The Best At-Home Infrared Saunas, According To Functional Medicine Experts
If you're no stranger to mbg, then you know stress is a complex topic. That's because while we understand chronic stress can do our bodies harm, we also know small, strategic stressors can actually be beneficial.
The concept, called hormesis (which you can read all about here), states that periodic stressors will trigger a cellular response that may slow aging, better equip you to manage future stress, and enhance overall health. Case in point: infrared sauna therapy.
Compared to traditional saunas, which use some form of physical heat (wood or stones heated by fire, gas, or electricity) to raise the temperature, infrared saunas rely on infrared light, a wavelength invisible to the human eye that presents itself through heat.
To dig a little bit deeper into the benefits of infrared sauna therapy, mbg chatted with functional medicine experts who share their thoughts and the best at-home options to buy.
- Best personal sauna: Sunlighten Solo System Personal Sauna
- Best Low EMF: Clearlight Sanctuary 2 Sauna
- Best portable: SaunaSpace Luminati Infrared Sauna
- Best blanket: HigherDOSE Infrared Sauna Blanket
- Best Far-Infrared: Clearlight® Premier™ IS-1 Far-Infrared Sauna
- Best budget: SereneLife One Person Sauna
- Best splurge:Clearlight Outdoor 5 Person Full Spectrum Sauna Pros
What are the benefits of an infrared sauna?
Infrared technology relies on light waves, so it can penetrate the skin1 and warm up your core temperature directly; whereas, traditional saunas warm up the entire room before the warmth even reaches your skin. Meaning in order to reach the same level of efficacy, an infrared sauna can stay at a lower—and more comfortable—temperature than its traditional counterpart (~140 degrees Fahrenheit vs. ~185 degrees).
So one major benefit, according to psychiatrist and doctor of osteopathic medicine Roxanna Namavar, D.O., is that infrared saunas are more tolerable to people sensitive to heat while still putting the body under just the right amount of stress.
"When we stress our hormones out a little bit, we get great results in the long term. It's a concept written extensively in medicine," functional medicine doctor and mbg Collective member Amy Shah, M.D., tells us. Exercise or intermittent fasting are two examples, Shah explains, noting that "saunas are another stressor with beneficial downstream effects."
Some of those benefits may include better sleep quality and improved energy.
And though more research is needed to back up these claims, one small study found that participants experienced an increase in melatonin production2 and better sleep quality following infrared light therapy, which ultimately led to greater athletic endurance.
"Studies have looked at the impact of infrared saunas on conditions such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, dementia/Alzheimer's disease, headache, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and found evidence of benefit3," Namavar says.
While more research is necessary to bolster these findings, Namavar notes, based on current understanding, there are "no negative effects from utilizing infrared therapy."
If you're thinking about trying sauna therapy, we recommend chatting with your doctor to find out if it's the right tool for you. Whether your doctor recommends it for specific health reasons, or you're interested in saunas for the spa-like self-care benefits, here are some of the best at-home options on the market.
How much does an infrared sauna cost?
Our list of the best infrared saunas includes options at a range of price points. The best splurge infrared sauna we've selected is the Clearlight Outdoor 5 Person Full Spectrum Sauna, which costs $9,100. As with most larger purchases, you truly get what you pay for. Designed by doctors, this fully-immersive sauna has EMF/ELF shielding, extremely powerful heaters, and includes both full-spectrum and far-infrared heating technology. With extras like a built-in phone or tablet charging and audio station, an ergonomic backrest, and a Bluetooth surround sound system, it has all the bells and whistles.
That said, depending on your space, needs, budget, and preferences, you can find a great option for less money. On our list, the average cost of infrared saunas is about $5,000. In fact, we found one great portable sauna option that costs less than $200 and requires very minimal setup. We’ve also included an infrared sauna blanket, which is a significantly lower investment than a full sauna but still provides extensive benefits.
The difference between infrared saunas and infrared sauna blankets.
There's a lot of overlap between the benefits of infrared saunas and the benefits of infrared sauna blankets, but a few key differences to consider. Of course, both infrared saunas and infrared sauna blankets will elevate your internal temperatures to put your body into a state of healthy stress (AKA hormesis). Since the two devices use infrared technology, there are similar benefits in that arena as well. The research is limited to date, but studies suggest far-infrared can reduce pain4, improve cardiovascular health, and even helping your body produce collagen1.
The main (and likely obvious) difference between the two is the size and convenience. Infrared sauna blankets are convenient in the sense that they are more portable, can be stowed away when not in use, and are typically significantly less expensive. However, infrared saunas offer a fully-immersive experience, and one that doesn't trap your arms in while you use it. You'll feel more intense heat in an infrared sauna because there is nowhere for the air to escape, whereas in an infrared sauna blanket your neck and head are exposed and you're not fully-immersed. In an infrared sauna, you can use your hands to read and use your tablet or phone (some even have charging stations), and in the blanket you're pretty much confined with your arms by your side. Many infrared saunas have speakers, more space for you to change positions, and even chromotherapy features.
So, which is better: an infrared sauna or an infrared sauna blanket? There's no right answer as both provide a slew of healthy benefits. The right one for you simply depends on your intended use, the amount of space you have in your home, and your budget.
How we picked:
Our team has done extensive research and spoken with many experts about the benefits of infrared saunas and how to pick an infrared sauna. We used this insight to narrow down our selections and weed out the best infrared saunas.
Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) from infrared light has been flagged by some consumer groups, so we opted for brands using low-EMF tech when possible.
Infrared saunas are an investment in your health and well-being, and we're dedicated to finding products that will stand the test of time. We focused on brands that were transparent about their product's materials and certifications, while providing a few budget-friendly picks as well.
There's a wide range when it comes to the cost of infrared saunas. To make sure we found an option for everyone, we included a few splurge-worthy saunas, an infrared sauna blanket, and a more affordable infrared sauna.
Our picks for the best infrared saunas of 2023:
Best personal sauna: Sunlighten Solo System Personal Sauna
- Five-zone heated design
- Optional chromotherapy
- Far-infrared only
The Sunlighten Solo System personal sauna was recommended to mbg by Cole and is a longtime favorite of functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, M.D. "I have found infrared saunas to be very effective in reducing the stress response and creating balance in the autonomic nervous system," Hyman says in his Sunlighten review. "I have personally benefited from Sunlighten sauna therapy and feel it can be integrated into anyone's wellness plan."
These beds are "top of the line, super effective, and beautiful," Cole says. "Sunlighten saunas have been a great tool in the protocols I develop for [my patients] over the years," he adds. And he's not the only one. Experts like Dave Asprey and Dr. Amy Meyers give Sunlighten saunas their stamp of approval, too.
One standout feature for this personal sauna is its five-zone design. All five zones have a maximum temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing you to customize your experience and adjust the temperature for different areas of your body. The devise also offers chromotherapy, with 16 colors, four color-changing modes, and four brightness/intensity settings.
Best Low EMF: Clearlight Sanctuary 2 Sauna
- Full-spectrum infrared
- Fits two people
Recommended by Stillman, Clearlight saunas earn top marks for their low-EMF design. Electromagnetic fields are emitted by all technology, and it's one of the concerns tossed out by shoppers when comparing modern infrared saunas versus their traditional counterparts.
Clearlight accounts for this concern by blocking all EMFs, which are frequencies below 300 hertz, as well as ELF or extremely low frequency fields between 3 to 30 hertz.
Despite this difference, the saunas use both far-infrared light and a full-spectrum heating system. The interior contains an ergonomic bench, as well as ambient lighting (you can choose from one of 12 colors) to really get you in the comfort zone. And because sharing is caring, we suggest the Sanctuary 2 sauna—fit for two!
If you need a bit more space to host friends and family, you can always upgrade to one of the brand's larger indoor full-spectrum picks, such as the Sanctuary Retreat, which is ADA-compliant, or the slightly slimmer Sanctuary Yoga. Both offer enough room for four people, have removable benches, and incorporate full-spectrum far-infrared light.
Mindbodygreen community perk: Receive one free Ergonomic Back Stretcher with your purchase using code mbgperk.
Best portable: SaunaSpace Luminati Infrared Sauna
- Full spectrum
- Sleek design
- Machine-washable organic cotton cover
- Some complains about stool not being comfortable
This portable option from SaunaSpace comes highly recommended by holistic medicine doctor Leland Stillman, M.D. The materials are hypoallergenic and sustainable. Plus, it's easy to break down and set back up, so it's not confined to one room. The bulbs combine near-infrared light (which emits the most heat, without penetrating skin cells, to support tissue repair) and far-infrared light (which penetrates skin cells in order to raise the body's surface temperature and support cardiovascular health), creating a full-spectrum sauna with multiple benefits.
The sauna has four adjustable levels of intensity, so you can customize each experience to your preferences. The entire outer layer is made from machine-washable organic cotton that’s lightweight and easy to transport. Your purchase also comes with an ergonomic stool with a curved seat, which folds flat for easy storage.
Best blanket: HigherDOSE Infrared Sauna Blanket
- Space efficient
- Far-infrared rays only
Functional medicine expert Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP previously told mindbodygreen, "I've been using, and recommending to my patients, HigherDOSE's Sauna Blanket...no matter where I'm staying—I even take it with me to hotels!" Though the blanket only offers far-infrared rays (compared to full-spectrum), this is still a great option "if you are looking for something more mobile and lower cost," Cole says.
Whether you're looking specifically for an infrared sauna blanket, or simply looking for a portable sauna option, this is a great choice. The materials are high-quality and the blanket it designed to last.The blanket offers eight levels of intensity (easily customized by the accompanying remote control), with a timer you can set for up to one hour. The brand says the far infrared rays promote a deeper detoxifying sweat, allowing your body to rid itself of environmental toxins, and increasing your heart rate while you use it.
Our co-founder and co-CEO, Colleen Wachob, is a fan of the HigherDose sauna blanket, too. "I don't like complicated set-ups," she explains. "This was one of the easiest that I have ever encountered. You literally plug-in the blanket and it's ready to go. The blanket also warms up really quickly—I started on the heat setting 6, which was perfect for me."
Community Perk: mindbodygreen readers can save 15% on their HigherDose blanket purchase with code MBG15.
Best Far-Infrared: Clearlight Premier™ IS-1 Far-Infrared Sauna
- More affordable
- Low EMF design
- Does't offer full-spectrum of infrared light
If your budget is slightly smaller but you still want the luxury of a full-size infrared sauna, try this pick. Instead of full-spectrum light, it only offers far-infrared (saving you around $2,000). You won't get all three levels of infrared heat—near, mid, and far–but you will get the most important: far-infrared. Plus, like the rest of the Clearlight designs, it blocks all electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and extremely low frequency emissions (ELFs).
One appreciated and unexpected feature of this design is that the door handle doubles as a tablet holder, making it easy to stream your favorite content while achieving all the benefits of a sauna session. The sauna also comes equipped with a bluetooth surround sound speaker, for a fully immersive experience. Pro tip: use the speakers for calming music or your favorite meditation.
Mindbodygreen community perk: Receive one free Ergonomic Back Stretcher with your purchase using code mbgperk.
Best budget: SereneLife One Person Sauna
- Chair included
- Takes up a fair amount of space
While this SereneLife sauna wasn't recommended by an expert, it earned a spot on our list thanks to glowing reviews and a more accessible price: "After several times of using this, it has really helped with my sore muscles. It's very relaxing and customer service has been extremely helpful," says one Amazon review.
"The sauna is amazing. I purchased it for recovery after my workouts and for relaxation. It heats up quickly and is comfortable to sit in," another writes. The sauna reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit and comes with a remote control so you can easily adjust the temperature and time spent in the heat.
Best splurge: Clearlight Outdoor 5 Person Full Spectrum Sauna Pros
- Can go outside
- Low EMF design
- Not portable
If you’re ready to go all out, this Clearlight sauna has it all: seating for five, full-spectrum infrared light, app based temperature control, and the ability to go indoors and out. “This is a quality build premium sauna,” says one reviewer. Another adds, “Installation was a breeze.”
This sauna was designed by doctors and includes EMF/ELF shielding, with some of the lowest levels in the space. The brand says the heaters are 12.5 times more powerful than its competitors, and the design includes full-spectrum infrared heating technology and far-infrared heating technology.
Offering another full-immersive experience, this sauna has a built-in phone or tablet charging and audio station, an ergonomic backrest, and a Bluetooth surround sound system. Plus, the brand offers a lifetime warranty on every component.
How to use an infrared sauna.
There are a few things to keep in mind when starting your at-home infrared sauna practice. Experts have given different recommendations in terms of how to use an infrared sauna, but below are some tips to get you started.
- Read the instructions for your particular machine to make sure you are setting it up properly.
- Choose a temperature that works for you. If you aren't sure what this is, speak with your doctor to determine what's best. Beginners can start lower and increase the temperature over time.
- You’ll be sweating out a ton of fluids, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Always drink a sufficient amount of water before and after using your sauna.
- Go in with clean skin. Many people even like using a dry brush to exfoliate beforehand, which helps get your blood flowing, too.
- On that note, experts have recommended using a sauna after a workout, as it will help increase your blood flow and relax your muscles.
- Start small. Some people enjoy hour-long sauna sessions, but if you’re new to the practice you should start with shorter 10 to 20 minute sessions to help your body acclimate to the hot temperatures. Take breaks if you feel too warm and end your session if you feel any concerning symptoms—and, as always, speak with your doctor if you’re not sure what duration is best for you.
- Find a time of day that's best for you. For many people, that's either first thing in the morning after a workout, or before bed. Choose a time when you'll be able to relax and disconnect.
How do I choose an infrared sauna?
To choose the best infrared sauna for you, consider your space, budget, and use-case. This will narrow down your options a bit, and from there you should look for a high-quality option that will hold up over time, preferably one with low EMF exposure. We’ve noted these options in our list.
Which is better far infrared or full spectrum sauna?
A far infrared sauna uses only far infrared heat. While there are many suggested benefits to far infrared heat on its own, full spectrum is better because it will emit near, mid, and far infrared heat.
Which infrared sauna has the lowest EMF?
Electromagnetic fields are emitted by all technology, and it's one of the concerns tossed out by shoppers when comparing modern infrared saunas versus their traditional counterparts. We’ve chosen the Clearlight Sanctuary sauna as the best low-EMF option. The brand blocks all EMFs (frequencies below 300 hertz), as well as ELFs (between 3 and 30 hertz).
What brand of sauna is best?
This depends greatly on your needs and preferences, but every brand on our list is recommended by our team. Some are more affordable and therefore will come with less bells and whistles, but will still provide benefits. Higher end options will likely last longer.
Widely recommended by functional medicine experts, infrared saunas offer potential benefits ranging from improved sleep to enhanced endurance, not to mention general relaxation. If you're tight on space or are looking for a cheaper option, a blanket or portable sauna might be right for you. But if you're ready to go all out, a 2- or even 5-person sauna will fit the bill.
What we've updated since publishing:
2/23: We had this article medically reviewed by Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS. Additionally, we added an FAQ section and updated the product description, pros, and cons for each sauna option.
3/7/23: After continued research, we updated this article to include more information on how much an infrared sauna costs and the difference between infrared saunas and sauna blankets. We also added detail on our research and selection process, which can be found in the "how we picked" section above.
3/9/23: We added advice on how to use an infrared sauna, along with an FAQ section.