Sauna Showdown: Dry Heat vs Steam [Which Wins?]

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When we talk about saunas, we look at two main types people often choose from: dry and wet. Each has its own range of benefits, like relaxation and improved circulation. They differ in terms of the experience they provide. Understanding these differences can help you pick the right one for your needs. Saunas have been around for centuries and continue to be popular today as a way to relax and unwind, promoting overall wellness. One of the most critical components of a sauna is the heater. In this article, we will explore these heaters to help you.

I’ve always loved using saunas. They’re a great way to relax after a long day. Whether you choose a dry or wet sauna, you’re in for a treat. The dry sauna uses a heater without adding water to the stones, making the air dry and warm. It’s perfect for those who prefer less humidity. The wet sauna, on the other hand, involves pouring water over hot stones to create steam. This increases humidity and can make the heat feel more intense, which some find more relaxing.

Choosing between a dry or wet sauna depends on your personal preference for humidity and heat. Both types offer a range of benefits, including relaxation and improved circulation, and can be an excellent way to promote overall wellness.

Dry Saunas: What Is It and How Does It Work

Sauna Showdown: Dry Heat vs Steam [Which Wins?]
Source of image: Istockphoto
Dry saunas, also known as Finnish saunas, are a type of sauna that uses dry heat to make the body sweat and detoxify. The temperature in the room can range from 70°C to 100°C with low humidity. The heat is generated by a stove that burns wood, gas, or uses electricity. This makes your skin sweat and helps relax your muscles.

The experience starts with a shower to clean the body and remove any lotions or oils that might interfere with sweating. Inside, you sit on a bench and enjoy the heat for 10-20 minutes. It’s recommended to start at a lower temperature and gradually increase as your body adjusts to the heat. Use a towel to wipe off sweat and increase circulation.

Leaving the sauna, it’s important to take another shower to cool down the body and prevent dehydration. It’s also recommended to rest for a few minutes before returning to regular activities.

Health benefits include improved circulation, relaxation of muscles, detoxification of skin, a boost in the immune system, and relief from stress. Note, people with certain medical conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease should consult a doctor before using a dry sauna.

Originating in Northern Europe around 2000 BC, it’s one of the oldest wellness practices and has become a mainstream health trend. My personal favorite, the Almost Heaven Rainelle, is a cozy, wooden room where the electric heater warms up the sauna room to a toasty 160 to sweltering 195 degrees Fahrenheit. The air inside is hot and dry, with relative humidity between 10% and 20%, which distinguishes a dry sauna from other saunas, including steam saunas.

In the Finnish tradition, users sometimes pour water over hot rocks on the sauna stove, creating a burst of steam (löyly), which raises the humidity for a brief, exhilarating moment. This increases the core body temperature in the heated environment, triggering the sweat glands to produce sweat for thermoregulation.

Research shows that the high dry sauna temperature improves skin elasticity, reducing the appearance of acne scars and stretch marks, and works wonders for muscle recovery. It causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and delivering oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues, promoting healing and speeding recovery. The range of health advantages includes:

  • Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Increased flexibility and joint mobility
  • Aids in detoxification
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Provides mental clarity to improve focus

Wet vs Dry Sauna Heaters

Sauna Showdown: Dry Heat vs Steam [Which Wins?]

What Are the Benefits of a Dry Sauna

Using dry saunas can be very relaxing. It’s a way to unwind and get health benefits. One big plus is improved cardiovascular health. Research says frequent use can make your blood pressure lower. It also makes circulation better and lowers the risk of a heart attack and other heart-related conditions. This means a big positive impact on your heart.

Dry saunas can also alleviate symptoms of rheumatic diseases like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. They can enhance exercise performance for athletes, too. If you have skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema, dry saunas might give relief. They’re even associated with a lower risk of dementia. Studies show regular use can prevent cognitive impairment and reduce the risk of developing dementia.

For those with asthma, dry saunas can reduce symptoms. So, the summary of benefits includes a healthier heart, improved exercise performance, relief for some skin conditions, and a reduced risk of dementia. Incorporating a dry sauna into your health routine can help take care of your body and mind.

Here’s a quick summary of the benefits:


  • Improved heart health: Regular sauna use is linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart attack and heart-related conditions.
  • Improved circulation: Increase in blood flow to improve circulation throughout the body.
  • Lower blood pressure: Shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Reduced symptoms of rheumatic diseases: Can help alleviate pain and improve mobility for people with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Better exercise performance: Using a sauna before and after exercise can enhance performance and reduce muscle soreness.
  • Relief for certain skin conditions: Can help alleviate symptoms of psoriasis and eczema.
  • Fewer symptoms of asthma: Shown to improve lung function and reduce symptoms in people with asthma.
  • Lower risk of dementia: Regular use is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Wet Saunas: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Sauna Showdown: Dry Heat vs Steam [Which Wins?]
Source of image: Istockphoto
Wet saunas, also known as steam saunas, use moist heat to offer a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. Unlike dry saunas, they typically operate at a lower temperature, around 110-120°F, but with higher humidity, close to 100%. Water is poured over hot rocks or a steam generator is used to create steam that circulates in the room, creating a warm, humid environment. This high humidity level helps open pores, promote sweating, and flush out toxins from the body.

The benefits of moist heat include helping to alleviate congestion and coughing, and moisturize the skin, making it a great option for those with dry skin or eczema. However, it’s not suitable for everyone. The high humidity level can be challenging to tolerate for those with respiratory issues or cardiovascular problems. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional before using a wet sauna if you have any underlying health conditions.

For those looking for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience with moist heat and high humidity, a wet sauna or steam room might be the right choice. These saunas use moist heat to create a warm, humid environment. The primary characteristic is the high humidity level, which can climb to 100% to generate steam. Devices like the MR. Steam MS-E Series steam generator or simply pouring water over heated rocks heats water to its boiling point, producing steam that gradually fills the room.

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Traditional wet saunas are heated by a stove or an electric heater that evaporates water and increases the humidity level inside. The sauna’s walls and ceiling are made of materials that can withstand high humidity levels, such as tile, glass, or acrylic, and are designed to be airtight to maintain an optimal humidity level.

These saunas operate at much lower temperatures than dry saunas, usually between 90 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The air can feel thick and heavy when you enter a wet sauna. Though the temperature is lower than in a dry sauna, it doesn’t feel overly hot or uncomfortable. They are suitable for people without an increased risk of heat-related illnesses.

Benefits of using a wet sauna include Reduced systemic inflammation, Improved circulation, Increased lung capacity, Cleared congestion, Improved cardiovascular health, Better skin health, Enhanced workout recovery, and Reduced stress.

What are the benefits of a wet sauna?

Sauna Showdown: Dry Heat vs Steam [Which Wins?]
Source of image: Istockphoto
A wet sauna uses moist heat to make you sweat. This experience is different from a dry sauna, which uses less humid air. When you sit in a wet sauna, you feel warm and relax your body. This has many health benefits.

The moist heat in a wet sauna can open up your airways, making it easier to breathe. This is good for people with respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis. The steam in the air makes your nasal passages and throat less dry. This reduces inflammation and helps clear up congestion. For those with chronic respiratory problems, going to a wet sauna often can make their life better by making the symptoms less severe and happen less often.

Wet saunas are also good for your skin. The steam can moisturize your skin, making it look better and more elastic. The heat helps open up pores on your skin to get rid of toxins and impurities. People with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis might feel better after using a wet sauna. The moist air can help with dry, itchy skin and help heal by bringing more blood to the skin.

I have used a wet sauna many times. It always makes me feel good. My skin looks better, and I breathe more easily. It’s a special way to take care of my health and relax at the same time.

Comparing Dry and Wet Saunas

Dry saunas and wet saunas are popular types of saunas that offer different experiences. When we compare them, the main differences are in temperature, humidity, heating method, and materials used. In dry saunas, the air is hot but not much steam, making it less humid. Wet saunas, on the other hand, add steam to the air, making it more humid and feel even warmer. The way they heat the room also varies. Dry saunas might use electric or wood heating to warm the air directly. Wet saunas often involve pouring water over heated rocks to create steam. The materials in each sauna type can also affect your experience. Dry saunas often use wood that can withstand lower humidity, while wet saunas might use materials that can handle more moisture.

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In a dry sauna, the temperature is typically higher than in a wet sauna. Dry saunas can have temperatures in the range of 160°F to 200°F, leading to an intense sweating and detoxification experience. On the other hand, wet saunas maintain cooler temperatures, usually between 110°F and 120°F.


The humidity in a wet sauna is higher compared to a dry sauna due to the use of steam to add moisture to the air. This humid environment is beneficial for those with respiratory issues or dry skin. However, the high humidity can make it harder to breathe for some people.

Heating Method

The heating method also differs between the two. Dry saunas use a heating element to heat the air, while wet saunas employ a steam generator to create steam. These significant differences in heating method affect the overall experience of the sauna.

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The materials used in construction also affect the experience. Dry saunas are typically made of wood, while wet saunas may use tile or other non-porous materials. The type of material can affect both temperature and humidity levels in the sauna, providing unique experiences and benefits.

Personal Preference

Ultimately, the choice between a dry or wet sauna comes down to what you want. Some people prefer the dry heat of a traditional sauna for its intense, invigorating feel, while others enjoy the moist, steamy environment of a wet sauna for its soothing, gentle feel on the skin and respiration.

Dry Sauna vs. Wet Sauna: Which Is Better for You?

Sauna Showdown: Dry Heat vs Steam [Which Wins?]

Choosing between a dry sauna and a wet sauna depends on your personal preference and what unique benefits you’re looking for. Each sauna experience offers diverse heat levels and moisture, providing a range of benefits.

If you like a hotter, drier place for sweating, a dry sauna might be good. This sauna helps you lose weight, boost metabolism, and burn calories. It’s also good for your heart, lowers blood pressure, and makes circulation better. Plus, it helps with stress, relieves tension, and is good for your mental well-being. You can use it as part of a workout or for a real sauna experience.

On the other hand, if you enjoy a humid environment that adds moisture to your skin, a wet sauna is ideal. Remember to stay hydrated and listen to your body; if you feel uncomfortable or lightheaded, it’s important to take a break and cool down. A wet sauna session offers soothing warmth that dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow and enhanced blood circulation. This oxygen delivery to the skin promotes a healthy, radiant complexion. It’s also an enjoyable alternative to detox drinks or cleanse juices.

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For those with respiratory issues like a stuffy nose, seasonal allergies, or chronic bronchitis, the warm, moist heat of a wet sauna can soothe irritated nasal passages, loosen phlegm, and reduce congestion, promoting easier breathing. It’s beneficial for people suffering from asthma or pulmonary diseases too.

Ultimately, your preferences, needs, and wellness goals should guide your choice. Whether you opt for the dry heat of a dry sauna or the soothing environment of a wet sauna, both can ease stress, relieve tension, and promote mental well-being.

Tips for Choosing a Sauna

Decide on the Type of Heat

When picking a sauna, think about the heat type you like. Dry saunas use hot rocks or electric heaters. If dry heat is good for you, choose a dry sauna. If you like humid air, a wet sauna with steam is better.

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Consider the Size

Think about size too. If your space is small, a small sauna is best. If you have more space, a big sauna can be more comfortable.

Look for Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency matters too. Look for saunas that keep heat in well and have energy-efficient heaters. This saves money on energy bills.

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Choose Quality Materials

Materials are key. Choose saunas made of good materials like cedar or hemlock. These materials last long and handle moisture well, great for saunas.

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Consider Additional Features

Additional features can be important in a sauna. Some saunas come with built-in speakers, lighting, additional seating, or storage options. These features can be important when you choose a sauna that meets your needs and enhances your health benefits from regular sauna use.


In the world of saunas, both dry saunas and wet saunas have their benefits for health and well-being. The choice between them often comes down to personal preferences and specific health conditions. If you have respiratory issues, a wet sauna with its humidity might help alleviate symptoms. But if you prefer a hotter, more intense experience, a dry sauna might be more up your alley.

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It’s important to listen to your body and consult a healthcare professional before using a sauna, especially if you have health concerns. Remember, it’s crucial to stay hydrated and not overdo it, as excessive heat exposure can be dangerous. Always follow proper safety guidelines to enjoy the benefits of this ancient practice safely.


Is a Dry Sauna Better Than a Steam Sauna?

Picking dry sauna or steam sauna depends on what you like and need. If you like a strong, good for health experience, dry sauna might be good. If you like a calm place to relax after a busy day at work or school, steam saunas might be better.

Is It Okay To Use The Sauna Daily?

Daily use of a sauna is okay if you follow proper sauna etiquette and pay attention to your body’s signals. It’s essential to stay hydrated and limit session times to 15 to 20 minutes. Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before entering the sauna. Individuals with certain medical conditions, like heart problems or high blood pressure, should consult a healthcare provider before incorporating sauna bathing into their routine. Pregnant women and those on prescription medications that affect body temperature should exercise caution.

Are Infrared Saunas a Good Option?

Infrared saunas, like the TheraSauna Classic, are an ideal choice to reap maximum benefits of sauna therapy. They are equipped with infrared panels that emit far-infrared wavelengths. This heat penetrates the skin deeply, offering efficient, targeted heat therapy. The deep heat penetration can improve detoxification, muscle recovery, and pain relief. They don’t need heating rocks or create steam, making them more energy-efficient and easier to maintain.

Dry Sauna Safety and Precautions

Using a dry sauna can be risky if done wrong or too much. Here are some risks and tips:

  • Dehydration: In a dry sauna, you lose water and electrolytes through sweating. This can lead to dehydration, headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and cramps. To avoid this, drink water before, during, and after your sauna session. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and diuretics that can dehydrate you more.
  • Overheating: When you use a dry sauna, your body can get too hot. This is called overheating. If you are in there too long or it’s too hot, you might get sick. You could get heat exhaustion or heat stroke. You might feel confused or like you’re going to faint. It’s best to stay in the sauna for 15 to 20 minutes or even less if it’s new for you. Always check how you feel. If you feel bad or not right, you should leave the sauna.
  • When you are in a dry sauna, drinking alcohol can be more strong on your body and brain. This can make it hard to think right, move well, and react fast. It can also make you more likely to get dehydrated, too hot, and have low blood pressure. Do not drink alcohol before or when you are in the sauna. Wait for at least an hour after the sauna before you drink alcohol.

Tips for the Perfect Sweat Session

To have a great time in a dry sauna, follow these tips:

  • Wear the right clothes: Choose loose, comfortable clothing or just a towel in the dry sauna. Remove jewelry, glasses, contact lenses, and other accessories that can heat up and irritate your skin. Bring a towel to sit on and wipe off sweat.
  • Prepare yourself: Shower before entering the dry sauna to remove dirt, oil, and cosmetics from your skin so you can sweat more easily and prevent infections and irritations. Load up on water to prevent dehydration.
  • Enjoy yourself: Relax and enjoy your time in the dry sauna. You can listen to music, read a book, meditate, or chat with friends. Breathing deeply helps oxygenate your blood and calm your mind.
  • Cool down gradually: Leave the dry sauna when you feel hot enough or your time is up. Don’t stay longer than 20 minutes or more than once a day. After leaving, cool down gradually. Take a shower, drink water, and rest in a cool area. Avoid sudden changes in body temperature and blood pressure.

How Long Should You Sit in a Dry Sauna?

In a dry sauna, how long you sit depends on what you like and need. Start with shorter sessions of 5 to 10 minutes and work your way up. Try not to exceed 20 minutes and take a break if needed to avoid excessive dehydration and hyperthermia.

Is a Dry Sauna Really Good for You?

Absolutely. Research shows that regular dry sauna sessions can improve cardiovascular health, ease muscle pain, increase metabolic rate, and reduce stress.

Is It Okay To Use a Dry Sauna Every Day?

Yes, using a dry sauna every day is okay if you are careful. Do not stay more than 20 minutes. If you take medications or have health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, talk to a doctor before you start.

What Should I Do Before a Dry Sauna?

To maximize your experience in a dry sauna, do a couple of things. Make sure you’re well-hydrated. Water, herbal tea, and coconut water are good options. Eat light snacks to keep your energy levels up but avoid heavy, fatty foods to prevent potential nausea. Remove jewelry and wristwatches as heat and sweat can damage them. Take off shoes and consider wearing flip-flops or sandals since the floor can be very hot and slippery. Sit on a bench or chair in the sauna, bringing a towel to sit or lay on.

Do I Have To Shower Before a Dry Sauna?

You aren’t required to shower beforehand, but it’s generally a good idea. Showering before a dry sauna session helps remove sweat, oils, and residual makeup so your skin can sweat freely without potentially clogging pores.

Do You Wear Clothes in a Dry Sauna?

In a dry sauna, whether you wear clothes or not depends on what you like and what’s usual in your culture. Many people are nude or just use a towel. If you feel shy being naked with others, it’s okay to wear something. Choose clothes that are big and airy, made from cotton or linen. Don’t wear synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester because they might stick to your skin and bother you. Make sure to know the dress codes or policies. Ask staff or look at the sauna website before you go. This shows respect for how others do things.

Dry Sauna vs. Wet Sauna: Final Thought

The difference between dry and wet saunas is obvious: one is simply hot, the other hot and steamy. Both offer unique experiences and benefits. The choice really comes down to what you desire. It’s essential to consider various factors like your health conditions, desired benefits, and overall comfort when choosing between a dry vs. wet sauna.

If you’d rather not use a shared sauna at the gym and are looking for an at-home sauna, check out MySaunaWorld. They have a collection of traditional and infrared saunas. For more information or any queries, feel free to contact us. Our friendly staff will gladly assist.


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