Are sauna and steam rooms harsh on your skin – what you should know

Spring is technically just around the corner now, but for many states across the country, it’s hard to tell as winter storms are still happening and the temperatures haven’t done much in terms of warming up. It’s about this time of year that most of us are pretty much done with winter and are looking for ways to warm up and get rid of the chill that settled in back in November. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about giving that sauna or steam room a try at your local health club, spa, or even at a friend’s house, but you’ve been holding back in fear of what it may do to your skin. It’s normal to have very dry sensitive skin at this time of year, so aggravating it isn’t high on the to-do list. So, are sauna and steam rooms good for your skin?

Here are the facts you should know about.

What Is the Difference Between a Sauna and a Steam Room?

While people often use the terms sauna and steam rooms interchangeably, in reality, they are totally different. As reported on Press Cave, saunas were created in Finland and were originally called a bathhouse. They use hot stones to create steam, which is a dry heat. While there may be some steam in the air, it usually dissipates pretty quickly. A sauna is made from wood, complete with wooden benches for sitting on.

A steam room, on the other hand, uses steam to warm up the room and create heat. It is extremely humid so you have a wet type of heat. Typically, you’ll sit on tile benches that have a slight slant to them, so any perspiration drips to the floor rather than pooling where the person sits.

The Effects of a Steam Room

When you enter a steam room the first thing you are struck by is the extreme level of humidity. It’s not uncommon for the room to reach a temperature of 110 degrees with humidity of 100%, which can be pretty shocking at first. What this does is stimulate blood circulation, so your skin ends up looking flushed and red. Because of this high level of humidity, it actually works to hydrate your skin. It can make your skin look plumper, healthier, and feel moist to the touch.

However, when you leave the steam room it’s essential you apply a good quality moisturizer to your skin right away, in order to lock in that hydration. Experts say if you don’t apply the cream within 60 seconds of leaving the room, the benefits will already be lost.

The Effects of a Sauna

With a sauna, you are in for even hotter temperatures, typically between 170-212 degrees. It’s a dry heat with humidity only sitting between 5-20%. Because of the dry heat, there are no hydration benefits for the skin. What this means is that the sauna can be much harsher on your skin, especially if you suffer from dry skin. Again, you’ll need to apply moisturizer to your skin immediately after leaving the room.

What’s the Verdict?

So, what’s the final verdict on saunas and steam rooms? Well, it depends how dry your skin is. If you have extremely dry skin, then you’re best to skip the sauna and visit the steam room instead, making sure to apply a good quality moisturizer immediately after.


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  • Myron Dallas
    October 8, 2019

    Which type is recommended for acne-prone and sensitive skin? Thanks!

  • Mark Lawrence
    June 26, 2020

    Can a sauna or a steam room help increase athletic performance?

Tuesday 13 March 2018
Are sauna and steam rooms harsh on your skin – what you should know

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