Red Light Therapy vs Infrared Saunas: Key Distinctions

Infrared Saunas

In terms of holistic medicine, two therapies have gained in popularity recently: Red light therapy and infrared saunas.

Although these therapies may both offer health benefits, each has its own unique goals and mechanisms for wellness. For example, red light therapy uses light energy to stimulate cellular activity, while infrared saunas aim to raise core body temperature.

In other words, the only similarity is that they use infrared wavelengths. However, the type of red light (near IR vs far IR), the health goals, and the mechanisms vary greatly.

Want to explore more about red light therapy vs. Infrared saunas?

This guide provides a brief overview of IR saunas, and how they differ from traditional saunas and red light therapy. You’ll also learn the five major differences between red light therapy and infrared saunas.

RLT and IR Saunas: A Fast Overview

Is red light therapy the same as infrared saunas? No, they’re not. Although they both use red light wavelengths, that’s where the similarities end.

Red light therapy, a form of photobiododulation, uses red light and near-infrared wavelengths to stimulate cellular function. An infrared sauna, on the other hand, uses far-infrared light to raise internal body temperatures (thermotherapy). Therefore, they aim to do different things: An infrared sauna will make you sweat profusely to aid in detoxification, while, with red light therapy, you may sweat, especially during your first few sessions, but the goal isn’t sweating for detoxification.

The two biggest differences are this:

1. Red light wavelengths – RLT uses red and near-infrared wavelengths (about 770 to 1400 nm). IR saunas use FAR-infrared light (which generates heat).

2. Health aims – IR saunas heat the body directly, which increases heart rate and widens blood vessels. RLT aims to deliver red light to the tissue and skin, triggering a cellular response.

RLT does not generate heat, and therefore, internal body temperatures do not rise significantly. A sauna, on the other hand, is designed to increase internal body temperatures for heat therapy.

Infrared Saunas: Understanding Their Mechanisms

Saunas have been used for thousands of years in health and wellness. But the technology they use is changing.

For example, saunas traditionally employed wood-fired stoves or electric heaters to generate heat. The heater raises ambient temperatures above 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which then triggers a bodily response (sweating).

Some modern saunas, however, utilize infrared lamps to heat the body directly. This is the main difference between an IR sauna and a traditional one. Rather than heating the ambient air, an IR sauna heats the body directly.

How Saunas Work

No matter the type of sauna (IR or wood-fired), the aim is similar. A sauna is designed to increase your core body temperature, and as a result, you sweat to cool yourself down.

This sweating is what many people find relaxing and beneficial. Some say sauna bathing detoxifies the body, while others say it can help soothe sore muscles.

Finnish saunas have been widely studied, and there is some evidence that they may help reduce cardiovascular disease , reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol.

IR Saunas vs Traditional Sauna Baths

IR saunas are a relatively new method. The big difference is in how they increase core body temperature. Here’s a look:

  • Traditional saunas: A Finnish sauna uses wood fire or electric heat to heat large rocks. This raises the air in the sauna above 150 degrees, which is absorbed by the body and increases the body’s core temperature.
  • Infrared saunas: With an IR sauna, the idea is the same. However, infrared lamps are used to directly heat your body. As a result, they tend to have lower ambient temperatures (below 130 degrees Fahrenheit).

In short, IR saunas heat the body without heating the air, while traditional saunas heat the air (which raises body temperature). Steam rooms operate on a similar principle but use heated steam to raise body temperatures.

Health Benefits of Saunas

Researchers have explored the health benefits of saunas. Currently, their effects are still being investigated. However, researchers have linked saunas to a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Improved circulation
  • Relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • Detoxification
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Sleep improvements
  • Enhanced skin health (especially with steam saunas)

Despite the lack of scientific evidence, saunas are in wide use around the world. Currently, they’re a fast-growing health trend in the U.S.

Is Red Light Therapy the Same as an Infrared Sauna?

On principle, they sound similar. However, red light therapy is not the same as an infrared sauna. Each therapy has a distinct purpose.

People primarily use red light therapy to stimulate cellular activity and promote healing, with a focus on enhancing skin health and relieving pain. RLT devices use red light wavelengths, which can penetrate the skin and reach tissue. This light energy then stimulates a cellular response.

Researchers believe this cellular response has many benefits. Some potential uses for red light therapy include:

Generally, red light therapy has shown positive results in trials for a wide range of conditions. (for example, for skin health and for pain ). However, as a relatively new therapy, the clinical evidence is limited.

So, no RLT and IR saunas aren’t the same thing. They have very different mechanisms. Whereas an IR sauna aims to raise body temperature, red light therapy is used to stimulate skin and tissue cells.

Red Light Therapy vs. Infrared Saunas: Top 5 Differences

Here’s an in-depth look at the differences between these two types of treatments:

1. Light Wavelengths

Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy utilizes specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light, which fall within the range of 620 to ~1400 nanometers. These wavelengths are carefully chosen to target cellular activity and promote various healing processes within the body. The light penetrates the skin and reaches the cells, where it stimulates and optimizes cellular responses.

Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas, in contrast, employ longer wavelengths of infrared light, primarily in the far-infrared spectrum. These wavelengths range from 5.6 to 15 micrometers.

Far infrared wavelengths focus on heating the body directly, rather than targeting cellular activity. The longer the wavelength, the more heat is generated. The goal is to create a deep, penetrating heat that induces sweating and promotes detoxification by increasing the body’s core temperature.

2. Purpose and Benefits

Red Light Therapy

People mainly use red light therapy to enhance skin health, reduce swelling, alleviate pain, and boost cellular energy. This therapy is well-regarded for its applications in skincare, wound healing, and muscle recovery. However, red light therapy does not raise core body temperatures significantly, and therefore, it doesn’t induce sweating like an IR sauna.

Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas, on the other hand, increase body temperature and increase sweating. People favor them for their potential to improve cardiovascular health, relieve stress, and aid in weight loss. The primary focus is to raise the body’s core temperature to stimulate these benefits.

3. Heat Production

Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy does not produce external heat. During a red light therapy session, you will experience no significant increase in room temperature or body heat. The therapy takes place at room temperature, and you won’t sweat during the session.

Infrared Saunas

As the name suggests, infrared saunas provide a sauna-like experience. The far-IR wavelengths increase your body’s core temperature, and to a lesser degree, increase ambient temperatures. This increase in temperature induces sweating, a key aspect of the sauna experience, which aids in detoxification.

4. Duration and Session Frequency

Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy sessions are typically shorter in duration, usually ranging from just a few minutes to around 20 minutes. Because red light therapy sessions are short, it’s common to use them daily or a few times a week, depending on your specific goals.

Infrared Saunas

Infrared sauna sessions are usually longer, typically lasting from 20 to 45 minutes. These sessions are less frequent and are often recommended only a few times a week or even less, depending on individual goals and tolerance. The extended duration is designed to facilitate the gradual increase in core body temperature.

5. Application and Accessibility

Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy devices come in various forms, including handheld devices, panels, and beds. These devices are meant for specific use on the skin or particular areas, like the face, joints, or muscles. A big plus is that you can easily get these home devices, which makes them convenient for daily use.

Infrared Saunas

In contrast, infrared saunas are larger and require dedicated space for installation. IR saunas are commonly found in wellness centers, gyms, or spas. They are less accessible for daily home use due to their size and installation requirements.


While both red light therapy and infrared saunas use light energy, they have different goals and advantages.

Red light therapy has numerous benefits, and is ideal for skin health, pain relief, and cellular stimulation, while infrared saunas focus on detoxification, cardiovascular health, and stress relief.

Knowing the main distinctions between these two therapies can assist you in making an educated choice when deciding which one matches your health and wellness goals.

If you’re ready to explore the possibilities Hue Light USA can offer you, be sure to check us out today!

What's the biggest difference between red light therapy vs. infrared saunas?

The key difference lies in heat. Red light therapy uses specific red and near-infrared wavelengths with minimal heat generation. Infrared saunas, on the other hand, utilize a broader range of infrared light, including wavelengths that produce heat, raising your core body temperature and inducing sweating.

Which one is better for detoxification?

Infrared saunas are the clear winner for sweating and potentially eliminating toxins through sweat. Red light therapy might offer some cellular detoxification benefits, but sweating is a more established method.

Do both therapies help with pain relief?

Yes, both can be helpful for pain management. Red light therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation and promote tissue healing, potentially easing pain. Infrared saunas can improve circulation and relax muscles, also contributing to pain relief.

I want to improve my skin. Which therapy should I choose?

Both options offer skin benefits! Red light therapy is known to stimulate collagen production, potentially reducing wrinkles and improving overall skin health. Infrared saunas can help with blood flow and detoxification, which may also contribute to a clearer complexion.

Can I combine red light therapy and infrared saunas?

Yes, in some cases, combining them might be beneficial. Red light therapy can target specific areas for tissue repair or pain relief, while an infrared sauna session provides a more holistic detox and relaxation experience. It's advisable to consult a healthcare professional before combining any therapies.

Can you use red light therapy before or after a sauna?

The choice of using red light therapy before or after an infrared sauna largely depends on your wellness goals.

If you’re looking to target specific skin concerns or alleviate pain, using red light therapy before or after an infrared sauna session can complement your overall wellness routine. However, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider to learn to ensure safety and determine if this is right for you.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a direct reference to any products offered by Hue Light USA or any specific brand. We do not claim that our products can achieve the effects or benefits discussed in this content. This information should not be interpreted as medical advice or as an endorsement of any specific product or treatment. We encourage readers to conduct their own research and consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions regarding their health or wellness regimen.

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