Do Saunas Help with Acne?

Let’s be honest, acne really isn’t fun. Apart from the fact that it can take a huge toll on your self-confidence, it is often also a way for the body to tell you that something is going on beneath the surface that needs to be addressed. This is where things tend to get a little tricky – there is bacterial acne, hormonal acne, and acne as a result of internal inflammation – the list is seemingly endless. The good news? Your acne likely has a root cause that can absolutely be addressed in a natural way, and going to the sauna might actually help you out with that! 

How does the sauna help with acne? 

I know what you’re thinking – how can a hot room help your skin to get better? The thing is, there are studies that say that going to the sauna protects the outer barrier of the skin or the epidermis. This protection, in turn, helps improve skin moisture and regulate body temperature. 

Over time, this will lead to improved skin health, reduce skin sensitivity and redness, decrease chances of skin breakouts (acne), and improve skin moisture retention. 

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? The truth is, the sauna is definitely a holistic treatment for acne and will help you with a variety of things, including opening clogged pores. When your pores are clogged, bacteria tend to get trapped beneath the surface and get inflamed. This is what will then show up as a pimple. Of course, as mentioned earlier, bacteria is not the only cause of acne, but opening your clogged pores is always a good idea, no matter what the source of your breakouts is. 

But the sauna does a lot more than that for your skin. The heat of the sauna improves your body’s circulation, especially for your blood and lymphatic system. The better the circulation, the easier your body can get rid of toxins and fight inflammation. On top of all that, the sauna will also increase the production of your body’s collagen. You might have heard the term collagen being thrown around by beauty and health influencers online since there are lots of collagen supplements being sold right now. Collagen helps your skin’s elasticity and essentially has an anti-aging effect. And the best part? You can get your body to naturally produce more collagen by spending more time in the sauna! 

All in all, the sauna is great for your skin, acne or not. However, the benefits don’t stop there. 

Other Health Benefits of Sauna

The sauna has a ton of benefits for your body, and your skin is just one of them. Let’s take a look at what spending a few minutes in the heat can do for your body: 

It relieves pain 

One great aspect of saunas is that they can help to relieve pain. On the one hand, this is because the heat will increase your body’s blood flow to sore or injured muscles and joints. Especially for chronic pain, this increase in blood flow can help to bring in more nutrients and oxygen that will then promote healing and reduce pain in the affected areas. 

On the other hand, being in the heat of a sauna can trigger your body to release endorphins, which are basically your natural painkillers. Endorphins block the pain signals from reaching your brain, which is what causes you to experience pain or discomfort. 

What can be surprising is that going to the sauna can actually help you to reduce inflammation in your body. You’d think inflammation gets worse in the heat, but the sauna triggers a mild stress response in the body, which, in turn, causes the production of anti-inflammatory proteins that help to reduce swelling and inflammation, and therefore often pain, too. 

It reduces the risk of suffering from a stroke 

Going to the sauna on a regular basis can also reduce your risk of suffering from a stroke. This is due to a few different reasons. 

For one, we already talked about how the sauna lowers levels of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including stroke. 

When you visit the sauna more often, your blood pressure will improve by causing blood vessels to dilate and increase blood flow. This dilation can lead to lower blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for suffering from a stroke. On top of that, the endothelium, which is the thin layer of cells on the inside of your blood vessels, will function better with continuous sauna use. This will regulate your blood flow and reduce the risk of blood clots. 

Similarly, saunas increase your heart rate variability (HRV). This is essentially the variation in time between heartbeats. When your HRV is higher, you are healthier and at a lower risk for a stroke. 

It improves your immune support

The increased circulation from the sauna will help to strengthen your body’s immune system by providing the cells with the nutrients they need to function properly. On top of that, your lymphatic system is getting a boost, which helps your body to get rid of waste and toxins in your body. Essentially, this means you will be getting sick a lot less often! 

Now, when you are in the sauna, you are essentially putting your body in a fever-like condition, which helps to stimulate the immune system by producing more white blood cells, which are the body’s natural defense against infections of any sort. 

You may notice that going to the sauna is very relaxing, too. This reduction in stress can also strengthen your immune system. 

Tips for better skin through the use of a sauna

To be honest with you, simply going to the sauna a few times a week is not going to cut it if you want to seriously improve your skin and get rid of acne. There are a lot of factors that play into your skin, so you will have to take these tips into consideration: 

Use the right skincare 

Instead of drenching your face in tons of different, chemical products, it makes sense to go by the principle “less is more”. This is especially true if your acne is hormonal, since the chemicals in a lot of skincare can disrupt your body’s hormonal balance even further, making your acne worse instead of better. 

Focus on good-quality, natural products that work for your skin type. Using retinol can also help with acne since it promotes your skin’s cell renewal. Be careful with that, though, you will need to be extra vigilant about protecting your skin against UV rays from the sun when you are using retinol. 

In general, a good cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF should be enough to give your skin everything it needs to be happy and glowing. Adding a Vitamin C serum to your routine might also help with getting rid of acne scars. 

Drink at least 2L of water per day

Water is important for your body, that’s nothing new, right? Well, your skin will especially benefit from more hydration. You can put as much moisturizer on as you want, when you are dehydrated, your skin will be dull, dry, and itchy. 

Water also helps to flush out any toxins that are causing inflammation in the body and it helps to improve your skin’s elasticity. This will not only help your acne but also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Most importantly, proper hydration will enhance your skin’s natural glow, which will make you seem brighter and more radiant. 

Make sure you are sweating

One big reason the sauna is so good for your skin is that you are actively sweating. When you sweat, your pores open up and all the toxins can come out. Stay in the sauna until you are actively sweating, since that will help your body get rid of all the gunk that is clogging your pores. 

Take a (cold) shower afterward 

Now that your pores are nice and open, you will want to clean your skin and get them to close again. Cold showers or plunges after the sauna are not only amazing to regulate your body’s temperature and get that cold exposure effect, but they will also help your skin to close its pores again. This is why it’s great for your acne if you take a cold shower after the sauna, preferably after rinsing off the sweat so that your skin is clean. 

How long should I stay in a sauna for acne treatment? 

Now you’re probably wondering how often and for how long you need to go to the sauna in order to get the full effect of its skin-healing properties. 

In general, 10-20 minutes in the sauna are enough to remove the sebum, bacteria, and dirt from the whole body and face. You can do this around 3 times a week since that is the recommended amount. If you want to go more often than that, you can, but make sure to see how your body feels. 

At first, you will need to see if you can even do it for 10 minutes since the heat can feel intense as a beginner. The more you get used to it and the more your body adapts to the sauna, you can stay for 20 or even 30 minutes. 

No matter what, make sure to listen to your body and how it is feeling on any given day. Just because you usually stay for a certain amount of time doesn’t mean that there won’t be days when your body only tolerates a lot less. 

For effective acne treatment, you will need to wash your face and body right after the sauna. Your pores are open and there will be bacteria from the sweat all over you. After you wash your body and take a cold shower, your pores will be clean and closed. 

Is a sauna or steam room better for acne? 

You might ask yourself if it is better for your acne to go to the sauna or to a steam room. First of all, let’s establish the difference between the two of them. 

According to the National American Sauna Society, a sauna is a heated room with temperatures between 150-195F. The humidity in a sauna is generally very low, which makes the dry heat more bearable for longer amounts of time. There are different types of saunas, as well as gadgets such as sauna blankets that you can try. 

A steam room or Turkish Bath is usually between 110 and 120F and due to the steam, the humidity is at 100%. It is slightly cooler, but the humidity makes the experience just as intense. Steam rooms, just like saunas, are known to help with joint pain, hydrate skin, soothe sore muscles, help with congestion and make breathing easier. 

You might be wondering which one of the two is better for your skin. While both of them will help to improve your skin, saunas are more extensively studied than steam rooms. Not only do saunas help to improve your skin barrier, but saunas also evidently pose no health risk for healthy people. 

Can the sauna actually worsen acne?

If you are worried about the sauna actually worsening your sauna, I have good news for you: there isn’t a single study that says that saunas can cause acne! 

However, you might experience negative effects if you don’t use the sauna in the right way. As we have established, the sauna helps you to sweat, and the sweat is composed of compounds that can exfoliate the skin, which is helpful with acne. If, however, you don’t clean yourself properly after the acne, bacteria can build up and cause you to break out more, so make sure to take a shower after each trip to the sauna. 

In general, the heat in the sauna can help you to open up clogged pores, which will prevent the formation of whiteheads, blackheads, and acne. If you suffer from badly inflamed acne, where your pimples are swollen and red, you might experience that it feels worse, since the heat can irritate the inflammation a bit more. In that case, you might want to wait until your skin has calmed down a bit before coming back to the sauna. 

Anna Scheucher
Editor at The Fitness Tribe | + posts

Anna is our massage, recovery, nutrition, and training specialist. She holds a degree in Medical Massage Therapy from the Bergler Massage Institut and a Personal Trainer and Nutritionist degree from the OTL Academy. She is originally from Austria but lives in the U.S and when she is not writing science backed articles for you can find her globe trotting around the world.

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