"Shed worries and stress. Get hot. Get high. Welcome to your new addiction." This buzzing language on Higher Dose's website and social media accounts was all it took to get me hyped to visit the infrared sauna spa on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The idea of detoxing, burning calories, and finding a meditative state of mind all in one sitting was too tempting to pass up.
Infrared saunas pump out a radiant heat that penetrates the skin more deeply than traditional saunas, which rely simply on heating the air around you. Here, you're heating the body from the inside out with sun-like rays on an invisible light spectrum—no SPF required. This heat reaches fat and muscles far more effectively than other methods.
Not a new technology, infrared light has been used for decades in neonatal units and to treat injured athletes. But its mind-body-healing connection is what's drawing devotees like Gwyneth Paltrow, Selena Gomez, and Kim Kardashian, and welcoming accolades from functional medicine doctors and integrative physicians like Dr. Frank Lipman and Dr. Alejandro Junger.
The benefits mentioned most with regular use include a brighter complexion, weight loss, better sleep, clearer and more productive thinking, improved workouts, decreased muscle aches or tension, and a major mood boost. Founders of Higher Dose Lauren Berlingeri and Katie Kaps are self-proclaimed seekers of a natural high. They believe that the key to the "high life" is found through next-level health therapies, specifically weekly infrared sauna sessions, that up your dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins.
When I entered the spa on a Saturday afternoon, a lush wall of live plants welcomed me down a set of exposed wood stairs. The serene space was edgy yet chic, large and open, dimly lit by candles and salt lamps. I waited for my appointment while sipping on alkaline water and listening to the glowy, infrared addicts around me using words like "euphoric" and "better than anything I've ever tried before." Hearing all this had me clamoring to get into my hot box.
Like Higher Dose's four other rooms, mine was private and candlelit with black wall coverings, a chic bench, lavender spray, and plenty of alkaline water. I slipped into a towel and went inside the glowing sauna, which incorporates medical grade Chromotherapy—a color spectrum of rotating LED lights that cue specific chakras while reducing inflammation and increasing skin collagen.
You can choose to stick with one color for the entire session, like violet, which is said to boost creativity and spark inspiration. Music, for its dopamine-boosting power, is an option too, and a heat-protected sound system hooks up to your iPhone if you want to sweat to a soundtrack.
I opted for a 30-minute session (45 and 60 being the other two options). At 15 minutes in, I wasn't even remotely overwhelmed by the heat, yet I was dripping in sweat, the digital thermometer read 155 degrees, and my glass was red hot to the touch. It just felt good. It's how you would expect a total detox to feel. I had the urge to shift and stretch and move. Little kinks in my neck and back easily came undone. I felt my heart rate pick up—the body's reaction to the high heat that allows you to burn calories just by sitting still. (Since the intensity of this reaction can vary from one person to the next, it's a good idea to check in with your doctor before you book a session.)
After taking a quick break to step out, gauge how my body was feeling, and grab some more water, I went back in, focusing mostly on the toxins I was releasing with this excessive sweat for the last 15 minutes. According to Kaps, sweat induced by infrared is 20 percent toxins whereas sweat from traditional saunas is comprised of only 3 percent toxins.
I left the room feeling lighter. Thinner. Heating myself up really chilled me out.
I emailed Kaps and told her I was obsessed; that I couldn't wait to get back for another session. Kaps wasn't surprised: "We hear the words love, obsessed, and addicted all day."