HOT NEW DETOX
Why everyone’s talking about infra-red saunas.
Hollywood’s juicing crowd has a new obsession. Infrared saunas — said to detox the body using heat-generating invisible light — have made fans of Gwyneth Paltrow, Miranda Kerr and Cindy Crawford, and many A-listers now have custom saunas in their homes. Frank Lipman, the New York integrative-medicine doctor to Maggie Gyllenhaal and Donna Karan, encourages patients to partake in infrared to help clear toxins, and he raves about his personal Clearlight sauna. “My muscles relax, I sleep better and I just feel calm and energised,” he says. Meanwhile, infrared-dedicated spas (in Sydney, we love Alkaline and Health Space clinics) and infrared-heated yoga studios (try Melbourne’s Hotbox Yoga) are popping up everywhere. But although some believe infrared light therapy is a cure-all — studies indicate that it may encourage weight loss, lower blood pressure and relieve pain, and research for cancer-treatment support is ongoing — new, cutting-edge skincare products claim to neuturalise damage from infrared, citing studies that conclude it can lead to premature skinageing. So is infrared good for you or bad?
First, the good: an infrared sauna is like a traditional sauna on steroids. “Rather than heating the air around you, which then heats your body, infrared penetrates deeply, warming you from the inside out,” explains Joyce Rockwood, a detoxification expert at trendy LA health oasis The Springs. “It’s like giving your cells aerobic activity,” she claims. Saunas come in varieties such as blanket wraps, one-person pods and walk-in cabins. Pros such as Rockwood recommend going in once or twice a week, and 30 minutes (a typical session) stimulates not only circulation but also intense sweating — both responses that help rid your body of toxins from pollution, food or a bad bug, Lipman says.
On a smaller scale, infrared light may also treat wrinkles, via a handheld device. Nuface Trinity Device with Trinity Wrinkle Reducer attachment ($458 plus $220, from mecca.com.au) emits a specific combination of red, amber and infrared light that goes just below the skin’s surface to trigger collagen production. Ironic, considering the number of new anti-infrared creams.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to parse the difference between good infrared and bad. The sun produces infrared wavelengths, which fall into three categories: far, mid and near.the near and mid waves are understood to be the skin-damaging kinds, while “there’s evidence that far-infrared saunas provide some benefits and are probably not harmful, though there have been no large-scale studies,” says Mathew Avram, director of the Dermatology Laser & Cosmetic Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Most infrared-emitting machines, including most saunas, produce only far infrared, sparing your complexion. But the damaging waves from the sun pose a real threat. “near infrared can accelerate the ageing process, causing uneven skin tone, melasma, wrinkles and potentially skin cancer,” warns dermatologist Doris Day.and a recent study by Coty found that near-infrared exposure can damage collagen and elastin. Unfortunately, infrared light is experienced as heat and would not be easily blocked or absorbed by skincare products unless they were applied like a thick mud. The best ones, Day says, use antioxidants that have been shown to clean up free-radical damage post-exposure. try Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum ($214),Skinmedica Environmental Defense Moisturiser SPF 15 ($76), or Philosophy Ultimate Miracle Worker Multi-rejuvenating Cream SPF 15 ($88). As for adding infrared-sauna sweat to your health routine, talk to your doctor first, and hydrate before, during and after, Lipman advises.who knows? Maybe you’ll see the light.
“Thirty minutes, (a typical session) stimulates not only circulation but also intense sweating — both help rid your body of toxins.”