How to Choose Between a Steam Shower and a Sauna

September 4, 2020 | Individual Indulgence, Tips & How-To, Weekend Warrior, Wellness Seeker

There was a time when the most common way to experience a sauna or steam shower was in a public space such as a spa or fitness club. Through advancements in engineering and residential design, you can now have one in the privacy of your own home.

We at ThermaSol – unsurprisingly – often talk at length about the many benefits of owning a steam shower, from physiological health to relaxation and overall feelings of wellbeing. The truth is, both saunas and steam showers have immense benefits. They also have some significant differences that could affect your decision for using one over the other.


A sauna is traditionally a wood-constructed capsule that’s heated with a stove and sauna rocks, although some more modern saunas are heated electrically or with infrared lights. The key experiential difference between saunas and steam showers is that saunas utilize dry heat and low humidity levels. Traditional saunas are generally kept between 180 and 200 degrees. Infrared saunas, however, use infrared lights that increase your body temperature from within, rather than causing your body to heat up with the surrounding external temperature, so these types of saunas should be kept around 130 degrees.

Spending about 10-20 minutes in a sauna will cause the body to sweat and warm up, which aids in flexibility and increased mobility, a helpful tool before or after a workout. If you know you like dry heat and dislike humidity, a sauna might be your best choice.

Steam Shower

Alternatively, a steam shower has a humidifying steam generator that distributes water vapor throughout the space within the shower. Whereas a sauna creates dry heat, a steam shower uses wet heat and close to 100% humidity – so a steam shower might actually feel as hot as a sauna despite keeping its ideal temperature between 90 and 120 degrees, much lower than a sauna’s ideal temperature.

While there are many steam shower and sauna benefits that overlap (we’ll get into that later), there are some notable benefits exclusive to steam showers:

  • More moisture has many skincare benefits, especially for those with sensitive or dry skin. Sweating causes your pores to open, which is useful in cleaning and exfoliating the skin.
  • Steam showers are better for those with respiratory issues, as the steam breaks up congestion in the sinuses and allows your lungs to open up and breathe more freely
  • There are steam reservoirs like our SteamVection Steamhead where you can place a few drops of essential oils, giving your steam shower experience the extra boost of relaxation with aromatherapy.
  • Steam showers typically take up less space in a home because they have the dual purpose of acting as both a regular shower and a spa-like space, while saunas are a separate component that you’d need to find space for in the home.

The Benefits of Both

While your preference for dry heat vs wet heat could determine your choice between a sauna and a steam shower, it’s important to note that while each works in different ways, many of the benefits are very similar. Both saunas and steam showers help to loosen up stiff joints, improve circulation, and have been shown to improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and reducing stress levels.

Both offer you the restorative opportunity to take some time for yourself and integrate a new spa-like wellness routine into your day-to-day life.

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