Steam Room vs Sauna: What's The Difference?

Steam Room vs Sauna: What’s The Difference?


Many people use heat therapy as a way to soothe sore muscles, improve their body’s circulation, and boost their metabolism. Heat therapy can include heating pads, a warm bath, saunas, and steam rooms. You’ll receive countless benefits from using heat, no matter what treatment you use.

It can be difficult to figure out the differences between a steam room and a sauna. Both utilize heat to get a small space up to a high temperature, but is one a better treatment than the other?

If you’re curious about implementing steam rooms or a sauna session into your next post-workout or spa experience, check out our guide on both treatments to decide which is best for you.

What Is a Steam Room?

Steam rooms are exactly that – rooms that are heated with steam. The room usually has a generator with boiling water that creates steam, filling the room with hot humidity. In a manual steam room, steam is created from pouring boiling water over hot stones.

The temperature in a steam room is around 100º – 115º Fahrenheit with a humidity level of around 100%. It’s recommended that steam room sessions last around 15 minutes. Steam rooms provide countless benefits for those who partake in the practice.

Sinus Relief

One of the benefits steam rooms has that saunas don’t is alleviating congestion in the upper respiratory area. By inhaling steam that’s mixed with eucalyptus oil, your nasal passage will clear, relieving congestion. The steam warms up your mucous membrane and encourages you to breathe deeply.

If you have a respiratory infection, you may recover more quickly by heading to a steam room than if you didn’t use steam therapy. However, it is not recommended to go into a steam room if you have a fever.

Muscular and Mental Relaxation 

As you sit in a steam room, your muscles will begin to relax. You’ll fall into a more relaxed and peaceful state. If the steam room you’re in uses essential oils, your experience will be even more enhanced.

Steam rooms also decrease the production of cortisol in your body. Cortisol regulates the level of stress you experience. As your cortisol levels decrease, you’ll feel more relaxed and in control.

You can implement a steam room into your pre or post-workout routine. Using a steam room before your workout will loosen up your muscles, helping you achieve a lot of mobility during your workouts.

Heading to a steam room after your workout will also relax any of your muscles that became tightened or strained during your activities.

What Is a Sauna?

A sauna is a small room that uses dry heat. It’s heated to between 158º to 212º. The humidity with saunas is far lower than a steam room, with it usually being around 10-20%.

Even though the humidity isn’t high, you will sweat a lot during a sauna treatment. Your skin’s temperature is raised to around 104º. If you’re heading to a sauna, expect to experience heavy sweating.

There are a few types of saunas you can try out:

  • Electrically Heated: The sauna room is heated by an electrical heater
  • Wood Burning: Saunas heated by wood have high temperatures and low humidity
  • Infrared Saunas: Infrared heat uses light waves to heat a person’s body and is usually lower in temperature than other types of saunas

No matter what type of sauna you choose, they all have similar types of benefits. People experience countless health benefits from regular sauna visits.

Detoxifies Your Body

When you head into a sauna, you sweat a lot. The high heat raises your core body temperature, resulting in you sweating. As you sweat, it helps flush out any toxins that you have in your body.

Your body absorbs certain metals, such as lead, from environmental factors. Saunas can help detoxify your body from those materials, alcohol, and other substances. It’s a safe way to rid your body of any impurities.

Boosts Your Metabolism 

Your heart rate increases while you sit in a sauna. One 30 minute sauna treatment can help you burn up to 600 calories. Using a sauna shouldn’t be a replacement for exercise and other healthy lifestyle activities.

Increases Your Body’s Circulation 

As your heart rate increases from the sauna’s heat, your blood vessels will widen. This allows for your body’s circulation to improve as your blood is able to move around more freely.

Improved circulation can help with a variety of health issues, such as:

  • Muscle soreness
  • Joint mobility
  • Arthritis
  • Overall pain decrease

As your circulation improves, the cells in your body will function better. Your health will improve overall.

Heat Therapy Tips

If you decide to partake in a steam room or sauna session, there are ways to maximize the benefits.

Hydrate Before and After

It’s vital to ensure you’re hydrated before you do heat therapy. Being hydrated will ensure your body continues to work efficiently. Drink a lot of water before, during, and after your treatment.

Get Cold

Couple a sauna session with an ice bath or Cryotherapy. A sauna can help increase your body’s blood circulation after cold therapy. You can also accomplish this by taking a cold shower before a steam room or sauna treatment.

Shower After

Especially with a sauna treatment, your body is sweating out a lot of toxins. To ensure they don’t get reabsorbed by your body, rinse off after.

Dry Brush

Take three to five minutes after your session to dry the brush. It will help your body detoxify and increase circulation.

Steam Rooms vs Saunas – What’s the Best?

Whether you decide to do a steam room or sauna session is entirely up to your preference. They both have similar benefits, with steam rooms having the added benefit of improving your respiratory functions due to the moist heat. Both are a great addition to your wellness routine or the next time you visit a luxury spa.

For more information about other wellness practices, read one of our other articles.