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  • The Sauna Skin Care Regimen

    Sauna Skin Care Regimen Photo by dilip36 via Flickr

    Anyone who has been in a sauna can tell you how great your skin feels after all that sweating. The skin becomes flushed, the sweat gives it a glowing sheen, and it feels soft and supple to the touch. Why not follow a sauna skin care regimen? It's a great way to keep the skin clean and clear.

    What Does the Sauna Do For My Skin?

    At the most basic level, sweating cleans the skin, opens pores, and makes the skin pliant (which can help reduce/prevent wrinkles!). A 2008 study in Dermatology suggested that regular sauna use can actually help protect the skin and relieve dry skin conditions.

    The skin has two major types of glands that secrete substances: sweat glands and sebaceous glands. Sweat glands produce sweat, obviously, and sweat's great, but sebaceous glands are actually the part we're interested in. Sebaceous glands surround hair follicles and secrete a waxy substance called sebum onto the skin. Sebum is great stuff. It protects the skin by moisturizing it and delivering nutrients directly to the surface skin cells. It is even thought to have antibacterial properties.

    When the sebaceous glands get blocked by dead skin, cosmetics, or bacteria, you get a blackhead, whitehead, pimple, or boil. It's important to keep the sebaceous glands clean and clear to avoid these blemishes, but also to keep your skin functioning properly. This is where the sauna is a great tool in your skin care regimen.

    When your skin warms in the sauna, your sebum becomes more fluid and it flows more easily over your skin, distributing it more evenly. The sweat that is also released softens the skin and makes it more receptive to the sebum's moisturizing properties. At the same time, your blood circulation increases and moves to the skin, drawing more oxygen and nutrients to the skin's surface. All of this leaves the skin cleaner, healthier, and more moisturized.

    How Do I Begin a Sauna Skin Care Regimen?

    It's easy to make a sauna part of your regular skin care regimen. First, you'll obviously need a sauna. If you don't have access to a private home sauna, most gyms offer saunas as part of their amenities. If you don't want to pay for a monthly membership, many day spas have sauna sessions available for hourly or flat fees. There are also sauna businesses in many communities that offer communal or gender-specific saunas for hourly or flat fees.

    You will also need a swimsuit (if using certain public saunas), a towel for drying yourself, a towel to sit on, an exfoliating tool such as a loofah or rough cloth, and your preferred soap or cleanser. Now you're ready to begin:

    1.  Take a hot shower and use your preferred cleanser to focus on areas with acne. Rinse your skin thoroughly and dry off completely.
    2. Enter the sauna, taking your exfoliating tool. When your skin begins to sweat, gently rub your skin, focusing on problem areas. When you are finished, sit for a few more minutes, then head back to the showers.
    3. Stand under a warm shower and rinse your skin, then turn the water as cold as is comfortable and stand under it until you are no longer sweating. Do not use any soap.
    4. Dry yourself and take a break. Drink some water, sit or walk a little. When you feel back to normal, return to the sauna.
    5. Again, once you begin sweating exfoliate, focusing on problem areas. When finished, rinse off under a cool shower without using any soap. Avoid using any lotions or cosmetics, as well--let your skin breathe! You'll also find that the sauna has given you a rosy glow, and you'll likely not need any additional moisturizer.

    Do you use a sauna as part of your regular skin care regimen? Comment below and tell us about it!

  • The Science Behind the Sauna

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    You've undoubtedly heard many times that using a sauna is good for your health, but why? What is it about sitting in a sauna that's so good for you? We break down some of the science behind the sauna experience so you have a better understanding of what your body is doing.

    Sweating Out Toxins

    We spend a lot of time and energy trying not to sweat--we use anti-perspirants, we wear layers to regulate our temperature. However, sweating is really good for our bodies and we probably aren't doing enough of it. Sweating is our bodies way of cooling itself, but during the process it also excretes molecules that are otherwise cluttering our bloodstream. Perspiration originates directly from the bloodstream. Fluid is delivered from the capillary bed to the sweat gland, carrying organophosphates, heavy metals, pesticides, some preservatives. Flushing these toxins out of your bloodstream prevents them from being stored elsewhere in your body.

    Eccrine glands are the major sweat glands, and we about two million of them all over our bodies. They produce an average of a quart of sweat a day, but when you use a sauna they pump out that much in about 15 minutes. This means that using a sauna will purge at least twice as many toxins out of your body in one day than you do on average.
    Some experts recommend using far-infrared saunas, as they trigger sweating at a lower temperature than a traditional sauna and it's easier to spend longer periods of time in it. Be sure to hydrate before and after using a sauna to replace lost fluids.

    Hot & Cold Intervals

    It's traditional in many countries to heat up in the sauna, then plunge into a cold bath, or snow, or stand under an icy shower, then return to the sauna and repeat. It's thought that this process helps tone the skin and improves circulation. If you read Jitterbug Perfume, it's posited that the hot/cold process can be a factor in longevity. What does it really do?

    We know that shocking the body with a rapid temperature change releases norepinephrine, which is a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. It also releases epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline. When these chemicals are released, the effect is a feeling of invigoration. While that may or may not be the key to good health and long life, it certainly feels good and doesn't do any harm.

    Mild Workout

    Steaming in a sauna also dilates the capillaries and thereby improves blood flow, simulating a mild workout. For individuals with limitations that make more traditional forms of exercise difficult, it can stand in as a gentle alternative. Or add it to the end of a workout to extend the effects of the exercise in a gentle way.

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