How to use a sauna – Tips for Beginners

The fast pace of today, stressful meetings, work, school, gym, they all seem to pile up and leave almost no time for relaxation. The result is seen in the increasing number of depression and work exhaustion cases. In this never-ending vortex, however, people have found a good refuge in saunas, rediscovering the benefits of heat and sweat. These hot rooms are renowned for their action upon pain, stress, and toxins. Even Lady Gaga got her own infrared sauna to help her with the chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia and other injuries, and, since then, she hasn’t ceased praising the benefits of this “coffin-like” box. According to an Instagram post from 2016, she alternates the hot sessions with cold, even icy baths that help her keep going in days when she finds it difficult to get out of bed.

Nevertheless, the sauna isn’t only for people who are trying to recover after an injury. It is a great way to isolate yourself from the daily worries while sweating out all the toxins in your skin. Some users like to combine it with aromatherapy. Some appreciate the old natural Finnish way. No matter which one you choose, we guarantee you will have a good time, as long as you play by the rules.

If you are a beginner, we’ve developed a detailed guide of how to prepare and behave inside a sauna, so give it a quick read and get ready to start sweating.

Saunas – Short Introduction

What is a sauna anyways? It is a wooden box that gets hot under the action of a heating element. The heat source is actually the one that makes the difference. Hence, you will have gas or electric-powered models or the traditional and highly-appreciated Finnish wood-burning units. In the latest years, a new technology took over this field, being introduced at large scale in gyms and SPA centers. We are referring to infrared units, which could make a nice match for beginners, due to their ability to transfer heat to the body without really heating the room. Infrared models are less messy than wood-burning models, which may imply the use of hot rocks and water to create steam.

Another thing you will need to decide is if you are going to use the sauna at a health center or get a unit for your home. The second option is preferred by most people, who like to share this moment with their family and friends instead of strangers, but the investment can hit some large numbers, so sometimes a gym or SPA option is chosen.

If you decide to buy or build a unit at home, it is wise to consider both options. Namely, you could set it up inside and get immediate access to water and electricity or invest a little bit more effort and money and get yourself an outdoor model, which will allow you to admire the scenery.

How to Prepare for a Sauna

Even if it may sound ideal, it is not the best idea to jump inside a sauna as soon as you get home from work. Here are some basic hygiene rules everybody should follow:

  • Shower First – No matter if you are using your home unit or the one at the SPA center, the civil thing to do is take a quick shower. If you are coming from outside, your skin will be carrying dust, pollen, and other contaminants. Once you start sweating, they will drip on the floor and make the room dirty. Some of the stains can be really difficult to clean. Also, make sure to remove makeup and not wear any lotions. It’s like preparing for a pool. The fewer contaminants you bring in, the cleaner it will stay.
  • Remove all metal accessories – No matter if it is gold, silver, or other metal, the thing with them is that they get hot fast, and the last you want is to feel the discomfort of a bracelet that is starting to burn.
  • Dress appropriately – If you are at your home and enjoy naked sauna sessions, then go for it. But if you are in a place where others are also using the sauna, you must follow the rules. In many cases, this may imply wearing a bathing suit or a towel. Make sure that they are clean. It isn’t a good idea to use the same articles you’ve worn to the pool unless you managed to wash them before. And, even if you are using a bathing suit, bring a towel with you as well and use it on the bench to prevent sweat from staining the wood.
  • Do not drink – If you had a few beers or are still hangover after last night’s party, it is better to wait a day until you are fully recovered. As there’s a lot of sweating involved, you will quickly get dehydrated, and, with alcohol having the same effect on your body, you may suffer a heat stroke.

What to Do in a Sauna

You’re now prepared and ready to enter the room. The following guidelines will keep you safe throughout the session:

  • Pick the right duration – Even if these sessions can last for up to an hour, it isn’t recommended for a beginner to spend so much time inside. You should start with 10 to 15 minutes sessions, and increase the time as you get accustomed to the conditions. Also, bear in mind that some saunas may be more difficult to tolerate than others. For example, the high heat in traditional units makes them less accessible than infrared models, but people use to pour water on the hot rocks inside to make the air more humid and easier to breathe.
  • Stay hydrated – Once you’ve started sweating, you need to replace the lost fluids with fresh water, so make sure to bring a bottle with you. Also, drink plenty of it before going inside and when the session is over. Alkaline water is highly popular in this case as it has better hydration properties.
  • Cool yourself – It is advised to alternate hot sessions with moments of cooling. You can choose to take a cool shower or bath, swim in a lake, or cool yourself down with snow if it is the season. Then, you can return to the sweating room for another 10 minutes and repeat the cycle.
  • Clean after you – It is poor taste to leave behind band-aids or booby pins. Also, if this is your personal sauna, make sure to clean it at least once a week to prevent bacteria growth. The humid environment caused by vapors and sweat is just perfect for microorganisms.

What Not to Do in a Sauna

These rules have to do with preserving your health but with keeping an appropriate behavior as well, so don’t skip on them:

  • Skip the sauna if you are ill – Few illnesses would prevent you from enjoying a good sweating session, and most of them are related to heart failure, so if you are in this category of risk, it is better to avoid the sauna. But this shouldn’t be the only rule. If you are hurt or just feeling unwell, allow your body to recover before exposing it to high temperatures.
  • Do not use it alone – You never know what can happen on the street but in a hot room with steams. This is why it is better to have someone around in case you feel sick. There were cases when people fainted and even died from heat strokes because they couldn’t get help on time.
  • Avoid the sweat room if you are pregnant – Or at least check with your doctor. They may advise you to avoid it during the first trimester or to reduce the time spent inside. Also, the moment you feel unwell, make sure to get out for fresh air. In this case, cooling with snow or cold showers may not be a good idea.
  • Do not shave or groom inside – This is not a salon, and, for sure, your grooming habits don’t belong here. Imagine if everybody would do it. It wouldn’t take long for the room to get dirty and extremely gross.


Using the sauna for the first time can seem intimidating. If you are sharing it with strangers, you may feel exposed or you may have worries regarding your health. Nevertheless, if you follow our advice, you can be sure that your first session will be a success. Now you know how to prepare before entering the room and what to do and not to do inside. Get your water with you and a nice clean towel and remember that it isn’t a sign a weakness to leave the room when you are feeling uncomfortable. In fact, this shows that you are responsible and can take care of yourself.