and out after sweating, I have to be honest: The sauna itself isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience. It gets hot — to state the obvious — and really, really sweaty; and it definitely takes some willpower to make it through 30 to 50 minutes in the blanket. "The most common reported side effects are mild to moderate heat discomfort and intolerance, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and claustrophobia," according to Dr. Axe. He notes that it’s safe for the majority of people, though, "even those who can’t normally tolerate other treatments that involve heat."
"Anyone who has sensitive skin, a history of heart problems, or who takes daily medications should get their doctor’s approval before beginning infrared sauna treatments," he adds. It’s also recommended to wear head-to-toe cotton while you’re in the blanket to safely soak up excess sweat, and to hydrate like crazy before and after.
I realize that spending nearly an hour of my day, every day, wrapped up like a sweaty burrito sounds strange. Gwyneth Paltrow Goop-level strange. But honestly, my infrared sauna blanket is the most practical wellness purchase I’ve ever made.
It’s become my life’s cure-all. Feeling bloated and gross? Time for a sweat sesh. Skin dull and dry? Sweat sesh. Hungover? Puffy eyes? Stressed? I just sweat, sweat, sweat it out.
Whoever said not to sweat the small stuff clearly just needed to get their hands on an infrared sauna blanket.
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