Steam treatments have been used for literally thousands of years. For most of that time, however, private steam treatments were luxuries for the rich. Everybody else had to make do with public steam houses and saunas. Thanks to technology, however, you can have the benefits of steam in your own home. Steam Showers vs Sauna, you just need to choose the right option.
Steam showers vs saunas – the basics
Steam showers are essentially shower-sized versions of the steam rooms you get in gyms. That means they are heated to a temperature of around 100°F to 120°F and have 100% humidity (or very close to it).
Traditional wet saunas, by contrast, are heated to 180°F to 195°F and have a humidity level of up to 55%. The more you raise the temperature in your sauna, the lower the humidity needs to be. This is for safety reasons. Modern infrared saunas are also heated to 180°F to 195°F and have no humidity.
In essence, therefore, a steam shower is a steam treatment with the added benefit of heat. A sauna is a heat treatment that might or might not have the benefit of steam. Objectively, therefore, which is better depends on your priorities.
The benefits of steam
Steam is possibly the world’s greatest cleaner. It’s powerful but gentle. When it’s used on the body, it works both outside and inside. Outside, it dissolves and removes any surface dirt. It also opens up the pores in the skin and encourages the structure of the hair to relax. This has two benefits.
Firstly, it allows the steam to penetrate deep into the skin and the hair to remove more ingrained dirt. Secondly, it facilitates the sweating process. As the body sweats, it pushes toxins to the surface from where they can be removed by the steam.
Internally, steam gets right down into the body’s tiniest cavities. Arguably most importantly, it gets into the tiny crevices in the lungs. Even if your lungs are in great condition, steam will draw out the minuscule pollutants you didn’t realize you were breathing in. If you smoke, you may find yourself in shock at how much dirt steam will draw out.
If you suffer from any sort of respiratory condition, then steam will often help to relieve it. Essentially, it applies heat to the lungs. This helps to soothe inflammation. It also encourages your body’s tissue to expand. This makes it easier for air (and blood) to flow.
The benefits of heat
Heat is both relaxing and stimulating. It relaxes the mind. This has the psychological effect of making you want to slow down physically. Internally, by contrast, heat stimulates the body. Heat makes the heart beat faster, thus speeding up the delivery of air and nutrients and the removal of toxins. It also expands the blood vessels, making the heart’s work even easier.
Heat encourages the body to sweat. Like steam, it opens up the pores in the skin and encourages the structure of the hair to relax. This helps the sweat to escape the body, bringing unwanted toxins with it.
From a medical perspective, heat’s main benefit is probably the fact that it improves blood flow throughout the body. In a healthy body, this promotes the body’s everyday repair work. If you’re injured, this will speed up your recovery. If you have a chronic joint (or muscular) condition, like arthritis, this can deliver invaluable relief from pain.
From a health and wellness perspective, heat’s main benefit is probably the fact that it encourages you to slow down and relax. This can swap a vicious circle for a virtuous one.
By slowing down and relaxing, you give yourself time to breathe and to feel calmer. By breathing and feeling calmer, you can start to feel more empowered to deal with the issues that created your negative mental state.
Steam showers vs saunas – health and wellness
Steam rooms probably have the edge over saunas when it comes to improving the condition of your skin and hair. This is because steam has stronger cleansing properties than heat on its own. On the other hand, saunas probably have the edge when it comes to promoting mental wellness.
Saunas are a place to disconnect from technology and just relax. You can have them in the company or just enjoy some “me time” by yourself. Saunas create the same kind of mental effect as meditation. In fact, they’re widely regarded as being great places to practice meditation. If, however, that isn’t for you, you can just tune out and relax.
Steam showers vs saunas – the practicalities
People with medical conditions will probably have a clear-cut choice between a steam shower and a sauna. Realistically, however, most people would benefit from either (or both). If you’re one of them, then your purchasing decision is likely to be driven by practicalities. Here are some points to consider.
How do you really feel about steam?
If you really don’t like steam then it’s generally best just to accept the fact and roll with it. The one exception to this is if you have a chronic respiratory condition. Then it may be worth putting up with the steam for the relief it gives you.
How much space do you have?
Technically, you can have a traditional wet sauna indoors. You would, however, need a pretty big house. Realistically, steam showers are the best indoor options. You could also look at infrared saunas designed for indoor use.
If, however, you’re going down this route then do your research very carefully and buy from a reputable supplier. The popularity of saunas coupled with the fact that many people have limited space has made indoor saunas hugely popular. Sadly, this has opened the door to suppliers of very low-quality products. Remember the old saying – you get what you pay for!
You can have outdoor saunas with infrared heating. Alternatively, you can just have a regular sauna and choose whether or not to add steam. Obviously, if you’re going to use an outdoor sauna, you need an outdoor space for it. The good news is that saunas now come in a wide range of sizes and different shapes. That means there should be one to suit you.
How often are you going to use it?
There’s no right or wrong here but be realistic. An outdoor sauna is a major commitment both in terms of budget and in terms of space (in the average garden). It can add value to your home but you have to balance this against the initial outlay.
A steam shower, by contrast, is a relatively low-cost option. What’s more, it can be fitted into the space you already use for your regular shower. It can also be a major selling point when you move. Buyers love attractive bathrooms (and kitchens) precisely because of the effort it can take to refurbish them.
A decent indoor sauna will carry a premium price tag. It can, however, be rolled/folded up and stored in a cupboard between uses. It won’t add any value to your home but you can take it with you if you move.
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