Dry Sauna vs Steam Room

Sauna vs steam room? A classic question. Both a dry sauna and a steam bath produce the same basic effect — a good healthy sweat — but in a completely different way.

For folks with respiratory complaints, steam rooms do offer some unique benefits (details below).

Overall, though, since they both cause you to sweat and they both increase circulation to the surface of the skin, the both offer the same basic sauna benefits.

Steam room versus sauna: 2 essential differences

1. The effects of moisture in the air

In a steam room the humidity level is 100%. This high level of moisture in the air can be highly soothing and beneficial for many respiratory conditions.

If you're a parent, you may remember being told to bring a baby with a croupy cough into a bathroom you've filled with steam from a hot shower -- a makeshift steam bath! It can relieve the cough.

Steam is also very hydrating for the skin.

On the other hand, moisture is a breeding ground for various bacteria and fungi, so steam rooms need to be disinfected regularly. More on this below.

2. The experience itself

Some people love the feeling of relaxing in hot, moist air, in a misty, mysterious environment. It's an age-old practice (see introduction to the sauna , and practiced world-wide.

Others - like members of my family - prefer drier air, finding steam rooms stifling!

Since the dry sauna vs steam room (low moisture vs high moisture) experience has a very different feel, can you arrange to try them both yourself? That way you’ll be able to add your personal experience to the facts you’ll learn below.

Benefits Shared by Both Sauna and Steam Baths

Dry and wet saunas both increase circulation to the surface of the skin and cause you to sweat -- key strategies your body uses to maintain your core temperature in a safe range.

You can think of the sauna and steam bath as both offering the same group of basic sauna benefits that arise from your internal response to body heating.

Sauna vs Steam Room —- Benefits Unique to the Steam Bath

1. Health benefits of steam baths

A steam room can be great for people with respiratory complaints, some of whom can tolerate hot air poorly or not at all. This may be the deciding factor for you in the sauna vs steam room debate.

You should know, however, that some of the people with respiratory problems that can't tolerate the air in traditional saunas breathe fine in an FIR (far infrared) sauna . That's because fir saunas operate at a much lower temperature.

Here's a list of more specific health benefits:

• Loosens secretions from the linings of the throat, sinuses and lungs.
• Alleviates cold symptoms
• Helps open up congested nasal passages

• Relieves throat and nasal dryness and irritation by moistening the air.

• Alleviates the spasmodic (fitful) breathing of croup and asthma.

• Alleviates the discomfort of sinusitis
• Helps you fall asleep and increases the amount of time spent in REM sleep (a deeper, restorative phase of sleep).

2. Other pleasures of a steam room

• Creates a pleasant moistening effect of the skin.

• Allows you to relax in the embrace of a steamy mist.

In a steam room you can expect 100% humidity and a temperature of about 120 degrees (although it may feel hotter to you). A traditional sauna doesn’t offer more than 10-30% humidity, even with water splashed on the rocks from time to time to create steam.

Whether you’d rather sit in a steam-filled room with maximum humidity in the air, or in dry air, is a matter of personal preference.

Are you one of those who love the feeling of a steam bath and find it maximally relaxing?

Do You Sweat More in a Home Steam Sauna?

This is a tricky question to answer, since the steam in steam rooms condenses on your body, making it feel like you are sweating very heavily. According to one doctor’s studies on the differences between sauna vs steam room in the area of sweat production, you actually sweat more in a dry sauna!

These same studies also revealed that it takes a couple of minutes longer to start sweating in a steam room vs dry sauna.

If You’re Considering a Home Sauna — Steam Bath Challenges

Practical sauna vs steam room issues--steam rooms:

• Must be cleaned and disinfected regularly

Where there is moisture, there is mold and bacteria. A moist environment is an ideal breeding ground for various bacteria and fungi — serious attention must be paid to keeping it sanitary. (And if a mold allergy is contributing to your respiratory symptoms … well, you get the idea!)

• Can’t be tolerated as long.

A session is limited to 10-15 min., after which you begin to overheat. The reason for this…

… steam baths do not allow your body to cool itself by the evaporation of sweat on your skin--the air in a wet sauna is already saturated with moisture. Without the cooling strategy of sweat evaporation being available, your core temperature rises more quickly.

The sauna detox protocols we’ve seen all require lengthy periods of time in the sauna, and specify a dry sauna. If you're planning to do some serious sweating detox, then there is no sauna vs steam room question - get a dry sauna.

While this is possible to achieve with a steam room (by coming out to cool down every several minutes), it would lengthen the amount of time you’d need to spend each day at sweat detoxification. It’s also harder to gauge how much you’re actually sweating in a steam room.

• Most require a drain, so they can’t be installed just anywhere.

Benefits lost -- steam baths:

• Don't provide as deep a toxin-releasing effect as does infrared heat. See benefits of the infrared sauna.
• Can’t be tolerated as long.

Use of a steam room tends to be for shorter periods than for an infra red saua. A session is limited to 10-15 min., after which you begin to overheat. The reason for this…

… steam baths do not allow your body to cool itself by the evaporation of sweat on your skin -- the air in a wet sauna is already saturated with moisture. Without the cooling strategy of sweat evaporation being available, your core temperature rises more quickly.

The sauna detox protocols we’ve seen all require lengthy periods of time in the sauna (come back soon to read our upcoming sauna detox pages).

While more time in a steam room is possible to achieve (by coming out to cool down every several minutes), it would lengthen the amount of time you’d need to spend each day at sweat detoxification. It’s also harder to gauge how much you’re actually sweating in a steam room.

Deciding Between Steam and Sauna

If you haven’t already, we recommend that you try both. See what feels best to you.

But, if you’re planning on any longer term sauna detoxification or sauna therapy that involves heat exposure for longer than 15 minutes or so, we think you’d be better off going with a dry heat sauna vs steam room. Move on from sauna vs steam room to benefits of the infrared sauna.