Questions? Call us at 1-800-979-8971

What Is An Infrared Sauna?

Find Out What They Are, Where They Came From, And How They Work!

Plunge into the deep pool of warm, nurturing, and healing emanations of the unseen light spectrum of infrared and watch as beads of sweat pool up on the surface of the skin to relieve burdens and worries, even as the totality of the body is renewed with health and vitality.

The infrared sauna is an innovative structure working in harmony with the light spectrum of infrared radiant heat to produce transformative effects on the body and mind. You have probably heard of the infrared sauna, and may wonder, what exactly is it and where did it come from?

Find out exactly what an infrared sauna is, how it came into existence, and why this seemingly simple structure may positively impact your health and wellness.

Whether the infrared sauna is for your home, or clinical practice, you can anticipate that it may produce a cascade of health benefits that blossom out of the relationship between human physiology and the unseen light waves of the powerful infrared frequency.

Infrared Sauna: The Etymology

Incandescent Light Bath

Sauna is the only word in the English dictionary with its roots in the Finnish language. Sauna (pronounced saw-na) generally refers to the dry heat structures born from the ancient Finnish tradition. Colloquially, sauna is used to describe any heat therapy structure, created with the intention of healing the body using thermal therapy. However, the use of the word sauna in the infrared context does not specifically refer to the traditional units found in Finland (1).

What Does Infrared Mean?

Infrared light naturally exists within the sun’s spectrum of beaming light. Infrared (pronounced in-fruh-red) refers to the far end of the light spectrum moving away from the visible color red into the realm of invisible light that is comprised of electromagnetic radiation wavelengths. Infrared light is a radiant heat and is part of the family of the broad range known as the electromagnetic spectrum.

There are three primary infrared wavelengths: the near, mid and far infrared light, each vibrating at different frequencies with very unique qualities. Infrared is invisible to the human eye but is experienced by the tactile senses as heat. The infrared band of light frequencies was first discovered in recorded history between 1825 and 1835 (2).

Light is measured using the system of nanometers. Visible light to the human eye is measured between 380 nm (violet) and 740 nm (red). All other visible light ranges between these two. NASA, taken from their Mission Science website, describes visible light in this capacity:

“Our eyes contain specialized cells, called cones, that act as receivers tuned to the wavelengths of this narrow band of the EM spectrum. Light at the lower end of the visible spectrum, having a longer wavelength, about 740 nm, is seen as red; light in the middle the spectrum is seen as green; and light at the upper end of the spectrum, with a wavelength of about 380 nm, is seen as violet. All other colors that we perceive are mixtures of these colors.”(3)

Infrared light is therefore the bandwidth of light that is unseen to the human eye, just passed the visible color red.

Is the infrared sauna really a sauna?

Yes and no. Typically, saunas use heated rocks or fires, and sometimes steam to heat the air within the enclosed cabin-like structure. The infrared sauna is distinguished by the essential fact that it heats the body directly using radiant heat from light, rather than ambient heat. The invisible infrared light spectrum penetrates the skin membrane to heat the body from the inside out, thus capitalizing on the use of radiant heat.

A more accurate description would be to call these innovative healing structures, infrared light baths. The enclosed structure is filled with light waves vibrating at the frequency of the near, mid and far infrared light from the electromagnetic spectrum. The unique quality of the human skin membrane is highly receptive to the frequency of the infrared waves and allows for deep penetration beyond the initial epidermis membrane to ignite the engine of every cell in the body.

The infrared sauna uses vastly different technology from other forms of heat therapy, and differs significantly from its Finnish namesake. The infrared sauna is manufactured with the specific intent of maximizing the power of thermal therapy as well as the impact of certain light frequencies on the health of the body.

Colloquially speaking, the infrared sauna is a light ‘bath’, in that it is designed to optimize heat therapy using light waves to warm the body from the inside out. Technically and practically, the infrared sauna is distinguished from other thermal therapy structures in its origin and function. The infrared sauna is sometimes considered to be the most evolved sauna available today because of its ability to spark massive biochemical changes on the cellular level in response to light wavelengths (4).

A Brief History Of Sauna Evolution

A guide to using a sauna.

History suggests humans have been turning to heat therapy since before recorded time. From the indigenous sweat lodges found in native civilizations all over the world, thought to date back as far as 40,000 years ago, to the Turkish Hammam of the Ottoman Empire, Greek and Roman bathhouses, and to the Finnish traditional sauna, to name but a few. Sauna therapy in a variety of capacities has been a pillar in every great civilization across the lands and throughout time (5).

The unique quality of the largest organ in the human body: the mostly naked and ‘furless’ skin membrane coupled with the human sweat glands has made sauna therapy a powerful healing modality.

Since the dawn of civilization, humanity has sought to optimize health, community connectivity, and communion with the divine through sauna therapy. Honed over thousands of years, the infrared sauna is born out of the great human tradition of thermal therapy.

This dedication to heat therapy has naturally evolved and progressed with the passing of time. As increased technological development has become available, different civilizations from around the world and throughout the ages have sought to manufacture the most effective way to induce copious sweating for purification. The infrared sauna, as we know it today is the most recent addition to this richly textured and innovative tradition.

Origins of The Infrared Sauna

The birth of the first light sauna dates back to 1891, when Dr. John Harvey Kellogg created the ‘Incandescent Light Bath’. The advent of the invention of the electric light bulb was an exciting time for the evolution of the sauna. Kellogg dedicated his life to holistic medicine, recommending nutrition, exercise, colonics, fresh air and thermal therapy to his patients. Already aware of the great healing benefits of heat therapy as demonstrated in the steam room (originating from the Turkish Hammam) and the dry sauna (from the Finnish tradition), Kellogg also came to understand the profound healing effects of the absorption of light through the skin membrane (6).

At the time, unbeknownst to Kellogg, ‘The Incandescent Light Bath’ radiated infrared light wavelengths, as well as other light frequency, and it was not understood or recognized until much later that the healing qualities of the this technology were largely a result of the use of this spectrum.

The Incandescent Light Bath was successful in its treatment of patients under Kellogg’s care at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. In 1893 his Incandescent Light Bath was displayed at the world’s fair in Chicago, inaugurating the first light based sauna on to the world’s stage. Kellogg’s light baths were distributed transatlantic to serve the monarchs of Europe. The popularity of the first light based sauna is important to note, as it marked the dawning of a new era for sauna therapy.

In 1910, Dr. Kellogg published his book “Light Therapeutics” where he expounded upon the use of light as a powerful healing modality on the human form. Kellogg writes in his book:

“No non-medicinal remedy has ever found its way so rapidly into general favor as have devices utilizing the physical properties of light in combating the inroads of disease.” (6)

Although the electric light bulb had just been invented, Kellogg understood intrinsically the multifaceted effects of light waves on the human skin membrane and overall health of the body. Understanding the variety of light waves and their effect on human health altered the course of sauna therapy forever.

The Incandescent Light Baths were so effective because they were able to harness the infrared wavelengths to ignite deep healing at a cellular level. Although few remember Dr. Kellogg as being more than a historical icon responsible for the creation of a popular cereal brand. The invention of the very first infrared sauna must be credited to Dr. Kellogg.

Little progressed in the field of infrared sauna therapy from Kellogg’s light baths until the mid 1960s when NASA became interested in the effect of light wavelengths as a healing modality.

The physics based pilgrimage into the study of light waves gave birth to infrared light therapy as a deeply healing therapeutic modality.

Japanese doctors were the very first to use infrared light therapy on patients in the late 1960s, however, the infrared sauna would not be available for public purchase until 1979. Infrared saunas for home use became available in the US for consumer purchase in the late 1970s and early 1980s and continue to be available to this day (7).

Light Waves: The Dawning Of A New Age For The Sauna

Infrared Light Waves

Infrared saunas are distinguished among saunas by their ability to harness the healing benefits of thermic rays from the infrared light spectrum. Unlike traditional saunas, that use either dry heat or steam, the infrared sauna heats the body up from the inside out, rather than the air around the body (8).

So, what are thermal waves?

Thermal waves or thermal resonance is one of the four primary ways that heat is transferred. Infrared saunas use thermal resonance as a means of transferring heat; this method is considered to be the most effective in heating the human body and does not depend on high rising temperatures in the external environment (8).

The infrared sauna is defined by its use of light wavelengths, namely the power of the penetrating force of the near, mid and far-infrared waves.

Light waves, like the waves of the ocean, vary significantly from one another depending upon the origin of their source. They differentiate in shape, depth, height, movement pattern, and perceived color. The skin membrane accepts light waves in varying capacities and temperatures. For example, the close neighbor of the ultraviolet light, the blue light will infiltrate the epidermis only slightly (about 2.3 mm) on the far end of the light spectrum, near, mid and far-infrared light waves penetrate the skin at a much deeper level (ranging from 20-100 mm). Moving beyond the epidermis, the dermis, and into the subcutaneous layer and therefore into the soft tissue of the body. This ability to penetrate deeply into the body has miraculous effects on the molecular structure of the human form (9).

The depth and power of entry by the broad-spectrum infrared waves beyond the initial epidermis membrane creates a cascade of health benefits on the body during the infrared sauna session.

The invisible spectrum of light dances effortlessly with the cellular makeup of the human form to transcend disease and create optimal health within the body.

Infrared Sauna Structure: The Meat And Bones Of The Matter

The effortless flow of the unseen light spectrum into and beyond the barrier of human flesh gives the infra sauna an impactful presence in the field of biomedicine.

The wood structure can be considered the bones of the sauna, because without it the light waves would not be harnessed in opulent abundance for therapeutic purposes as they are in the ‘sauna’ platform.

Infrared saunas, such as the Neosauna, contain the light waves with state-of-the-art craftsmanship using eco-friendly wood to build a cabin-like structure. The wood container allows the infrared wavelengths to pool up in a condensed area to flood your body with light. Without the framework of a manufactured structure it would not be possible to absorb the bountiful light into the body in such a powerful manner as is demonstrated in the infrared sauna.

The beautifully crafted and comfortable structures include hand crafted seating that will lure you into the cave of wellness where deep transformation occurs.

Inside, the walls of the cabin structure are positioned at 360 degrees, paneling that powers the emanating infrared rays. The heaters are designed to release maximum infrared wavelengths and are strategically positioned to capitalize on healing benefits in relation to the human body.

The Bells And Whistles

You can expect the full sensory experience when you use an infrared sauna created by the Neosauna Team:

  • Eco-Friendly Wood
  • Medical Grade Light Therapy
  • Himalayan Salt Walls
  • Strategically Placed Heat Panels To Optimize Exposure

The Neosauna specifically comes fully equipped to cultivate a full sensory experience that generates a deep healing response from the body. To complement the infrared heating system, the Himalayan salt walls that line the ceiling (the convergence of the vertical walls to the platform of the ceiling) of the structure, when heated release negative ions, also known as Halotherapy, thought to aid in respiratory health.

Chromotherapy, the use of medical grade LED lights to capitalize on the benefits of exposure to the full light spectrum of color, are also found in many infrared saunas for home use. Chromotherapy (visible color light therapy) nourishes both the body and brain. Each color carries the potential for healing a variety of conditions, as well as playing a fundamental role in the uptake of neurotransmitters.

Bluetooth speakers are also incorporated into the structure so that the auditory senses may be serenaded with healing sound. Choose your own music, guided meditation, or even listen to the game!

The combination of sound, light and Himalayan salt therapy, coupled with the resounding impact of infrared light waves inside the inviting wood structure is the perfect recipe for an oasis of deep healing.

A Bold New World: The Marriage Of Ancient Wisdom With State-Of-The Art Technology

The original drive to create the first infrared sauna in the 19th century was born of the desire to offer a sanctuary space of healing that maximized the discovery of the light bulb.

Up until this very moment in time, infrared sauna therapy has evolved to become current with the most recent scientific discoveries on the benefits of isolating certain light frequencies.

Infrared sauna therapy marries the deep well-spring of research performed by physicists and other professionals in the field of biomedicine to the ancient tradition of sauna therapy.

This union of the ancient wisdom of our ancestors with state-of-the art technology is the ultimate expression of human enfoldment in its highest form. From cardiovascular health, improved blood circulation, longevity, detoxification, internal organ health and improved over all beauty infrared saunas may hold the key to changing healthcare as we know it.

Daily use of the infrared sauna is believed to optimize health, inhibit disease, elongate life expectancy and increase quality of life.

What is an infrared sauna? It is the wave of the future!


  6. Harvey Kellogg MD, Light Therapeutics, 1910, Michigan, USA

Other Relevant Sources:

If you found reading these articles helpful and would like to know more about a specific topic, or had any questions for the author, please feel free to contact our Neosauna Team Author, Katarina Delacruz. She will be happy to help answer your questions or point you toward further resources.

You can reach her by email or via our website chat.