We’ve talked about the pandemic-related boom of at-home beauty devices that can (to varying degrees) recreate the experience of professional treatments or, at the very least, help maintain your results in between in-office appointments. But these gadgets and gizmos aren’t just for the face. Body tools have seen a similar rise in popularity that shows no sign of slowing down, and infrared sauna blankets are perhaps one of the buzziest examples.
There is no denying that infrared sauna blankets are taking the internet and social media by storm, but we’ve been wondering: How do they stack up to the real thing? When you consider that the experience of a sauna (infrared or otherwise) has long involved a trip to the spa or gym where you physically sit in a room for an extended period of time, it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that you may be able to recreate that experience anytime, anywhere with a relatively portable tool.
To better understand the benefits of infrared saunas and how at-home versions compare to the traditional experience, we’ve tapped two experts. Read on to learn more about the benefits of infrared sauna blankets and whether they are a worthwhile investment.
What Is an Infrared Sauna Blanket?
In simpletest terms, an infrared sauna blanket is a tool that is designed to deliver the benefits of a traditional infrared sauna in blanket form. “Sauna blankets use infrared heat and work in the same way as an infrared sauna cabin,” says Lauren Dovey, the founder of Heat Healer.
For the uninitiated, infrared saunas (of any kind) differ from dry Finnish saunas in that they don’t heat the air. Instead, they use infrared lamps to warm the body. “Compared to a Finnish sauna, they are a more gradual and comfortable heat,” Dovey shares. When you enter an infrared sauna, you don’t feel hot right off the bat. As you spend time in an infrared sauna, your body will gradually warm. “This means most people can tolerate the heat for a longer period of time, which can extend the benefits they receive,” she notes.
While everyone responds to infrared saunas differently, Heat Healer says that, if you spend an hour in its Infrared Sauna Blanket, you can expect to feel “warm and snug” during the first half hour before things to get a bit more “intense” during the second 30 minutes. The blanket, which uses far infrared light, can get up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit, though the brand recommends starting at 158 degrees and adjusting from there.
The Benefits of Infrared Sauna Blankets
“Infrared sauna blankets have multiple benefits for the skin and body, including improving complexion,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a board certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in New York City. The beauty and wellness benefits of infrared are generally the same whether you are in a sauna cabin or in a blanket. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what this technology can do for your mind and body.
From a skin perspective, “the heat from the blanket opens up pores and causes sweating, which releases toxins, bacteria, dead skin cells, and other impurities,” Dr. Engelman explains. All of that can help “you achieve clearer skin,” she adds. But that’s not all. “Infrared sauna blankets also improve circulation and slightly increase heart rate, simulating the effects of a light-to-moderate workout,” she shares. Such exercise “is known to have benefits for the skin,” she says, adding that “improved circulation may also help to boost collagen production.”
It should be noted that infrared light does not damage the skin the way ultraviolet (UV) light does. “There is little risk of developing cancer as a result of exposure to the infrared rays in a sauna blanket,” Dr. Engelman says. “It is more likely that you will suffer adverse effects from dehydration or accidental thermal (heat) damage if your body is not used to the higher temperatures of the blanket.”
Health & Wellness Benefits
We all know saunas have both mental and physical effects, and infrared saunas are no exception. “Other pros of infrared sauna blankets include elevated endorphin levels, lower stress levels, and a better night’s rest,” Dr. Engelman shares. Below are three of the most notable mind-body benefits:
- Mood Boost: “Heat therapy sends signals to our brains to release feel-good chemicals including serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine,” Dovey says. For maximum effect, she advocates for “stacking” wellness practices like meditation and breathwork while in the sauna or blanket to “stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system” and encourage the body “to press pause on the release of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine.” The result? “This double whammy effect may help promote an even greater feeling of calm, focus, and peace,” she shares.
- Calorie Burn: We know that infrared saunas can get your heart rate up, and Dovey says that, during a session with the Heat Healer blanket, you can burn up to 600 calories. “Heat therapy, like sauna use, can be a mimetic for exercise and has a similar effect on cardiac output, which means that – just like when you exercise – your body is also going to burn calories,” she explains. “This is what leads to longer-term weight loss.”
- Pain Relief: Research has found that infrared saunas can reduce muscle and body pain related to fibromyalgia, endometriosis, nerve conditions, arthritis, and more. “Because infrared saunas increase blood circulation, they can support the body to heal, particularly when repairing inflamed joints,” Dovey says. It can also be used as a recovery tool. “The infrared sauna is a great way to relax and ease sore muscles after a workout by increasing blood circulation and assisting muscle repair,” she adds.
Infrared Sauna Blanket Safety
Infrared saunas and blankets are generally considered safe and effective, but there are a few things to keep in mind. “There is some risk relating to dehydration due to copious amounts of sweating while in the blanket and possible thermal damage if temperatures are raised too high for your skin/body to tolerate,” Dr. Engelman reiterates. To avoid this, she recommends drinking plenty of water before and after treatments and not falling into the trap of trying to do too much too soon. “If you’re a beginner to infrared sauna blankets, start at a lower temperature and shorter amount of time than recommended,” she says. By gradually working up to the recommended settings, you’ll avoid stressing out your body.
It goes without saying, but always be sure to follow the instructions to a T – from what you wear in the blanket to how much time you spend in it. It’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider before beginning a new therapy, and this is especially important if you are pregnant, under the age of 16, sensitive to heat, or have certain skin or medical conditions.
How Do Infrared Sauna Blankets Measure Up?
The most obvious benefit of infrared sauna blankets? They are significantly more convenient than the standard sauna cabin. “Sauna blankets heat up quickly, are cost-effective to run, convenient to have in your home, portable, and easy to store when not in use,” Dovey says. You also have a bit more flexibility when it comes to how you utilize your time during treatment. “A benefit we hear from our customers is that having your head out of the blanket makes it much more comfortable than a sauna cabin,” Dovey shares. “You can lay there and relax and listen to your favorite meditation, weekly podcast, catch up on that Netflix show you’ve been wanting to watch, or just sit in silence as the infrared heat works on your body.”
While they are an investment (the Heat Healer blanket retails for $568), the one-time outlay can turn out to be substantially more cost-effective over time – especially if you plan to use your blanket regularly. While you’ll enjoy pain relief and relaxation (mental and physical) immediately, you’ll need to develop a consistent routine to reap some of the other results. “For longer-term benefits such as weight loss, cardiovascular health, and collagen production, it is recommended to use at least three times a week for 30 to 60 minutes a session,” Dovey notes, adding that you should limit usage to no more than an hour a day.
The net-net: If you are ready to build infrared therapy into your wellness routine, an infrared sauna blanket from a reputable manufacturer can be a wise – and very convenient – investment.
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
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