I Tried An Infrared Sauna And The Benefits Were Real—And Sweaty

Get your glow on

I'm going to get this out of the way first: I love to sweat. I understand this is not a common sentiment. I understand that I'm a freak. But still: I love to sweat. There's a few reasons for this. One is that I like to be hot, like really hot. When everyone else is complaining during the dog days of August about how sticky it is and how overwhelmed they are, I nod along and everything because I like to fit in with society's conventions occasionally, but on the inside, I'm not nodding. On the inside, I'm thinking about how glorious it is not to be shivering and miserable and how much I love to feel the heat on every part of my skin and have my body cool itself down in such a way that water is emitting from my own skin, bathing me in a natural dewiness that has me feeling like the very definition of the word glow.

And it's not just New-York-City-in-the-summer sweat that I love. Post-exercise or really post-any type of physical exertion sweat brings with it its own pleasures; there's the accompanying endorphin rush and the feeling of completion and exhaustion. Not, like, exhaustion in the sense of being tired, but rather in the sense of having expended every last bit of yourself in the effort to do something greater than what you'd normally do, leading to a moment of collapse and a feeling of acceptance, like you've succumbed to something bigger than yourself and now all that's left is for you to lie there in a puddle of your own secreted energy. Sweating just feels like the ultimate release; it's our body's way of regulating itself and it's beautiful and, as stated above, I fucking love it.

All of which is to say that I've been interested in trying out an infrared sauna for awhile, and with the current cold, gray world by which I'm surrounded, there seemed to be no better time to go someplace where I could sweat out all that I'd been keeping inside. Infrared saunas have been receiving quite a bit of attention lately; the New York Times covered their popularity in an article last August, and this type of sauna is now a favorite of everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to just about every model you'll see on Instagram. But while infrared saunas might seem like nothing more than the latest wellness trend, the technology of infrared heating has actually been around since the middle of the 20th century, when, the Times explained, it was "pioneered... for use in hospitals, mostly in Europe and Japan, to speed the healing of wounds and to warm premature babies." But as with many former medical-only treatments, infrared technology soon became utilized for personal consumption, with devotees sweating in personal units in order to help with everything from detoxification to weight loss to clearer skin to help with joint pain. I had to try this out for myself.

In New York City, the place to go for all things infrared is the East Village's HigherDOSE (the "DOSE" stands for dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins), which provides a serene environment in which to strip down and glow up. Founded by Lauren Berlingeri and Katie Kaps, HigherDOSE has become a go-to spot for infrared-lovers because it feels like a genuine haven in a city known for its hustle; a visit there provides a unique opportunity to relax and expel whatever has been ailing you, from the inside out. The benefits of infrared technology are medical, with studies showing that conditions like asthma, high blood pressure and arthritis aided by the therapy, and with other cited benefits including things like muscular pain relief and a boost for the circulatory system. Plus, an infrared sauna's heat level is achieved via the emission of light waves which release heat from within a person's body, rather than externally. This is a far more gentle process than with traditional saunas, and makes for a less extreme (though no less sweaty) experience.

I arrived at HigherDOSE on a blustery and bleak morning, but began to feel better almost immediately as I descended into the calm, gently scented space. I was soon shown to a private room, papered in a dark, lush floral design that made me feel like I was in a Lana Del Rey video. The intimate space held a wooden infrared sauna booth where I was soon to sit alone for the next 60 minutes. This is... a long time! I rarely do anything for 60 straight minutes, but I wasn't particularly intimidated by this stretch of time because HigherDOSE's saunas have heat-proof cabinets wherein you can plug your phone into the provided aux cord and thus have music or podcasts or whatever to listen to the whole time (I put on Lana, obviously), and I'd brought a book with me anyway. But to be honest, once I was alone and naked in that hot little wooden box, with "Young and Beautiful" playing in the background and the therapeutic lights set alternately to red and blue (these colors, I've been told, offer the most real benefits and provide, respectively, increased energy and a sense of calm and peace), I didn't so much read as I did close my eyes and relax into the heat.

And what heat it was! Within mere minutes of stepping into the booth and shedding my towel, my skin felt like it was vibrating and beads of water began to form on every part of my body. The heat never felt oppressive; I felt bound to it, in a way, like my body was working in concert with it to rid itself of anything undesired. And as the moisture left my body, I concentrated on clearing my head. I worked on vanquishing all the troubling thoughts I'd brought with me that morning (most of them election-related, to be honest), and instead focused on nothing external, only the internal, paying attention to every part of myself in turn. It felt clearing and liberating. The hour passed by quickly, and when it was over, I felt a very real sense of elation, the kind of high experienced after a long run or lots of sex. (It is no coincidence that I felt similarly after my experience in an LED light bed; the benefits of sweat are real and beautiful.) I felt like I was floating, but my mind also felt clear and completely sharp. I felt ready to take on the day, and it didn't hurt that my skin had an otherworldly glow that stayed put for days. Even my recently sprained ankle had stopped hurting. It was a beautiful thing, a hot and sticky way to start the day that I couldn't wait to do again.

Find out more about the infrared sauna at HigherDOSE here