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What does a steam room do to your body?

What does a steam room do to your body?

Steam rooms are generally not as hot as saunas, but temperatures tend to hover between 110 and 120 degrees, with humidity above 95%.

“The moist heat improves circulation in the body and releases higher levels of a hormone called aldosterone, which lowers blood pressure and therefore reduces heart disease and helps you to relax, especially if done frequently,” Bawer said. “Steam rooms also warm the mucous membranes and allow an individual to have deeper breathing, which can help to clear congestion and therefore improve headaches, a sore throat and cough stemming from drainage or congestion.”

While saunas can dry out your skin, the humidity in steam rooms can help hydrate your skin, among other benefits. It’s as if you’re using a facial steamer all over your body.

“Heat can open up pores, and the condensation from the humidity helps to wash away dirt and dead skin as well,” Bawer explained. “They help you to detox as well through open pores.”

Spending time in a steam room can also loosen up your stiff joints and relieve muscle soreness.

“Mental health can be improved due to the relaxation, the fact that you are focused more on your breathing and therefore practice mindfulness, but this can also be true in a sauna,” Bawer added.

Be mindful of potential negative consequences of steam room use, however. As with saunas, they can worsen rosacea, and it’s best not to spend more than 20 minutes in these heating environments.

“Steam rooms can make people lightheaded if they reduce the blood pressure too much or you become dehydrated from water loss related to sweating,” Bawer said.


When should you use a sauna or steam room?

There are no hard-and-fast rules about the best time and scenario for using a sauna or steam room, but the experts who spoke to HuffPost generally recommended heading to the steam room after a workout.

“Heat overall is good to use after a workout when you have sore muscles, with some added benefits seen in steam rooms as compared to saunas,” Bawer said, noting that warm heat penetrates muscle tissue better than dry heat. “But both can help to alleviate soreness and relax muscle by getting more blood flow to the muscles and joints and therefore more oxygen and nutrients to help with recovery.”

Penzi pointed to a 2013 study that shows steam rooms can help reduce muscle pain and preserve muscle strength, so she prefers steam in fitness settings and dry heat for other types of wellness.

“During a spa day, head to the sauna, as this has been shown to promote long-term wellness and mental relaxation,” she advised. “You can certainly try both consecutively. They both have the same main goals: raising your body temperature up, dilating your blood vessels and increasing circulation while lowering your blood pressure and promoting overall calmness and relaxation.”

Some experts recommend incorporating a steam room into your routine before you exercise.

“Using the steam room before a workout can be beneficial because it can help loosen your joints and increase flexibility,” said Dr. Aanand Geria, a dermatologist based in New Jersey.

The choice of sauna vs. steam room simply comes down to whether you prefer a dry or moist heat experience. The time of day or order in which you use them is also subject to personal preference.

“It depends on what benefit you’re trying to get from it,” Bawer said. “For example, elderly patients with especially stiff morning joints may benefit from use in the morning to help get their joints and muscles relaxed and limber.” She added that someone who works out “may benefit from using it after a workout to prevent soreness.”
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