Steam vs. Sauna — What’s the Difference?

Saunas and steam rooms offer varied health benefits including clearing congestion, improving skin and providing relief for conditions like arthritis and headaches.

May 20, 2024 | By Florence Sutton
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You’re thinking about adding a touch of classy relaxation at home. Maybe you’re considering a stylish new indulgence for a commercial gym or spa. When it comes to the ultimate in wellness and rejuvenation, you’ve likely come across two popular options: steam rooms and saunas.

While both promise a delightful and luxurious respite from the daily grind, they do so in uniquely different ways, and it’s important to be aware of what sets each apart in terms of what they have to offer.

So, let’s clear a pathway through the mist of misinformation and take a more focused look, uncovering the key differences between these two calming havens of heat and tranquility.

Basic Differences

To begin, we need to establish the basic difference, highlighting what each of these warming sanctuaries offers the user.

Steam Room

Try to imagine stepping into a warm and misty cocoon, where the air is thick with moisture. Really, that’s the very essence of a steam room.

These spaces are typically tiled and feature a steam generator that pumps hot, humid air into the room. The result is a soothing environment that can help open up your pores, cleanse your skin, and promote relaxation.

One of the most important components is the steam generator, so it’s always best to go with trusted and reliable steam generator brands like Mr. Steam, ThermaSol, Kohler, and Saunacore.

Steam rooms are designed to generate 100 percent humidity, and with much lower temperatures, often ranging from 40 to 50 degrees Celsius, which is 104 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit.


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Think about the caressing touch of warmth embracing your body, penetrating your very soul with relaxing heat as you unwind and sweat your cares away. This is the feeling provided by a sauna.

By comparison to steam rooms, the main emphasis of a sauna is to provide dry heat, which is usually generated by an electric or gas heater, and more traditionally by wood-burning stoves.

Indeed, this heat source is what ultimately heats the rocks in a sauna, which then radiates that heat within a wooden room or cabin, whether indoors or outdoors. Popular high-quality sauna heater brands include Harvia, Humm, Saunacore, and Scandia.

Saunas tend to boast low humidity levels but don’t let that fool you. They can also get incredibly hot, although the typical heat range is between 70 to 95 degrees Celsius, which is 160 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Varied Health Benefits

Both steam rooms and saunas are recognised for their varied range of health benefits, although they do tend to cater for different preferences and needs.

Steam Room

According to studies published by WebMD, steam bathing is a very old practice that dates back to ancient cultures, including the Greeks and Romans.

The most commonly acknowledged health benefits of steam bathing include clearing congestion, improved skin health, lower blood pressure, better circulation, and easing of bronchitis symptoms.

Steam rooms are considered ideal for workout recovery, simple relaxation, and to help reduce joint stiffness.


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Mayo Clinic has published numerous findings on the topic of sauna bathing, albeit acknowledging the main usage for pleasure and relaxation, dating back thousands of years in Finland.

Medical studies in recent years have found that sauna bathing provides various health benefits, including reduced risk of vascular diseases, along with relief and comfort for conditions like arthritis, headaches, and even the flu.

Regular sauna usage has also been associated with detoxification, and muscle recovery following rigorous exercise, and has even been observed to aid sleep.

Steam Room or Sauna – Which is the Best Option?

Given that both feature obvious differences and benefits, the choice of a steam room or sauna will ultimately come down to your own personal preferences and wellness goals.

Choose a steam room if you prefer higher humidity levels and gentler hear, and if hydrating your skin is a top priority. Likewise, a steam room can be better if you have respiratory issues or enjoy the sensation of easier breathing in a humid environment.

Choose a sauna if you enjoy and prefer an intense, dry heat experience, and if promoting circulation or detoxification is your focus. Also, you may appreciate the traditional ambiance and aesthetic of a wooden sauna.

Final Warming Words

Whether you’re craving the steamy embrace of a steam room or the intense heat of a sauna, both options offer a luxurious escape from the stresses of everyday life. By understanding the differences between these two relaxation paradises, you can make an informed decision that suits your individual tastes and objectives.

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