HOW DO SAUNAS AFFECT OUR SKIN?
Saunas have been used as a way of healing for thousands of years.The ancient Mayans used dry heat saunas or “sweat houses” over 3,000 years ago to promote healing and health .
Saunas are designed to reach a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), causing you to sweat and increase your heart rate in order to cool your body down .
The Finnish style sauna is the most popular and a well studied sauna method in literature. Other types of saunas include Turkish, Hammam, Russian and Banyan-styles.
Saunas have long been touted to have health benefits both overall and for the skin, let’s investigate this.
Are Saunas Good or Bad for You?
Saunas are known to have many health benefits, here are some [1,2]:
- Skin detoxification: sweating allows for toxins and dirt to be removed from the pores in the skin.
- Stress reduction: we all know that stress can wreak havoc on our health and our skin. 15-20 minutes in a sauna has shown to lower stress levels.
- Cardiovascular health: a sauna can increase your heart rate by 30%. Not only does the increased circulation help your cardiovascular system, but your skin as well.
We cannot be thorough without addressing some of the concerns associated with saunas.
Some precautions to consider about saunas include :
- Overdrying of the skin: the body may produce more oils to counteract the drying action of saunas, possibly leading to breakouts. It is of note that it is not the saunas that cause the overdrying of the skin, but rather incorrect washing habits in conjunction with sauna use.
- Overheating: you should not exceed 30 minutes in a sauna.
- Dehydration: drinking alcohol before or after a sauna is not recommended since it prevents sweating.It is advised to drink plenty of water prior to and after a sauna session.
The Consensus on Saunas
Overall, if saunas allow you to destress and detoxify your skin, safe usage could be beneficial to our health.Studies have shown that regular sauna usage can have a protective effect on our skin by balancing skin surface pH and increasing the skin’s capacity to lock in hydration. Patients even saw a reduction in casual sebum (oil) production with the regular use of saunas .
Research has also shown the benefit of saunas when it comes to skin ailments. For example, saunas have been shown to facilitate the shedding ofhyperkeratotic scales in psoriasis. Hyperkeratotic scales in psoriasis are described as the thick, scaly regions of skin that plaque psoriasis sufferers. It is of note that saunas used with creams or emollients further the benefits for psoriasis patients .Another benefit of saunas could be due to the sheer heat. Harmful microorganisms that make the skin their home are not tolerant to heat. These little guys are called dermatophytes and are easily killed off by the temperatures reached in a sauna .
When used properly and with the correct precautions, saunas can be a safe and effective part of your skincare routine.
- Kowatzki, D., Macholdt, C., Krull, K., Schmidt, D., Deufel, T., Elsner, P., & Fluhr, J. W. (2008). Effect of regular sauna on epidermal barrier function and stratum corneum water-holding capacity in vivo in humans: a controlled study.Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland),217(2), 173–180.https://doi.org/10.1159/000137283
- Hannuksela, M., & Väänänen, A. (1988). The sauna, skin and skin diseases.Annals of clinical research,20(4), 276–278.