Saunas and skincare: What you need to know

I recently discovered the sauna in the changing rooms at my gym. 

Spending 10 to 15 minutes breathing in the hot air and calming my nervous system has become a post-workout ritual in recent weeks. 

But it has had me wondering: is using the sauna good for your skin?

Usually, sweat is seen as a bad thing – I’m inclined to wash my face as soon as I’ve finished exercising, lest I be graced with three new blemishes the following morning.

But, according to the experts, regularly using a sauna can have profound benefits on your skin. 

‘Using a sauna is essentially a form of exercise for your skin,’ explains Louise Louca, founder and senior skin specialist at Bloom Skin Clinic, Manchester. 

‘When you’re in the sauna, your blood vessels open and this speeds up blood flow and circulation, aiding the release of toxins which helps detoxify pores.’

The skin benefits of using a sauna

Helps to detoxify your skin 

Saunas are great for sweat glands as they support kidney function by flushing out what kidneys naturally eliminate from the body, such as toxins, metals and waste, which can cause acne and breakouts. 

Saunas help the kidney to go through detoxification, clearing skin as it rids the body of metals and waste. 

This is why it helps to have a super clean face before you enter a sauna. 

Hydrates your skin

Another benefit to regular sauna use is that your sebaceous glands are activated and regulated – our sebaceous glands control skin lubrication and moisture, helping skin become more moisturised, which leads to that much-desired dewy, glowing complexion.

Increases collagen production

As a result of enhancing blood flow and circulation, a sauna also increases our body’s natural collagen production and stimulation.

This helps us to retain elasticity in our skin, keeping us looking youthful for longer, and helping bones, organs, and muscles stay healthy too. 

  • Louise Louca, founder and senior skin specialist at Bloom Skin Clinic

How often should you use the sauna for skincare benefits?

It can be difficult to know how long is too long to spend in the sauna. 

As a rule of thumb, Natasha Suri, beauty expert at Herbal Essentials, recommends trying to spend up to 15 minutes in the sauna multiple times a week, depending on your physical fitness levels and skin type.

‘Any longer and you risk over-drying your skin and hair,’ she warns.

However, Louca notes that you can build yourself up to between 20 and 40 minutes, three to four times a week. 

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The longer you use the sauna, the softer and plumper your skin will become, enabling you to exfoliate effectively afterwards.

‘However, you need to start slowly and build your time up in the sauna to prevent stressing your body out.’

How to use the sauna, depending on your skin type

According to Louca, those with dry, oily or combination skin will ‘reap the benefits of a regular sauna session’. 

People with dry skin are likely to see some of the strongest benefits. 

‘When used in moderation the sauna can be great for dry skin,’ Suri tells Metro.co.uk.

‘This is because their skin will produce more sebum due to the heat.’

However, she adds, this isn’t great for oily skin: ‘Oily skin types can use a damp cloth over the face for protection,’ she says. 

‘As your pores are open after a sauna, product benefits can work more effectively. 

A clay mask is great for oily skin and don’t forget to use moisturiser to add extra hydration.’

How to care for your skin before, during and after the sauna

Before: Clean your skin

‘Whatever you do, do not enter a sauna with a full face of makeup,’ says Louca.

‘Always remove any lotions and deodorants too.

‘It’s also good to shower, removing any surface bacteria or products that can clog the skin.

‘If glowing skin is your aim, you want a fresh, clean canvas for the sauna to work with.’

During: Don’t touch your face

Louca says: ‘While in a sauna, try not to touch your skin in case you spread any blemishes that you may have.

‘If you feel some discomfort, such as itching, you might be having a reaction to the heat or salt, so be sure to have a shower and wash your face to reduce any itchiness.’

After: Wash your face and rehhyrate

‘After the sauna, it’s important to rehydrate,’ says Louca.

‘You need to drink lots of water to rehydrate your body, as well as using moisturiser to rehydrate your skin.’

Who should be cautious when using a sauna?

It’s important to remember that saunas aren’t for everyone.

For example, and as Louca notes, people who are pregnant and people who have heart conditions need to consult a doctor before using a sauna and are generally advised against using them.

So who should be cautious when thinking about adding some sauna sessions into their weekly routine?

People with eczema

‘Some people with eczema find that getting hot and sweaty, during exercise especially, can aggravate symptoms, and leave skin feeling itchy and inflamed,’ says Louca.

‘But others, including many of my clients with eczema, have found that saunas are effective because their well-being has improved and the positive stress detoxing the body has helped to heal much of their eczema.’

People with psoriasis

‘A skin condition that typically doesn’t respond well in saunas is psoriasis, as sweating can cause an itching sensation within the skin, which irritates existing red, scaly patches,’ Louca adds.

People with rosacea

‘Finally, for some with rosacea, an infrared sauna would be better than a steam sauna or dry sauna as it stimulates activity in the vascular system,’ says Louca.

‘This helps strengthen vasodilation and constriction (widening and narrowing of blood vessels), preventing rosacea from worsening over time.’

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