Suppose you've recently bought a traditional sauna like the Almost Heaven Madison or discovered the steamy allure of an old Finnish-style retreat. In that case, you might wonder how to dress for the occasion.
While being "au naturel" is one of the best ways to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of a sauna, it isn't always practical or comfortable, especially if you're in a public space. This makes it important to choose appropriate sauna attire that respects cultural norms while ensuring your comfort.
Now you might be thinking, what should you wear in a sauna? In this guide, we've covered you with all the tips, tricks, and etiquette for sauna attire that every beginner needs to know. We'll also tell you what not to wear in a sauna, as some clothing items can be potentially dangerous or uncomfortable in the heat.
Read on to find out how to dress for a sauna for optimal benefits.
Importance of Dressing Appropriately for a Sauna Bath
When it comes to sauna bathing, there's no one-size-fits-all. What's important is to dress in a manner that can help ensure your comfort, hygiene, and safety.
The temperature of most saunas is between 110 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit, which can increase your body temperature and make you sweat. Research shows that when exposed to high temperatures, your body naturally tries to cool itself down through thermoregulation.
However, wearing restrictive or heavy clothing can hinder the evaporation of sweat and prevent heat from dissipating efficiently. Cleveland Clinic notes that this affects your body's ability to cool down, increasing your risk of heat exhaustion, cramps, or stroke.
Exposure to high temperatures also puts additional strain on your cardiovascular system. Studies show when you stay in a heated environment, your heart works twice as hard to pump blood to your skin's surface to aid in heat dissipation and maintain your body temperature.
Restrictive clothing can impede blood circulation, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure, potentially exacerbating pre-existing heart conditions.
Dressing inappropriately for a sauna can also cause a host of hygiene issues. For instance, synthetic fabrics like polyester or spandex tend to stick together when damp — meaning they'll cling to your sweaty body instead of drying off quickly like natural fabrics do. This can lead to bacterial growth, resulting in rashes and infections.
What To Wear in a Sauna
While there are no hard and fast rules about what to wear in a sauna, you should follow some general guidelines when choosing your attire for your steam session. Ideally, you should opt for loose-fitting clothes made of natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, or linen.
These breathable fabrics promote better air circulation and moisture-wicking properties that help keep your skin dry while you sweat. This is especially important if you plan to add a sauna session to your workout.
Such materials also tend to be softer and more comfortable against the skin, allowing you to fully enjoy the soothing effects of a sauna.
What to Wear in a Sauna for Men
Most men tend to wear underwear in a sauna, as it provides comfort and modesty while allowing your body to sweat freely.
However, if you plan on fully embracing the traditional sauna experience or are visiting a sauna that requires specific attire, here are a few potential options:
A swimsuit or gym shorts made of cotton or other natural fibers
A towel wrapped around the waist or draped over the shoulders
A light t-shirt or a breathable tank top
What to Wear in a Sauna for Women
When it comes to a woman's sauna attire, the first step is to consider whether you plan to visit a coed facility or a women-only sauna. For the latter, you can wear just about anything comfortable.
However, if you're going to a coed sauna or spa or someplace with a certain dress code, consider the following options:
A swimsuit or bikini made of cotton or other natural fibers
A towel or a sarong
A breathable, loose-fitting dress or skirt
A light t-shirt or tank top
Cotton kaftan or kimono
Linen blend spa gown
While sauna accessories are optional, they can help enhance your sauna experience and make it more enjoyable and comfortable.
The following are some essentials that you can wear or use during your sweat session:
A headband or hair tie to keep hair away from the face and neck
A water bottle or thermos to stay hydrated and cool down
A robe or cover-up to wear before and after the sauna
A book or magazine to read while relaxing in the sauna
Slip-resistant flip flops or slippers to protect your feet from the hot surface
What Not To Wear in the Sauna
As important as it is to know what to wear in the sauna, it's equally vital to be aware of what not to wear in a sauna to ensure safety, hygiene, and proper etiquette.
Here is a list of items you should avoid wearing in a sauna or steam room:
Steer Clear of Synthetic Fibers
Synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester tend to retain moisture and heat, resulting in overheating and dehydration.
Also, because these fabrics don't breathe well, they can make you feel sweaty and clammy, wich is not a pleasant sensation when trying to relax. Stick to natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool.
Choose Swimwear Wisely
If you plan to wear swimwear in the sauna, choose the ones without metal fasteners or embellishments. Metal can become very hot in the sauna and may be uncomfortable, potentially causing nasty burns upon coming into contact with your skin.
Don't Wear Makeup
While you might be tempted to wear makeup in the sauna, leaving this step out of your routine is best.
When you use a sauna, your body temperature rises, and your pores open up. If you have makeup on, it can get trapped in your pores, causing inflammation and breakouts. Wearing makeup can also block your natural detoxification process and keep the toxins in your skin, affecting your overall health and appearance.
Once you're done with your sweat session, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing your face with a gentle cleanser to help prevent blemishes.
Avoid Strong Perfumes
Since you'll be sweating a lot in a sauna, you'll want to avoid wearing strong perfume or cologne. The heat and steam from a sauna can potentially react with fragrance molecules, leaving behind a chemical-like odor that can be unpleasant at best and nauseating at worst.
Certain perfume ingredients, like alcohol, can be harsh on your skin, especially when combined with sauna sweat, exacerbating skin sensitivity and resulting in irritation or discomfort.
To ensure a pleasant sauna experience for yourself and others, opt for a more neutral or subtle scent from essential oils, or simply go without any fragrance at all.
Use Appropriate Accessories
Think twice before wearing rings, earrings, bracelets, or necklaces to a sauna session. The high temperatures of the sauna can heat up your jewelry, resulting in painful irritation or burns.
While this goes away once you move around in a cooler place, it can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to remove rings, bracelets, or other tight-fitting jewelry. Similarly, it's also a good idea not to bring your phone to a sauna.
Hygiene Considerations During Sauna Bath
When taking a sauna bath, make sure you follow these hygiene practices:
Before entering the sauna, shower first to rinse off any dirt, oils, or sweat from your skin. This can help maintain a clean environment and open your pores for optimal detoxification.
Always sit or lie on a clean towel during your sauna session to prevent direct contact with the sauna benches. This can help reduce any risk of infections and burns.
Keep an extra towel nearby to wipe off sweat that may drip onto your skin or clothes. Avoid sharing it with others to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses.
Avoid wearing socks or shoes, and opt for slip-resistant sandals or go barefoot to maintain hygiene.
When using a public sauna or shared steam room, avoid touching surfaces to prevent the spread of acne-causing bacteria.
Once you're done taking a sauna bath, take another shower to wash away sweat, toxins, and any bacteria that may have accumulated on your skin during your sauna session.
Avoid using a sauna until you fully recover if you're suffering from a cold, flu, or other active infection, avoid using a sauna until you fully recover. This will help prevent the spread of infection and help maintain hygiene.
Additional Sauna Etiquettes
Saunas are ideal for individuals craving relaxation and rejuvenation, and following proper etiquette can help ensure a pleasant experience for all.
Different saunas have different dress codes, varying depending on the country or culture. For instance, in European countries like Germany, Austria, and Finland, nudity is the norm in saunas. In the United States, however, many saunas require that you wear a bathing suit or towel.
Respect others' privacy and avoid staring or making others uncomfortable.
When visiting a public sauna or health club, be aware of the space you are occupying and make room for others. Do not sprawl out on the benches or block the entrance.
Saunas are a place for relaxation, so try to keep conversations to a minimum or speak softly. Avoid making loud noises or engaging in disruptive behavior that could disturb others.
While you may enjoy adding essential oils to the sauna, remember that strong scents can be overwhelming to others. If you decide to use essential oils, use them sparingly and ask others if they are comfortable with them.
Do not bring food or drinks into the sauna; they can create a mess and may be prohibited in some establishments. Water bottles may be an exception, but ensure they are closed tightly and not left on the benches.
Before leaving the sauna, ensure you have not left any personal items or trash behind. Wipe down the bench where you were sitting with your towel to remove any sweat or moisture.
What To Wear During a Sauna: FAQs
Do You Shave Before the Sauna?
Whether you should shave before a sauna session is a matter of personal preference, but there are some factors to consider.
If you have sensitive skin or are prone to irritation, shaving at least a few hours before your sauna session or even the day before is better. This allows your skin to recover from any potential razor burns, reducing the risk of irritation caused by heat and sweating.
On the other hand, it's best to shave after your sauna session if you have relatively thicker hair. The steam will help soften the hair follicles and make shaving easier.