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What's the Difference Between an Infrared Sauna and an Infrared Body Wrap?

June 14, 2016 by Kara Willingham

Throughout history, humans have sought out the use of heat as an effective treatment for healing, pain relief, detoxification and more. Sweat lodges, bath houses and warming devices are used all over the world, but the type of heat generated can vary. Where did this idea originate? Let’s get our history on!

Many believe it was the Finnish people that made the use of saunas popular. The Finns used saunas for warmth as well as what can be classified as medicinal purposes. Historical documents indicate that many cultures used heat to produce perspiration before bathing and relieve body ailments. Were these the same types of saunas we use today? Not exactly, but they did produce heat.

In the 1800’s Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, an American surgeon, scientist and proponent of holistic health treatments started a healing center for his patients to receive hydrotherapy and other treatments. Although it wasn’t necessarily his original creation, Dr. Kellogg began using horizontal cabinets for his patients to sit in and submerge their bodies in heat to produce sweat and promote healing. Side note, Dr. Kellogg also created what was originally a whole grain, sugar free food that we know today as Corn Flakes.

Fast forward to the modern age, if they both use heat what is the real difference between ancient saunas and the saunas or body wraps of today? The difference is our knowledge and the use of infrared heat. Now, let me say, there are still saunas and body wraps on the market that do not use infrared, and they too have their place in the industry but let’s talk infrared! We believe that both services can live harmoniously together in any spa, salon or wellness center and many providers do offer multiple infrared options. This doesn’t change a client’s desire to know "do body wraps work differently than saunas?" and "why they are different?" So let’s answer that question and focus on some of the differences between infrared saunas and infrared body wraps, shall we?

Far infrared heat warms the body just as natural sunlight does and it can be easily absorbed by the body because it’s also emitted by the body. If you’ve been researching infrared and the benefits it can provide you have most likely also come across infrared heaters or heat lamps. These devices often utilize near infrared and mid infrared heat and they can be quite hot, only allowing the user to receive a 20 to 30-minute session. Similarly, infrared sauna sessions typically max-out at around 30 minutes as the participant cannot withstand a longer session of breathing in the heat.

Click here for more  details on the different types of infrared heat.

The creation of infrared body wraps changed the game and we asked Dr. Aaron Flickstein to expand on this topic. “In my experience, both infrared saunas and infrared body wraps can assist with wellness benefits,” said Flickstein. Within his practice Dr. Flickstein has observed the following differences.

  • A body wrap can allow the client or patient to lay down and relax as they are enveloped in infrared heat.
  • Those looking to achieve weight loss goals or enjoy privacy often prefer a wrap because they can participate solo.
  • During a wrap the participant can enjoy the benefits of infrared saturation while keeping their lungs happy breathing cooler air.
  • Infrared heat seems to be more effective when it does not have to travel through as much space to reach the body. For example, the gap between your body and the radiant heating elements in a sauna may be from 6 inches to a couple of feet with the space lowering the effective amount of energy reaching your skin. During a wrap the design permits gaps of 1 millimeter to perhaps 6 inches; less loss due to distance means more energy and more sweat.
  • Speaking of space, saunas often require that a business makes space for them. They are large pieces of equipment that may require build out. A body wrap can easily be moved from room to room and it doesn’t take up much space.
  • Clients can withstand a longer session, enabling them to produce greater amounts of sweat and achieve their goals.
  • Due to the material they are composed of, infrared body wraps can be easily sanitized using a hospital grade disinfectant. Wraps made of non-porous vinyl do not absorb the sweat that each client produces during their session. An infrared sauna is typically made from wood and if not properly cleaned this can encourage the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew.

Because of this, “An infrared body wrap can be 25% more effective in providing wellness benefits than an infrared sauna,” says Flickstein.

Both pieces of equipment utilize the power of infrared heat and can provide a relaxing and beneficial experience. In the spa environment a body wrap may be preferred as it can be seamlessly integrated with other services like massage and facial treatments. Additionally, for those looking for the most effective option a body wrap might be the way to go.

So there we have it! Either way, we highly recommend getting out there and experiencing the benefits of infrared heat!


  • Virtanen, John O. The Finnish Sauna: Peace Of Mind, Body And Soul. Withee, Wisconsin: O-W Enterprise, 1998. Print.
  • Kellog, John Harvey. Light Therapeutics: A Practical Manual Of Phototherapy For The Student And The Practitioner, Rev. Ed.. Battle Creek, Michigan: The Good Health Publishing Co., 1910. Print.
  • Sylver Ph.D., Nenah. The Holistic Handbook Of Sauna Therapy. Center for Frequency Education, 2003. Print.
  • History of Sauna Therapy


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