Saunas have been a part of human culture for thousands of years, offering both physical and mental relaxation. The right attire in a sauna can significantly enhance this experience. This article delves into the best clothing choices for sauna use, examining the historical context, benefits of specific materials, and practical tips for sauna-goers.

Historical Context of Sauna Attire

Sauna practices date back 5,000 to 7,000 years, originating in Northern Europe, particularly Finland. Initially, saunas held a mystical significance, used for spiritual ceremonies, healing, and community gatherings. As time passed, saunas evolved from spiritual sites to practical spaces for warmth and social interaction. Across different cultures, such as in Turkish Hammams, Russian Banyas, and Native American sweat lodges, attire varied from special silk or cotton cloths to towels and minimal clothing, emphasizing the importance of comfortable, breathable attire in these heated environments​​.

The Ideal Sauna Attire

  1. Material Choice: Natural fibers like cotton and linen are highly recommended for sauna attire. These materials allow the skin to breathe and facilitate the natural sweating process. Cotton, in particular, is excellent for high temperatures and humidity, as it doesn’t trap moisture and heat, allowing sweat to flow freely​​​​​​.
  2. Clothing Options: Options include breathable bathing suits, loose-fitting cotton t-shirts, shorts, and skirts. Lightweight, loose-fitting, and breathable clothes are key for comfort. Sauna hats can protect hair and scalp from intense heat, and towels are a common choice for modesty in public saunas​​​​​​​​​​.
  3. Accessories: Consider a headband or hair tie to keep hair away from the face, a water bottle for hydration, and an extra towel for sweat. Robes or cover-ups are useful before and after the sauna session​​​​.

Scientific and Practical Advantages of Cotton in Saunas

Cotton complements the body’s natural sweating process, enhancing the detoxification and relaxation benefits of the sauna. It hydrates the skin through sweat and is less likely to cause discomfort compared to synthetic materials like polyester or nylon, which can trap heat​​​​.

Modern Sauna Attire Trends

With the modernization of saunas, including the advent of electric saunas with adjustable temperature controls, clothing preferences have also evolved. However, the core principles of comfort, breathability, and heat management remain constant. Today’s saunas blend traditional practices with modern conveniences like aroma lamps and music systems, enhancing the overall sauna experience​​.

DIY Tips for Enhanced Sauna Experience

  • Customize Your Sauna Hat: Personalize a cotton sauna hat for added style and protection.
  • Create a Sauna Robe: Craft a lightweight cotton robe for use before and after sauna sessions.
  • DIY Sauna Towels: Design personalized towels with breathable cotton fabrics for a unique touch.

Choosing the right attire for a sauna session is crucial for maximizing the health benefits and comfort. Natural, breathable fabrics like cotton are ideal, aligning with both traditional practices and modern sauna experiences. By understanding the historical context and scientific advantages of various clothing choices, sauna-goers can enhance their relaxation and detoxification experience.

DOs and Don’ts in a Sauna: A Guide for Safe and Effective Sauna Use

DOs in a Sauna: Best Practices for an Optimal Experience

  1. Hygiene and Preparation: Always shower before entering a sauna to ensure hygiene and prepare your skin for steaming. This step removes toxins and cosmetics, leaving your skin ready for the heat​​.
  2. Personal Items: Bring your own towel, shower gel, shampoo, slippers, and a sauna hat. These personal items enhance comfort and ensure proper hygiene​​.
  3. Comfortable Clothing: Choose loose and comfortable clothing for after your sauna session. Tight clothing can be uncomfortable after the heat exposure​​.
  4. Use a Towel: Bring a towel to sit on for comfort and hygiene purposes, especially for beginners or if sauna surfaces feel too hot​​.
  5. Wear a Hat: Protect your head and hair from the intense heat by wearing a special sauna hat. This is particularly important for individuals with chemically treated hair​​.
  6. Stay Hydrated: Drink water or herbal teas to compensate for the fluids lost through sweating. It’s vital to maintain hydration throughout your sauna session​​.

Don’ts in a Sauna/Sauna Etiquette: Health and Safety Considerations

  1. Time Limit: Never stay in the sauna if you feel uncomfortable. New sauna users should limit sessions to 10-15 minutes and leave immediately if feeling dizzy or unwell​​.
  2. Avoid Alcohol: Do not consume alcohol before or during sauna use. It increases the risk of injuries and can lead to severe health impairments​​.
  3. Avoid Full Stomach: Don’t enter a sauna right after a big meal. The body’s effort to manage the heat can interfere with digestion. However, avoid going in hungry as well​​.
  4. No Smartphones: High heat and humidity can damage smartphones. Leave your device outside the sauna for relaxation and to prevent damage​​.

Scientific Evidence of Sauna Benefits

Sauna use has been linked to several health benefits, including reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality. A study found that the risk of CVD mortality decreased linearly with increasing sauna sessions per week. Participants with two to three and four to seven sauna sessions per week had significantly lower hazard ratios for CVD mortality compared to those with only one session per week​​. Additionally, sauna bathing is associated with a reduction in the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, neurocognitive diseases, pulmonary diseases, musculoskeletal pain, and chronic headache. These benefits are attributed to its positive impact on circulatory and cardiovascular function, including improved endothelium-dependent dilatation, reduced arterial stiffness, and lower blood pressure​​.

Sauna bathing, when done correctly, offers numerous health benefits, especially in reducing cardiovascular risk. Adhering to the DOs and Don’ts outlined in this guide can help maximize these benefits while ensuring a safe and enjoyable sauna experience.

what to wear in sauna
what to wear in sauna room