A few months ago, I came across an article from The Cut about the potential mental health benefits of infrared saunas. Even though I was in Los Angeles at the time, the sun was still setting at 4pm, and my mood levels had definitely been suffering for it. At that point, I’d tried exercising six times a week, meditating, and gratitude journaling to keep my Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay, and frankly, sweating it out in a sauna sounded like a way more appealing option. Once I was back in my beloved NYC, I promptly booked an appointment with HigherDOSE, an infrared sauna spa with locations all over NYC, New Jersey, and Connecticut. It’s also the preferred spot of celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, and Bella Hadid, if you’re into that. Read on to find out the alleged benefits of infrared saunas, and what I thought after my 60-minute session.
What Do Infrared Saunas Do?
Simply put, infrared saunas claim to make you hotter in every way (obviously, pun intended). Not only does an hour of intense sweating knock off some water weight, but infrared heat may actually help boost your metabolism. According to Dr. Frank Lipman, who spoke to The Cut, just half an hour in an infrared sauna could help you burn up to 600 calories. (That’s like, one million squats or an hour on the treadmill. If this is what celebs have secretly been doing instead of working out, I will never feel okay again.)
For those of you less obsessed with losing weight (tell me your secrets), infrared saunas also have major skin benefits. Again per Dr. Lipman, infrared heat boosts circulation, blood flow, and collagen production, giving you an immediate post-sauna glow, as well as long-term benefits from regular use. Lipman, along with HigherDOSE’s co-founders, also hype up the detoxing capabilities of infrared saunas. Co-founder Lauren Berlingeri claims that infrared pulls “heavy metals, environmental pollutants, and radiation” from your system, and the instructional pamphlet inside the sauna room advised that some of your sweat may come out as black from all the toxins being released. (Sidenote: I’m still not sure that I believe “detoxing” is a real thing, but I really want it to be.) Other potential benefits include pain relief (from sore muscles to chronic headaches) and a boosted immune system.
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Currently sweating it out at an infrared sauna place. If you don't know about infrared saunas GET ON BOARD! I love it so much. It's not like a regular sauna where I can only sit there for like 10 mins and then I feel like I'm melting. infrared saunas are great for deep muscle relaxation, detoxing, cardio vascular health and your skin! Michelle told me it helps skin heal faster – I don't know about that but it does feel great! But you know, obviously, I'm no doctor(right @steveagee??)
Finally, the mental health benefits: a 2016 study showed that whole-body hyperthermia (whole body heating, specifically to 101.3º F, for the non-scientists among us), could have antidepressant effects lasting up to six weeks. Claims have been floating around for years that infrared heat can influence serotonin levels or release endorphins, but evidence is tenuous. The 2016 study, however, focuses on the “stress” aspect of sitting in a sauna—the extreme heat—and how these bursts of stress can better train your brain to deal with non-sauna stressors, like anxiety or depression. Again, no one’s claiming that this is rock-solid science, but these studies, along with the fact that everyone seems to feel f*cking amazing after leaving one of these saunas, was enough to make me desperate to try it for myself.
So, What’s An Infrared Sauna Like?
I visited the 11 Howard location of HigherDOSE, and was immediately thrilled by the spa-like room I entered. Each sauna room has a private bathroom (with a nicer shower than the one in my apartment), a Bluetooth speaker system, water, chilled eucalyptus towels, and of course, the sauna itself.
You’re given a chromotherapy menu, which tells you the different light therapy colors available to you, and the benefits of each type of light. It’s pretty intuitive (yellow and orange are more activating, blue is more relaxing), but given that I’m a type-A weirdo, I spent the first half hour cycling through all of them anyway. The first 20 minutes felt like sitting in a colorful, less-hot-than-normal sauna. I was warm, but I didn’t have that slowly-being-cooked feeling I get after about 10 minutes in a regular sauna. At the 20-25 minute mark, things got really satisfying, by which I mean sweat started pouring down my entire body. Again, in regular saunas, I’ll notice a drip here or there, then walk out and be surprised at how sweaty I actually am. In the infrared sauna, there was no doubt that I was coated in sweat, and steadily producing more.
I also have a pretty short tolerance for regular saunas; I’d say 20-30 minutes and I’m begging to leave. With the infrared sauna, I was happy to stay in there a full 50 minutes (I left 10 minutes to shower), and honestly could have stayed a bit longer. Promptly after showering, I noticed a few things. My skin was baby-soft, the dull full-body ache from yesterday’s boxing class was greatly improved, and while I didn’t suddenly feel an all-around calm or “mental high,” my anxiety was noticeably tamed. I know this because my face, which is highly sensitive to many things, including heat, got some crazy red blotches about ten minutes post-sauna. But the last time I’d gotten blotches like this, I locked myself in a bathroom for two hours, crying furiously and sending my dermatologist selfies. This time, I washed my face, said “f*ck it,” and moved on with my day. See? Anxiety calming.
I’m not including a description of my blotchy face to alarm you. Any discoloration was gone within the hour, and I trust that if you have skin like mine, you already know that heat is a trigger. But it was truly remarkable to look in the mirror at something that would have typically ruined my day and be able to let it go. In terms of a mental boost from the infrared sauna, I was expecting something like a runner’s high (which I’ve also never achieved, possibly because I’ve never run long enough to get there). But the mental boost I got instead was actually way more valuable to my life—for the next few hours, at least, I didn’t get derailed by minor sh*t. As far as superpowers go, I’ll take it.
So, the only real major con of infrared saunas? The price tag. HigherDOSE sessions cost $45 and up for solo sessions, or $30 and up if you go with two people. As a one-time expense, it’s not bad, but given that many of the benefits are unlocked by regular use, I wish the experience were slightly more accessible. Given my experience, I’d love to go more often, but until my wellness influencer career really takes off, I’ll likely have to limit it to a once-monthly treat.
Images: Keziban Barry; @higherdose (2), @busyphilipps / Instagram;
It’s hot out, which means when you’re not at the pool getting day drunk, you’re watching Netflix and literally trying to chill. We’re officially at the part in the summer where the Sun goes from being a fun source of great lighting to a demon that is trying to ruin your makeup by inducing copious amounts of sweat. Some days, it’s just like, not possible to leave the air conditioned sanctuary of your apartment. We get it. TBH, when the temperature hits around 90 degrees, you should be allowed to call out sweaty from work. You’d be doing everyone a favor. On an unbearably hot day, there’s nothing better than just chilling on your couch, half naked, streaming television until Netflix is prompted to ask if you’re still there. Thank God Game of Thrones is back, but that’s only one night a week, and if tits and dragons aren’t your thing, don’t worry because here’s what’s on Netflix that you should definitely watch this summer.
Alison Brie is basically bizarro Anne Hathaway. She’s like, if Anne Hathaway was self-aware and knew how annoying she was, instead of just pretending to be self-aware so that we’ll stop being mean to her. (Not gonna happen, Anne. Sorry.) We low-key loved to hate her in Mad Men, and then she redeemed herself by acting TF out of everything else she’s been in since. This show is about female wrestlers, which sounds unbetchy at first, but it’s self-aware (there’s that word again) and hilarious and everybody dresses like a slut and does a lot of drugs, which gets our kiss of approval. Plus, Betty Gilpin is amazing in this as Debbie, the hot blonde best friend. We’re sure Halloween is going to see a lot of sexy wrestler costumes this year, and honestly, we don’t hate it.
2. Oh Hello
If you don’t live in New York or LA or one of the limited cities this show’s traveled to (we were too lazy to look up what those were), then you’re in luck because you can watch the TV version of John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s underground hit Broadway show Oh Hello. It’s adorable and weird in the best way, and reminds you of that time in high school you got super into Broadway musicals and tried to join theater before realizing everyone was a freak so you joined cheer instead. Anyways, these gentlemen are fun to watch and you can watch this on a third date if you’re looking for a chill comedy to put on while deciding if you’re going to make out with him or not.
Honestly, Moana is better than Frozen and any little girl who says otherwise is basic. Sorry, but it’s true. This movie is on Netflix, which means you can and should rewatch it or watch it for the first time if you haven’t before. Moana is a betch for sure. She has great hair, doesn’t listen to her parents, looks great in a bikini, and is like, very tan. Plus, The Rock is in this and he sings so I really don’t need to say anymore.
4. Orange is the New Black Season 5
A show about betches who fucked up but still can’t learn their lesson. If you haven’t already watched the first 4 seasons, what are you even doing? Catch up on OITNB because it’s basically what made Netflix golden in the original series market. Plus, Piper, much like us, believes in the saying: Better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.
5. Friends from College
TBH we don’t know if this is any good, so you can write us a Yelp review about it if you know. But this stars Keegan Michael Key and Cobie Smulders, both of whom we like, so maybe it’s worth a shot. It’s about friends who went to Harvard, and are still like… friends. Sounds a lot like Friends, which we liked, I guess. The Harvard thing is like, meh, but Rachel Bloom in Crazy Ex Girlfriend went to Harvard and that show is hilarious. So maybe it’s a thing.
We like to think this is in the same universe as Titanic, if Kathy Bates made it to America and started a weed dispensary. Well, the timeline is a little off there, but movies are fake so whatevs. This show is an office comedy about working at a weed dispensary. Although it comes from showrunner Chuck Lorre, who created Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, so expect a lot of corny jokes your mom will probably like more than you.
Since this series is now on Netflix, you don’t have to babysit a pre-teen just to watch the CW. This show is surprisingly good, even though Betty and Veronica are poorly cast (and dressed, sorry we had to say it), Archie is a fox and it’s on par with Pretty Little Liars. We’re into it, and you can binge it on Netflix.
8. Lady Dynamite Season 2
Maria Bamford has one of the best specials we’ve ever seen, so naturally, we’re going to watch season 2 of her show. She’s basically Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter if she were a real person, or if Jess from New Girl got older and less annoying. Maria’s quirky not for the attention, but just for survival. We love her and we think this will be great.