Not to be confused with a sauna, a steam room is a space with a water-filled generator that pumps moist heat into the room. The temperature of the room is typically a balmy 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s so humid, it’s not uncommon to see water beading down the walls. A traditional dry sauna, on the other hand, uses a wood-burning, gas or electric heater to create a hotter, dryer heat, and is usually housed in a room lined with cedar, spruce or aspen. The temperature is usually much higher than in a steam room (think 180 degrees Fahrenheit) and a little extra humidity can sometimes be added by pouring water over the hot rocks in the room.
Ready to sweat for your health? Here are some steam room benefits.
1. Eliminates blackheads
Have you ever wondered why when you are getting a facial they put a hot, steamy washcloth on your face before poking at your pores? That’s because the warm humidity opens them up and softens the oil and dirt, allowing it to be more easily removed. Because your sweat is flowing freely in a steam room (110 degrees plus humidity is no joke), your pores will open and release all sorts of gunk in the process.
2. Prevents breakouts
Another major skin benefit: For some people, sitting in a steam room can clear problem skin that’s clogged or congested, which could prevent pimples from popping up down the line. That said, the results are highly dependent on your skin type, and getting hot and steamy isn’t the ideal treatment for everyone. “[Steam rooms are] not good for someone who has rosacea,” Dr. Jaliman tells us. “A steam room will aggravate this condition.” Good to know. One more note? It’s not going to do much below the top layer. While they have been touted as a way to detoxify the body, there’s no evidence to support this.
3. Loosens congestion
Have you ever noticed how much better you feel after taking a hot shower when you have a cold? Not to mention the fact that when you feel a stuffy nose coming on, you should immediately fire up the humidifier. That’s because inhaling moisture can help loosen nasal congestion—so you might feel your stuffy sinuses clear completely when you enter a steam room. Just remember to stay hydrated and not sweat in there too long—dehydration can also wreak havoc on your sinuses, and if you have any additional symptoms, like a fever, you shouldn’t be raising your body’s temperature.
4. Helps workout recovery
You know how you feel fabulous right after working out but the next morning, your entire body aches? It’s called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, and sitting in a steam room can help reduce the pain. In a 2013 study conducted by researchers from Loma Linda University, test subjects were instructed to exercise, and then apply either moist or dry heat at varying times afterwards. The subjects who immediately applied moist heat—like the heat present in a steam room—after exercising reported the least pain during recovery. (BRB, joining a gym with a steam room attached.)
5. Reduces stress
According to Healthline, spending time in a steam room can also decrease your body’s production of cortisol—a hormone that regulates the level of stress you feel. A decrease in cortisol levels can help relax more, which is beneficial to your mental as well as your physical health.
6. Strengthens the immune system
We’re not recommending you run into a steam room every time you feel sick. However, the heat and warm water can boost your immune system by stimulating the cells that fight infection, therefore making it easier for you to fight off a cold and harder for your body to catch one in the first place. Spending time in a steam room can also increase blood circulation at the surface of the skin, which can help open pores and release that gunk we mentioned in number one.