Surprising Sauna Benefits & Drawbacks (Pros & Cons)

Saunas have become very popular lately due to their purported health benefits. However, there are also potential risks to consider. The concept of saunas originated thousands of years ago in ancient cultures that used heated rooms and steam baths.

Some research indicates saunas promote muscle relaxation, improve circulation, and reduce stress levels. However, there are also potential drawbacks like dehydration and overheating, especially for those with medical conditions. Studies have shown possible cardiovascular benefits, but findings on immune support have been inconclusive and contradictory.

It’s worth noting that existing research indicates that infrared saunas offer comparable health benefits to traditional saunas, with fewer drawbacks overall. We have a separate article covering the benefits and drawbacks of using the infrared sauna. Take a look at that.

In the rest of this article, we’ll take a deeper look at evidence on both the pros and cons of sauna use, including impacts on mental health, cardiovascular health, muscle recovery, and more. We’ll also discuss safety precautions for those considering integrating saunas into their lifestyle based on the latest recommendations. Getting a balanced perspective allows for a more informed choice.

Table of Contents

Common Sauna Benefits

Using saunas provides several health and wellness benefits, including:

  • Several studies show sauna use is associated with improved blood pressure, circulation, and cardiovascular function. The heat is believed to promote healthy blood flow.
  • The heat helps relax muscles, reduce soreness, and temporarily relieve pain and aches after workouts or intense physical activity. This may support faster muscle recovery.
  • Research demonstrates sauna sessions can effectively promote mental relaxation while reducing markers of psychological stress like cortisol levels.
  • The sweating process helps eliminate toxins and cleanse the skin while improving circulation and may also contribute to healthy skin function and appearance.
  • Public or shared saunas are important social spaces in some cultures and communities, contributing to mood, emotional well-being, and a sense of belonging through positive social interaction.

Advanced Sauna Benefits

Some advanced sauna benefits are:

Bones: Sauna sessions can be beneficial for bones due to the combination of heat and increased blood circulation. The heat from saunas can help improve vascular function, leading to enhanced nutrient delivery to bones. This, in turn, may contribute to better bone density and potentially help in reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Weight reduction: Sauna use can aid in weight loss through several mechanisms. Saunas induce sweating, which can temporarily reduce water weight. The increased heat can also boost metabolism and calorie burn. However, it’s important to note that sauna-induced weight loss is primarily due to water loss and not fat loss. Regular exercise and a balanced diet are more effective for sustainable weight management.

Stretch Marks: Saunas do not directly treat or eliminate stretch marks. However, the heat and increased blood flow from sauna sessions may improve skin elasticity and promote collagen production. This could potentially help with the appearance of stretch marks over time, making them less noticeable. However, more research is needed to establish the effectiveness of saunas for stretch mark reduction.

Cold: Saunas can provide temporary relief for cold symptoms by promoting nasal congestion relief and improving respiratory function. The heat and steam in saunas can help soothe irritated airways, alleviate congestion, and promote sinus drainage. However, saunas should not replace proper medical treatment for colds, and consulting a healthcare professional is recommended.

Blackheads: Saunas can potentially help with blackheads by opening up pores and promoting sweat production, which can aid in clearing out debris and excess oil from the skin. However, saunas alone may not be sufficient to eliminate blackheads completely. A proper skincare routine, including regular cleansing and exfoliation, is essential for blackhead prevention and treatment.

Tooth infections: Saunas do not directly cure tooth infections. Tooth infections require appropriate dental treatment, such as antibiotics, root canal therapy, or extraction. However, the heat from saunas may temporarily alleviate some symptoms associated with tooth infections, such as facial pain or swelling. Dental care from a professional is crucial for effective treatment.

Opiate withdrawal: Saunas may offer some relief during opiate withdrawal by aiding in the detoxification process. The heat can promote sweating and help eliminate toxins from the body. Additionally, saunas may help alleviate muscle aches, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation. However, medical supervision and comprehensive addiction treatment are essential for managing opiate withdrawal effectively.

Bed bugs: While the sauna heat can be used to reduce bed bugs but it requires controlled and sustained temperatures that are typically higher than what saunas provide to eradicate the bugs. For bug bites, proper treatment includes cleaning the affected area, using topical creams, and seeking medical advice if necessary.

Herniated disc pain: Saunas can provide temporary relief for herniated disc pain by promoting muscle relaxation, improving blood flow, and potentially reducing inflammation. However, saunas should be used with caution and under medical supervision, as excessive heat or prolonged sessions may worsen symptoms. Consultation with a healthcare professional is recommended for personalized advice.

Common Sauna Drawbacks

Some common drawbacks and precautions around using saunas are:

  • Two major risks are dehydration and potentially dangerous rises in core body temperature. It’s vital to hydrate before and after, limit time in the sauna, and leave immediately if feeling unwell.
  • Sauna heat puts more strain on the heart and circulation. Those with unstable heart conditions, elderly adults, and pregnant women need medical guidance and possibly avoid use altogether due to health risks.
  • Public sauna spaces may facilitate the transmission of fungal infections, viral respiratory illness, or infection between bathers. Proper hygiene and cleaning protocols are essential.
  • Some research indicates regular sauna use may temporarily lower sperm count and motility. Couples actively trying to conceive may want to limit time and temperature.
  • Drinking alcohol around the time of sauna use is risky since it speeds up dehydration and can inhibit body temperature regulation.
  • While often touted to boost immunity and have anti-aging benefits, many health claims remain unproven without rigorous data. An overreliance on anecdotal evidence persists.

Less-Known Sauna Drawbacks

Some more sauna drawbacks you might experience:

Numb hand and face: Saunas, especially when used for extended periods or at high temperatures, can cause a temporary sensation of numbness in the hands and face. This numbness is often a result of increased body heat and reduced blood flow to these areas. It is advisable to limit sauna sessions and ensure proper hydration to avoid prolonged numbness or discomfort.

Nosebleed: Saunas can potentially cause nosebleeds due to the dry and hot environment. The heat can dry out the nasal passages, leading to irritation and increased susceptibility to nosebleeds. It is important to stay hydrated, use a towel to cover the face, and avoid excessive heat exposure to minimize the risk of nosebleeds in saunas.

Bloodshot eyes: Saunas can cause bloodshot eyes due to the combination of heat and dryness. The heat can dilate blood vessels, including those in the eyes, leading to redness and a bloodshot appearance. Additionally, the dry environment in saunas can exacerbate eye dryness and irritation. It is advisable to keep the eyes hydrated and limit sauna exposure to prevent bloodshot eyes.

Heart palpitation: Saunas can potentially cause heart palpitations in some individuals due to the increased heat and elevated body temperature. The heat can cause blood vessels to dilate, leading to increased heart rate and potential palpitations. People with pre-existing heart conditions or those who are more sensitive to heat should use caution and consult a healthcare professional before using saunas.

Cold sores: Saunas can potentially worsen cold sores due to the heat and moisture in the environment. The heat may increase blood flow and trigger inflammation, leading to prolonged healing time and increased discomfort. Additionally, the moisture can create an environment conducive to viral replication. It is advisable to avoid saunas during active cold sore outbreaks.

Hives: Saunas can potentially worsen hives due to the heat and increased body temperature. The heat can trigger histamine release, leading to further inflammation and aggravation of hives. Individuals with a history of hives or sensitive skin should be cautious when using saunas and consider consulting a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Dandruff: Saunas can potentially contribute to dandruff due to the dry and hot environment. The heat can cause the scalp to become dry and flaky, leading to increased dandruff. Additionally, sweating in saunas can also contribute to scalp moisture imbalance. Proper scalp hygiene, regular moisturizing, and avoiding excessive heat exposure can help minimize the risk of sauna-induced dandruff.

Covid: Saunas can potentially contribute to the spread of COVID-19 due to the enclosed space and close proximity of individuals. The high temperatures and humidity in saunas can create an environment favorable for viral transmission. It is important to follow public health guidelines, maintain social distancing, wear masks, and prioritize ventilation to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in saunas.

Sleeplessness: Saunas can potentially cause sleeplessness or difficulty sleeping due to the stimulating effects of heat. The increase in body temperature can disrupt the body’s natural cooling process, making it harder to fall asleep. It is recommended to avoid using saunas close to bedtime to allow the body to cool down and promote better sleep.


Why Don’t Some People Sweat in the Sauna?

Some people may not sweat as much in saunas due to variations in individual physiology and sweating responses. Factors such as age, fitness level, hydration status, medications, and underlying health conditions can influence sweating patterns. It’s important to stay hydrated and listen to your body’s signals during sauna sessions.

Can Sauna Kill Scabies?

Saunas cannot effectively kill scabies mites. While the heat from saunas may temporarily alleviate itching and discomfort associated with scabies, it is not a reliable method for eradicating the infestation. Medical treatment, such as prescription medications, is necessary to effectively eliminate scabies mites.

Is Sauna Good for Vitiligo?

Saunas do not have a direct impact on vitiligo, a condition characterized by the loss of skin pigmentation. While saunas may improve overall skin health and blood flow, there is no evidence to suggest that they can specifically benefit or treat vitiligo. Consultation with a dermatologist is recommended for appropriate vitiligo management.


The existing research makes a reasonable case that saunas may provide benefits like improved cardiovascular health, muscle recovery, stress relief, and social connection. However, there are also key health risks to consider, especially dehydration and vulnerability for those with medical conditions.

Saunas show promise for healthy adults seeking added relaxation and relief when used properly a few times weekly. But those with heart disease, pregnancy complications, and more require an abundance of caution based on medical guidance, as do youth and the elderly. While alluring, saunas demand education on safe protocols. With a balanced view, informed choices make it possible to potentially unlock rewards while minimizing risks through judicious sauna use.

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