While steam baths are a classic choice, saunas have gone state of the art! In a traditional sauna, the walls, ceiling, floor, and benches all become heated and then the radiating heat warms the bather, while the heating elements cycle on and off to maintain the desired temperature. In a far-infrared sauna, infrared emitters are used to create infrared energy, energy which is very close to the kind our bodies emit and thus a kind that is thought to be more easily received by the body. Also, because the emitters focus more directly on the person than a traditional sauna which warms everything, they need to remain on at all times in order to maintain temperature, but because of the focused emitters in an IR sauna, a bather will feel hotter and sweat effectively but at a much lower overall temperature.
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In addition to choosing what kind of heat and heater best meets your needs, you will also want to carefully consider the materials to construct your sauna or steam bath. Because of the heat (and, with steam baths, because of the moisture), you want the most durable of materials – ceramic tile, stainless steel, and quality woods. For saunas, which are mostly of wood construction, there are primarily three choices – western red cedar, hemlock, and poplar. (Cedar is incredibly durable and has the classic look people associate with traditional saunas, but some people have allergic reactions to it and poplar offers a comparable choice.)