Chill out in an infrared sauna.
Our health editor heats up one winter evening.
Despite the mild winter we’re having in New York, the search for hygge never stops. So on a recent Monday night, I ditched the coffice for an infrared sauna, a cocoon of warmth that I heard also gives you a detox and a workout, just from sitting there.
I arrived at Higher Dose, a luxury spa on the Lower East Side, ready to heat up. Busy Philipps recently told me to check it out (“You’ll feel like you’ve gotten a full body massage,” she said when I interviewed her in late December.) I appreciate a good sweat and hoped the experience would bring good vibes to my Monday.
I entered into a private room that has a sauna within it — a wooden-paneled box with glass doors and a cushioned bench inside. I disrobed, grabbed a towel and filled up with water before surrendering to my 30-minute session.
The quality of the heat is different than a regular sauna, which uses steam to fill the room with humidity. Infrared feels more like a dry heat that slowly intensifies — up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, that is. Yes, I was dripping with sweat, but it was a more manageable warmth.
Infrared heat is actually light — emitted at a wavelength along the electromagnetic spectrum — that induces heat in the body, but is invisible to the eye. It’s said to have numerous health benefits. It can penetrate the pores, purifying the skin and loosening the joints, stimulating blood flow and increasing circulation. It also burns calories, as your body works to cool itself and your heart rate increases.
Although further studies are needed to corroborate these claims, the treatment is popular among both laymen and celebs (Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams) who tout its feelgood properties. I can attest to feeling some kind of release and relaxation, if just from the cathartic act of sweating and the comfort of being alone in my own little pod.
My favorite part might have been the LED light therapy, which beamed down different colors
from a square lamp in the ceiling. I selected the automatic setting which cycled through ROYGBIV, each hue meant to inspire a different mood or energy. Each color was pleasing in a different way; I might liken it to spacing out as you watch your mood ring change. Purported health benefits include skin rejuvenation, pain relief and decreasing swelling, (again, more studies are needed); for me, I felt like I was sitting below my own private, very chill disco ball.
Listening to music helped, too. Within the sauna, I hooked up my iPhone to the speakers and put on relaxing tunes from Cass McCombs.
I can’t say I felt radically different after my session, but definitely better than my typical postwork self. We need every chance we can get for a little solitude and selfcare; an infrared sauna is one way to do that.
Inside an infrared sauna with violet LED lighting at Higher Dose, a luxury spa in NYC.