Full Spectrum Infrared Saunas – Why They May Not Be The Best?

If you are reading this article then you are probably diving into the world of Infrared Sauna research, and the deeper you dive the more confused you seem to get. Far Infrared, Mid Infrared, Near Infrared, Full Spectrum Infrared Saunas!? How is it possible to understand what’s what and make a sound decision when purchasing a Sauna? And do I really need to spend big $$$ on a Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna?

At Sun Stream Saunas we understand why there is so much confusion, so please read on as we lay it all bare and make choosing the right sauna for you a whole lot easier!

Understanding Near Infrared, Mid Infrared and Far Infrared in a Sauna Application.

So first things first, let’s explain the three different categories of Infrared Saunas in the marketplace:

  • Far Infrared Saunas (FIR)
  • So called ‘Near Infrared (NIR) Saunas’
  • So called ‘Full Spectrum Infrared Saunas’

Far Infrared (FIR) Saunas

A Far Infrared Sauna emits a band of light we perceive as heat. We cannot see this band of light with the naked eye, but we can feel this type of light in the form of heat. We’ve all experienced the penetrating heat of an open fire on a cold night, or the heat of the sun’s rays on our body when a cloud moves away. The penetrating heat you feel is Far Infrared which has safely been used in Infrared Saunas for over four decades.

So how does a Far Infrared Sauna work?

In a sauna application, far infrared radiant heat is absorbed by the water content or moisture in our skin (1- 4mm depth) which is then drawn into deeper levels of our muscles and joints to induce a deep heavy sweat. Absorption is the key dynamic to generate heat in your body which is the primary purpose of a sauna.

All light when it hits an object, such as our body, is either absorbed, reflected or transmitted (passes through). FIR is highly absorbed, has a low reflection rate and a low transmission rate making it the best wavelength for the purposes of heating the human body. All carbon and ceramic based sauna heaters produce most of their energy in the FIR range. 

In conclusion, far Infrared is the appropriate wavelength for the purposes of a sauna; for a whole body radiant heat treatment, for raising your body’s core temperature, boosting your immune system and inducing a cleansing detoxing sweat.

What About Mid Infrared (MIR) 

Mid Infrared is not well studied and outside of the advertising from certain ‘full spectrum’ infrared sauna companies we have been unable to find any information indicating particular benefits of MIR which makes up a very small portion of the light spectrum (only 1.4- 3.0 microns). Mid Infrared is likely absorbed by the water content in our skin as is Far Infrared and can add to the heating effect of the sauna.

The Ultra Low EMF & ELF Nano-Carbon panel heaters in Sun Stream Infrared Saunas emit Far Infrared (FIR) with approximately 70% of the heaters output lying between 5-15 microns (5000nm – 15000nm) and approximately 90% of the output lying between 1-20 microns (1000nm-20,000nm). Thus, our heaters also encompass the Mid Infrared range of 1.4- 3.0 microns.

Near Infrared (NIR) Saunas

Now this may come as a surprise, but the fact is that Near Infrared & Far Infrared are very different forms of treatment, they are not synergistic. FIR is your primary heat source for inducing a detoxifying sweat, whereas NIR generates very little heat in our bodies.

Let’s explain the science behind this:

NIR has a low absorption rate and a high reflection rate which means that emitters need to be placed in close proximity to the skin to overcome the skin’s natural defense mechanism. Once this is achieved NIR passes through our tissue where several biochemical reactions occur associated with cellular energy production and healing. 

There is decades of research and 1000s of studies published on the therapeutic benefits of NIR and Red light which is known as Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT) or Low Level Light Therapy (LLLT) in the medical literature.

All of the PBMT research has used either lasers or LED sources of Red and NIR light. Single or dual frequencies of wavelengths in the visible Red 600nm range or invisible NIR in the 800nm range are the specific frequencies often used in the research. The research has discovered that our cells’ chromophores (light receptors) respond to a high intensity of a single or dual frequency in the 600snm or 800nm ranges.

Why Near Infrared In a Sauna Offers NO Therapeutic Value!

Some sauna companies are promoting Near Infrared for the purpose of a sauna who seem to have a poor understanding of the science of NIR. Again, NIR generates very little heat in our body and will not induce a sweat, rather NIR Light passes through our tissue to stimulate Mitochondrial healing.

Some sauna companies are using incandescent heat lamp bulbs or quartz halogen tube heaters which produce only a small amount of NIR and have very very hot filaments. Neither of these incandescent devices emit their NIR at single frequency as has been done with the LEDs or lasers in all of the PBMT/LLLT medical research.

Light disperses over distance and it is essentially impossible to be close enough to these very hot lamps or halogen tubes due to their extremely hot surface temperatures. To receive an adequate level of NIR energy, lasers and LEDs on the other hand are capable of producing the single frequency wavelengths for therapy and can be comfortably positioned close enough to the body, even pressed right into our skin, to ensure the delivery of therapeutic levels of light energy.

Using Near Infrared in a Far Infrared sauna may help one save some time by combining these 2 different therapies together, however it is not the ideal situation for administering light therapy. Near Infrared will transmit through our tissue best when we are at normal temperature rather than when we are heated up in the sauna and when our skin is not covered in a layer of sweat.

It is also worth noting that our cells can only absorb a limited amount of NIR light, approximately 30 Jules which can be delivered in 8-10 minutes using a science based LED device like our Rojo Light Therapy panels. Given the fact that the maximum dose of NIR Light is delivered in a short space of time and is best done prior to sweating, it makes no sense to incorporate NIR into an Infrared sauna.

Therefore a “Near Infrared Sauna” is a contradiction of terms. The primary function of a sauna is to generate heat in your body to raise your core temperature, boost your immune system and induce a heavy sweat. Near Infrared generates very little heat in your body as it passes through our tissue and does not serve the hyperthermic purpose of sauna.

Full Spectrum Infrared Saunas

Some companies are advertising ‘full spectrum’ saunas that incorporate invisible Near Infrared light and Mid Infrared light into their Far Infrared saunas. As we have just learned, attempting to add NIR for the purposes of sauna makes no sense, is a waste of time and does not harmonise with the science associated with PBMT or Light Therapy.

Further to the discussion there may even be dangers associated with NIR from non-LED sources! We highly recommend reading the following articles on this topic:

Don’t Be Deceived By The Marketing Hype Of So Called ‘Full Spectrum Infrared Saunas’ and ‘Near Infrared’ Saunas!

As we have learnt some sauna companies are recommending the use of common Near Infrared heat lamps or quartz halogen tube heaters for NIR therapy purposes. These devices are extremely hot and it is impossible to place your skin close enough to the bulbs to receive therapeutic levels of NIR without getting burnt. 

Both of these devices emit over a wide range of frequencies covering visible light, Near, Mid, and Far Infrared. They do not emit a high level of Red or NIR energy at a single frequency as the medical research has determined to be necessary to stimulate our cells’ light receptors.

LEDS, on the other hand, DO NOT emit dangerous levels of heat and can be placed close to or even directly on our skin to ensure that therapeutic levels of the NIR light are transmitted into our tissue.

For supporting evidence please read the following Blog posts from Infrared Sauna experts Matt Justice and Alex Fergus:

Add-On The Ultimate Full Spectrum Experience To Your Sun Stream Infrared Sauna

Since the introduction of so called ‘Full Spectrum Infrared Saunas and Near Infrared Saunas’ into the market place, people genuinely searching for the best sauna have become confused, frustrated and in many cases misled by false marketing claims all in the name of science.

At Sun Stream Saunas we felt it was necessary to end the confusion by producing authentic science based Near Infrared and Red Light Therapy panels that deliver a therapeutic dose of light energy.

Our ROJO Red light therapy panels are the best on the Australian market. Experience five of the most clinically relevant wavelengths of RED 630nm/660nm and near infrared 810nm/830nm/850nm for maximum healing benefits.

High quality drivers and components reduce the damaging effects of EMF/ELF and Flicker to near zero levels.

To learn more view our Rojo red light therapy page or contact us with your list of questions.