Before my brother’s wedding, I decided to sweat my way to smoother, brighter skin.
We all know there are many paths to achieve a glossy, glowing complexion. You can apply a face oil, get a hydrating facial, or mask it up (#selfcaresunday). This time, I decided to get there by detoxing my entire body. It’s the age of wellness, right?
I challenged myself to make time for myself. This involved me sitting in an infrared sauna for 45 minutes twice a week. I went to a NYC-based infrared sauna chain called HigherDOSESM, which offers individual rooms, swanky showers, USB cords to DJ your own music during sessions, rose water, and other bougie amenities (sessions cost $45-$65 per “dose”). My goal: relax, detoxify, improve my sleep, and get that post-sweat “glow.”
An infrared sauna is unlike a traditional sauna due to the way the room is heated. Most saunas use dry heat (via coal) to make the air feel hot, but this type uses infrared lights. “The difference between regular saunas and infrared saunas is that the latter heats you — not the air around you,” explains HigherDOSE co-founder Katie Kaps. “Infrared radiates energy, which we feel as heat — [it’s like] the same heat from the sun but without the harmful UV rays. When we absorb this infrared heat, or rather ‘energy,’ it charges our bodies’ particles and raises our core body temperature.”
While it is undoubtable hot and sweaty in the booth, it’s worth sticking out. After each session, I felt energized and calm — similar to the feeling after taking a balmy hot yoga or indoor cycling class. Those endorphins are pumping.
Lauren Berlingeri, co-founder of HigherDOSE breaks down how this happens. “As infrared heat raises your core body temperature, it also increases your circulation, pumps fresh nutrients throughout your body, and detoxifies your system through perspiration,” she says. “As all this is happening, your metabolism kicks up as your heart rate increases to the pace of a light jog — so you’re working out, without working out. And just like when you’re working out, it triggers a release of the brain’s happiness chemicals dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins (the acronym for DOSE).You leave feeling fresh and elated.”
As a native New Yorker addicted to her phone, intense workouts, and caffeine, I found my sauna sessions to also improve my anxiety levels. Maybe it was psychosomatic. Or just the act of sitting still and listening to music is instinctively meditative. Either way, I also left feeling “reset” and in a better mood. (Perhaps it was just listening to Justin Timberlake for half an hour straight.) According to the founders, you can feel the benefits after just one session and the results accumulate over time. They recommend starting with 25 minute treatments before building up to 45 minutes in the sauna.
“We don't typically prescribe a certain number of times a week as everyone’s body responds differently to the benefits of infrared,” notes Berlingeri. “I personally do it a few times a week, and that’s perfect for me! I tend to tell people use it when you need a spontaneous mood boost, or you’re feeling like you need a good detox cleanse,” Kaps echoes.
So how hot is it? At HigherDOSE, the saunas are set to about 145-154 degrees fahrenheit. What that feels like is personal, depending on how heated your body gets. If you don’t break a sweat, you probably didn’t do it right (by staying in the room long enough, keeping the door closed, etc).
Another major benefit of infrared saunas — and the one I was looking for — is how your skin looks and feels. This connected back to the lights used in the room. “Infrared light stimulates your skin, [helping it to] produce more cell growth, as well as increasing blood flow and circulation,” Kaps says. “Benefits include anti-aging, improved skin tone, wrinkle reduction/prevention, increased collagen production and more.”
I know it sounds like a longshot: can a hot room with lights actually improving skin? But I promise it worked for me. “Everything affects your skin: your environment, diet, your routines — it’s our largest organ and it’s the only organ everyone can see,” Berlingeri says. “Infrared is detoxifying, which rids your body of harmful chemicals that can be slowing you down and dulling your appearance. In today’s toxic-filled world, detoxifying is just as important as experience and eating right.”
I have a relatively clean diet and beauty routine. Adding on the infrared took my regimen to the next level, giving me smoother skin and a brighter complexion. I also felt more contoured. Sweating that much depuffed by cheeks, chin, and undereye bags.
In the HigherDOSE rooms, you can choose what color light to make the sauna (or switch it up throughout). Each shade has different benefits, but yellow and red may be best for those looking to combat dull skin. “Yellow is a purifier,” notes Berlingeri. “It stimulates the immune system, helps cleanse the liver and promotes healthy digestion—which is crucial to glowing skin.” Kaps is a fan of red light therapy for it’s stimulating properties. “It energizes your body while boosting collagen and increasing elasticity,” she adds.
Personally, I liked purple or blue light for it’s soothing qualities. Both are said to have calming effects effects. Blue light also helps with pain, and I have a chronic neck and shoulder tightness from sitting at a desk all day. My other favorite is yellow, because it reminded me of sunshine. Who doesn’t feel happy sitting in warm, sunny light?
To prep for your first infrared sauna experience, Berlingeri recommends drinking lots of water — since you’ll lose H2O while sweating. “If you want to set an intention, pick a chromotherapy light color associated with your current mood and future goals,” she adds. “Pick a playlist! Music is a great way to boost your dopamine levels while enjoying the flow of happiness chemicals from your brain during your sauna session.”
After your “dose,” you should drink more water and eat clean to get the most benefits. “You can take a shower and relax, enjoying the effects from that point,” Kaps notes. “If you want to add additional intensity to the experience, go for hot-cold therapy. When you get into a cold shower straight after the sauna, blood rises to your body's surface and opens your pores. Cold water brings the blood back to vital organs, contracts pores to regular sizes and reinforces your body's natural defense system.”
That said, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not go into a sauna. Always consult with your doctor before doing something so detoxifying, both founders note.
Products were gifted to the author for the purpose of writing this article.