This week I tried an infrared sauna in London. It was my first time and I was terrified — I can’t last longer than five minutes in a normal sauna and infrared saunas claim to heat your body more effectively (up to three times as much), so even the thought of spending 45 minutes in one already had me hot and bothered.
If you don’t know much about how infrared saunas work, or what the health claims are, click here to have it all explained, then come back and discover what went down when I tried it out. (Skip to the end for my top three places with an infrared sauna in London).
What happened inside
I had brought my swimming costume with me, but because your body is heated by the infrared rays, and because they’re good for your skin, it is best to bare all to more of you can be reached.
Infrared saunas don’t reach the same temperature as traditional types, because in a normal sauna the room is heated which in turn heats your body whereas an infrared sauna will heat your body directly with rays. This means most people can last longer and, much to my surprise, I blasted through my five-minute personal best and made it to 23 minutes.
I was in a pod that could fit two people, with towels laid down, so I was able to stretch out my legs and get down to reading a magazine. I was happily relaxed for a while. The only distraction from my magazine in the first 20 minutes was the amount of sweat pouring from my body and face – I wiped the latter with a towel at one point and relished in the dirt that visibly wiped away.
As I passed the 20 mark, I told myself to get to 25 (at which point I was planning to tell myself to get to 30, and on and on), but no such luck. My heartbeat was substantially large, it felt as if my entire chest and head were physically expanding and retracting with every beat. I could no longer focus on my magazine (not least because I need glasses and the sweat had them falling off my face) and I gave up trying. I stepped out and took some deep breaths.
The problem, of course, is that because the infrared rays heat your body, and not the room, your body doesn’t cool off as quickly as it would when stepping out of a normal sauna. However, unlike a traditional sauna I was determined to see it through to 45 minutes and so as the clock hit 20 minutes remaining, I stepped back in.
I planned to stay in for five minutes and step out for two, but I simply couldn’t do it. For the penultimate 10 minutes I stepped in and out every two. After a while stepping out didn’t seem to bring relief, so I resorted to sitting on the cold floor, but the reality is my body temperature was climbing higher and higher.
For the remaining 10 minutes, I was taking two-minute breaks between just one minute inside the infrared sauna. I should probably note here, that I am prone to fainting, so may have been a little more precautious than I needed to be. I met a woman in the changing room who had also just tried it for the first time, and she managed to last the entire time.
In the final two minutes I took my towel and scrubbed my body with it, removing all the dirt and dead skin that had boiled out of me. When my time was up, I made a beeline for the shower to wash, wishing I had a rough scrubber to go over my skin with, but wary of not doing any damage to the skin on my face.
Infrared sauna effects – that night
High heat and cold temperatures can burst blood vessels on your face, so I refrained from splashing my face with cold water even though it was bright red. Instead I jumped straight in the shower and set it to a cool temperature. Washing my hair was difficult, partly because my hair was heavy with sweat and partly because my arms felt tired, like they’d been hard at work.
Afterwards I sat in my towel for about 10 minutes, the thought of putting clothes on my hot body (particularly a bra!) was unimaginable. I spoke to the women I mentioned, who loved the experience (even though it made her hands swell) and told me her friend “swears by it for glowing skin”. I looked at my red, pulsating face in the mirror and wasn’t too sure.
Yet when I got home slathered on Clarins Double Serum and my skin was noticeably plumped and smooth. I examined myself in the mirror and it was definitely clearer. I popped on my favourite pair of pyjamas and settled in two watch the last two episodes of Jane the Virgin and I felt so relaxed and content. By 9.30pm I was exhausted, and sleep was overcoming me. I relinquished myself to it and slept like a baby, which isn’t a common occurrence for me.
Infrared sauna effects – the next few days
I had to get up to go to work but I definitely wanted more sleep. Nothing new there, but had it been a weekend I am sure I would have been wonderfully rested with just a little more. I weighed myself and noted no worthwhile change, a pound lost, just as likely from not bothering to eat a proper dinner.
Despite wanting more time in bed, I did feel noticeably calm and the usual panic that overcomes me as it approaches the time to leave didn’t sink in that day.
At work I noticed the painful knot in my right shoulder wasn’t hurting, but by the end of the day it had returned. I had hoped it would relieve me of the extreme ache in the back of my legs brought on by returning to the gym the day before visiting the infrared sauna but, alas, it was just as bad.
My face still feels good though.
One of the biggest things I noticed is that I had two cold sores that were in the last few days of the healing process and the next day they were gone. I had been worried that the heat and sweat would make the virus spread or multiply, but a combination of kick starting my immune system and the benefits of infrared rays healed them overnight.
I would definitely do it again. Even though I wasn’t satisfied with the effects on my muscles, it did improve my skin and the detoxification can’t really be measured but I trust it did the job. Next time I get a cold sore I think I’ll go and see if the infrared sauna sops it in its tracks (that would be a massive game changer for me, as I get them very frequently). Aside from that, I think it is definitely worth a visit once a month for a little detox, a skin cleanse and to ensure some damn good sleep.
Infrared sauna in London – where to go
GlowBar near Oxford Street is probably the most well-known infrared sauna in London because that is what they are dedicated to (the name reflects what they do to your skin). This is where I went and would happily return to. The décor is fab for a few Instagram shots and the team were lovely. You can leave your phone just outside and listen to music or a podcast. It costs £40 for 45 minutes, or you can pay an extra £15 to brig someone with you. For two people I think it is worth it and I’ll definitely do it again, probably with the s/o. glowbarldn.com
KXU is Chelsea is a little pricier, at £40 for 20 minutes to £60 for 45. Their booths look a little roomier in the pictures, and even have a comfortable looking chair. kxu.co.uk
Pur Wellness, in Notting Hill, has an introductory offer of just £30 for your first session. It is only 30 minutes but to be honest I think that’s better if it is your first time. After that it isn’t clear from the website how much a single session costs, but you can pay for a package at £99, offering 13 sessions over 13 weeks, so actually a total cost of £197? purwellness.co.uk
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