With an ever-increasing amount of internet information sources it looks that you have more and more of an opportunity to have the same “key word” sales terms thrown at you again and again. So what I would like to do is get past the catch phrases and actually explain to you what a Far Infrared Sauna is and how it works.
Let's start by addressing “What is a Far Infrared Sauna?”. A Far Infrared Sauna is simply a sauna that instead of heating water to make hot steam to heat your body it emits an electromagnetic wave of non-visible light that penetrates your body and is directly absorbed by your tissues. At this point you might be worried about the side effects of an electromagnetic wave penetrating your body. Well, do not worry the energy of a Far Infrared Sauna wave is less than that of visible light. So you'll be damaging your body more by using lightbulbs than by using a Far Infrared Sauna. In fact out of the infrared spectrum the Far Infrared wave refers to the wavelength of infrared light that has the lowest energy and yet the most penetration.
Let's take a minute to talk about the electromagnetic spectrum to clarify what I'm talking about. The electromagnetic spectrum is basically a scale of the different types of energy ranging from radio waves up to Gamma rays, which are the kind of radiation that in a cartoon would make you glow in the dark. The lowest energy level waves are radio waves, then infrared, then regular light, then ultra-violet, then X-ray and up to Gamma rays. Energy and wavelength, the distance between wave peaks, are oppositely related so the higher energy the smaller the wave and the lower the energy the longer the wave. It's also the same for frequency, so if someone starts throwing out Hertz (Hz) and they're talking big numbers then they mean high energy and lower numbers are lower energy. Like on your radio, 100 FM is the frequency in Mega-Hertz (or millions of Hertz).
Anyways, I'm sure you're aware that radio waves can pass through objects, and that's because they have a longer wavelength. The shorter wavelengths can not pass through things, that's why light that you can see can not pass through doors. But the infrared light has a large wavelength so it can penetrate certain distances. That's why a far infrared saunas waves can penetrate your body and heat your tissues directly.
Please notice that the infrared area is in between visible light and radio waves and is pretty harmless. It's when you go to the past the visible light energy level and start going into Ultra-violet that you're talking tanning and skin cancer. Actually, “Far Infrared” refers to the lowest energy level of the infringed groups. Actually infrared is broken into three (3) groups by wave length, Near wave (NIR) – highest energy, Medium wave (MIR) – middle energy and Far wave (FIR) – low energy level.
You might be wonder why the lowest energy level is a good thing at this point. Well, it's good for several reasons. First, it's safer and secondly it will penetrate farther into your body. You might also be thinking that penetrating into your body might be a bad thing, but really its good. Why? Because skin cancer and sunburn are caused by the higher energy waves crashing into your skin and passing all their energy it the top layer of tissue. It's like a tsunami hitting a beach, mass destruction that leaves scars. But the lower energy passes through your body and the energy is gradually absorbed at all levels of your tissue so the energy spreads out and does not hurt anything. Also, the energy is less to begin with so not only are you absorbing it over a larger area but also your not even absorbing the same amount.
So now you know what people are talking about when they say “Far Infrared”, now lets talk about the “How” part of the Far Infrared Sauna. As Far Infrared waves are similar to radio waves a Far Infrared Sauna works similar to a radio. For a radio you use an electric current and you run it through an antenna and it produces radio waves. Well, the Far Infrared Sauna does the same thing but the antenna's a different material. For a radio the size, shape and material of the antenna decide what wavelength is created and the same goes for a Far Infrared Sauna. There are several types of infrared antenna's used in saunas, there are specially coated metals, ceramic, carbon and depending on the quality, shape and material used they can produce medium wave to far waves. The medium wave saunas are less energy efficient and produce a more intense heat and the heating element or “antenna” can get warm or hot to the touch. While a Far Infrared Sauna heating element generally stays cool to the touch and produces a gentler heat.
If at this point you're freaking out, and have the general idea that you're cooking yourself with a radio oven then take a deep breath and calm down. Think back to our discussion, or scroll up, and realize that you do not worry about your car stereo, you do not worry about your light bulbs and you do not worry about your cell phone, ipad and wifi, so you needn 't worry about infrared either. Actually the earth is pretty well covered in naturally occurring waves in the range of visible and below, while the harsher rays are absorbed or distorted by the earth's atmosphere. I would still suggest sunscreen though as ultra-violet from direct sunlight can still cook you and skin cancer is not a joke.
Let's close with a little summary and a look at the benefits of a Far Infrared Sauna as compared to a steam sauna. A Far Infrared Sauna is simply a sauna that uses a type of ceramic, carbon or special coated metal to emit an electromagnetic wave that is directly absorbed by your bodies tissues. It's low safe energy will not harm you, and the Far Infrared heating elements should not even be hot to the touch. What does this mean when talking about the benefits of a Far Infrared Sauna. Well, because it's directly heating your tissues it's much more energy efficient and therefore more of a green technology sauna. Also, it works faster as you're not waiting to heat water, then the steam heats your skin, and then you skin transmits the heat deeper into your body and it takes forever. Because there's no steam some people who have skin conditions that do not like steam can still enjoy a sauna experience without it effecting their condition. Also, you should sweat more as the water content in the air is less it will absorb the sweat off your body more and stimulate additional sweat in comparison to a humid air sauna. The one downside is that Far Infrared Saunas are more expensive due to the specialty manufacturing of the heating elements, but if you want an inexpensive sauna you need a portable sauna anyway and there is a large range of affordable Far Infrared Portable Saunas.