Knowing Your Sauna: Near Infrared vs. Far Infrared Heat

What Exactly Does Near Infrared Mean?

Near infrared light is contained within the spectrum of natural sunlight. The sun emits nearly half of its total energy in the near infrared (NIR) spectrum. We are biologically wired to use near infrared energy, much like sunlight is needed to produce vitamin D. Our bodies require this energy from sunlight to survive and to thrive.  Near infrared systems are effective at rejuvenating the skin, help raise core body temperature, improve circulation and can provide pain relief.

What Is a Far Infrared System?

Far infrared, now considered to be one of the leading heat sources for contemporary therapeutic saunas today operates in a similar manner to near infrared but differs in terms of wavelength. Science aside, the tangible benefits of far infrared are significant, as this system heats the body from within and produces the kind of profuse sweating normally only seen with traditional wet-dry sauna systems.

Most clinicians who recommend infrared saunas for healing or wellness purposes will tout the health benefits of a far infrared system.  The additional benefits of far infrared saunas are detoxification, increasing your metabolism, weight loss and stress reduction just to name a few.

How Do Benefits Compare for Near vs. Far Infrared?

While both near and far infrared systems can detoxify the body, they go about it quite differently. Near infrared systems provide topical relief for skin issues and shallow body pain. The results are often less dramatic than what one would expect to see when using a far infrared system.

Far infrared systems can detoxify the body as much as seven times more effectively than standard sauna units because they produce heavy natural sweating that moves harmful elements out of the body quite quickly and also mobilizes toxins by inducing a fat based sweat.

Many sauna users report relaxation is one of the biggest reasons they purchased their new unit or visit their local sauna. Infrared sauna therapy, especially far infrared heating units, promote relaxation by balancing the body’s levels of cortisol – an important hormone in the body that regulates stress.  The infrared heating units help muscles to relax and loosen, and since far infrared wavelengths mimic the body’s own emissions, they tend to impart a sense of rejuvenation in most individuals.

Weight Loss
According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled Effect of Sweating, researchers discovered a simple half-hour sauna session could burn as many as 600 calories. This study was conducted using an infrared sauna system.

Near infrared saunas effectively raise your core body temperature to help burn calories.  Far infrared saunas stimulate your metabolism, lower cortisol levels and slightly raise HGH to help with weight loss as well.

Due to the fact that far infrared sauna units tend to more effectively increase the body’s core temperature and safely increase heart rate, they may burn calories more easily than a near infrared unit or traditional sauna.

Skin Rejuvenation
One of the most exciting benefits of using a sauna is the glowing skin you’ll witness after just a few sessions. Two basic things have to happen in order to rejuvenate the skin – improving the body’s circulation and eliminating toxins from the pores of the skin.

Saunas, especially those using infrared technology, accomplish both of these. A near infrared system will effectively improve the topical surface of the skin, while the far infrared units help to promote toxin release through profuse sweating. Most sauna users will find that the sweating component helps to cleanse the skin quite effectively, thereby improving skin tone from the inside out.

Improved Circulation
While all saunas can therapeutically improve circulation and enhance blood flow to key areas of the body, infrared saunas do an impressive job of boosting circulation, all while keeping the user comfortable. Middle to far infrared heating units penetrate deeply and help to stimulate blood flow, minimize pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance muscle recovery.

Infrared Levels

Infrared sauna treatments may be available at different levels: near, middle, and far. These different levels represent the different sizes in infrared wavelengths and refer to the intensity of the treatment. Most people find that:

  • Near-infrared levels are best for wound healing and increased immune function
  • Middle-infrared levels are ideal for increasing circulation and promoting muscle relaxation
  • Far-infrared levels are used primarily for detoxification purposes

Are Near & Far Infrared Saunas Safe?

The answer is – yes! Think about it this way, hospitals use infrared heating lamps to warm newborn babies. Unlike exposing yourself to UV rays from the sun or a tanning bed, you cannot burn yourself with infrared heat. There are no known dangers to using an infrared heat source in your sauna.

As always, you’ll want to monitor your body temperature to ensure you don’t overheat. Keep adequately hydrated, too. And, check with your doctor to make sure you are medically cleared to use a sauna and that you don’t have any preexisting conditions that would make sauna use inadvisable. Saunas are incredibly safe, and infrared units provide real therapy without the oppressive heat of a traditional sauna.

Now that you have a good understanding of near infrared vs. far infrared heat, which sauna type do you feel will serve you best? Near infrared units tend to promote topical healing and mild pain relief quite effectively, but far infrared heating units are incredibly effective at removing toxins, improving circulation, and relaxing the muscles. Most experts agree that if you’re really looking to get the maximum therapeutic benefits from your sauna session you’ll want to go for a unit that offers all three spectrum.  These are called Full Spectrum saunas and offer near, mid and far infrared.

Consider this before deciding: 

7 Irrefutable Reasons Near Infrared Is Better Than Far Infrared

1. Deeper tissue penetration
2. Anti-inflammatory and pain relieving
3. EMF safe
4. Protects cells from toxins
5. Increases nitric oxide for better circulation and anti-oxidant protection
6. Increases cell energy which leads to cell healing
7. Easier to maintain the sauna over time

Both near and far infrared saunas provide equal health benefits from heat therapy and detoxification. In these two areas, both types of infrared saunas are excellent. After that, however, near infrared is vastly superior. Really, the two are not very comparable. Below is a more detailed explanation of the points listed above:

Tissue Penetration
N.A.S.A. has measured near infrared light tissue penetration as deep as 9 inches, or 23cm. Yet, it is more complicated. Tissue penetration is related to light intensity. In the near infrared sauna, the energy is much more intense because it is concentrated in a smaller surface area and you have the option of targeting it on a specific area of your body. In far infrared saunas, especially those with carbon heaters, the total heat is spread out over a very large surface area. While some sauna makers promote this as a good thing, it has the unfortunate side effect of making the infrared much less concentrated at any given point on your skin. Less concentration equals less penetration.

Anti-Inflammatory Pain Relief
Near infrared light is an established anti-inflammatory agent. This is the main reason that near infrared light reduces pain. We have seen customers have incredible results with long standing pain management while using our saunas. In fact, there are dozens of hand-held therapy devices using near infrared for pain relief, and it is a common tool found in physical therapist offices. Far infrared wavelengths do not create an anti-inflammatory response.

EMF Safe
All electrical devices have some Electro-Magnetic Field and high levels are widely regarded as harmful. In an electric sauna, the heaters MUST have a reading of less than 2 milligauss to be safe. Near infrared saunas have a reading of 1 milligauss. Plus, when you use the sauna, you sit 2-3 ft away from the bulbs. At this distance, the EMF reading is effectively ZERO!

Protects Cells From Toxins
This is an incredible benefit! Lab studies show that cells treated with near infrared light, and then exposed to toxic chemicals, are protected, while non light-treated cells die. Near infrared also protects against ischemic damage through increased nitric oxide. FAR INFRARED HAS NO SUCH PROTECTION! Given the daily assault of toxins we all face, near infrared sauna is a powerful protective tool.

Increases Nitric Oxide For Greater Circulation and Anti-Oxidant Protection
Another amazing benefit specific to near infrared light! Near infrared light enhances the cells’ production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a signal molecule that regulates vasodilation. The result of near infrared stimulation is increased levels of nitric oxide lower blood pressure, reduced arterial plaque adhesions, and enhanced circulation. Also, an added benefit is increased nitric oxide confers anti-oxidant protection inside the cells.

Increased Cell Energy and Cell Healing
This is the real secret to near infrared light’s superiority. Our bodies have cellular receptors for near infrared. They’re called chromophores and they absorb specific wavelengths of near infrared light and use that energy for cellular action. This means we are biologically hardwired to NEED near infrared light for optimal health. When chromophores absorb near infrared light, they take that energy and use it to enhance the cell’s production of ATP. ATP is the way our bodies store chemical energy. The result of near infrared energy is more cell power to produce proteins and heal tissue. In study after study, near infrared light makes the body repair itself faster and more efficiently. All because of the chromophores and our natural need for near infrared. Of particular interest is the FACT that there are no such cell structures for far infrared energy.

Ultimately, whichever sauna you have access to, it is safe to state that you will benefit, regardless of the pros and cons of both….

How To Use A Far Infrared Sauna Properly

Most chemicals come out in the first few minutes of saunaing; so one does not have to overheat for hours to obtain a result. The best results are achieved from many short sessions (e.g. one daily just to the point of sweating; but start with two sessions a week and build up).

Once the skin has warmed up well, shower off at once! If the patient does not wash off the released chemicals, they will simply be reabsorbed. After 24 hours, chemicals redistribute from deeper tissues into the superficial layers, and the process can be repeated. This way, after some weeks of saunaing, chemicals will gradually be drawn out from even deeper layers. It is very likely that massage will help by physically mobilising chemicals lodged in fat.

Regularly using the sauna to sweat also unfortunately releases ‘good’ minerals as sweat is in fact blood without the protein and cellular content. So it is important to rehydrate with a physiological mix of minerals.

Far Infrared Saunas does not damage the skin (it is the sun’s ultra-violet light which is at the other end of the spectrum which does that).

We have mentioned the use of FIR saunas as these are more freely available than NIR saunas.  the choice as to which you use – is yours.

DBM Protocol – Adjunct Therapy – FIR Sauna 

  • dry brush before your sauna session
  • short sessions in the FIR Sauna
    • if you’re new to infrared saunas, we would recommend starting out with 4-minute sessions at 160 -180° F / 71 – 82° C, and slowly working your way up to 15- to 30-minute sessions.
    • If an infrared sauna is not available, but you have access to a regular sauna, you can still achieve some degree of detoxification with 10 – to 20-minute sessions at 180 -190° F / 82 – 87° C degrees Fahrenheit.
  • shower after each session
  • rehydrate after each session with electrolyte water
  • soothe the skin with coconut balm or coconut oil

How To Build an Infrared Sauna

Which ever is your choice – saunas are great for detxong – heres a quick and easy “how to” video that shows you how to put a NIR sauna together for home use.

Article sources