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How To Use A Finnish Sauna: Tips & Facts For Beginners


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Bess Calzada



Welcome to the world of Finnish saunas, where relaxation and health benefits combine to create a truly rejuvenating experience. Saunas have been a part of Finnish culture for centuries, and they continue to be a popular and cherished tradition to this day. Whether you’re a sauna newbie or someone looking to enhance their sauna experience, this article is here to guide you through the ins and outs of using a Finnish sauna.


A Finnish sauna is a special type of sauna that originated in Finland. It features a small, enclosed room made of wood, typically cedar or hemlock, where hot, dry air is generated by pouring water over heated stones. The intense heat causes you to sweat, which is believed to have numerous health benefits.


While saunas are known for their relaxing properties, they also offer a wide range of health benefits. Regular sauna sessions can help improve blood circulation, reduce muscle tension, relieve stress, and even boost the immune system. Not to mention, the feeling of warmth and tranquility can be incredibly soothing for both the mind and body.


Before you jump into your first Finnish sauna session, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the proper techniques and etiquette. This will ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience. So, let’s dive into the world of Finnish saunas and discover all the tips, facts, and guidelines you need to know.


What is a Finnish Sauna?

A Finnish sauna is a traditional form of sauna that originated in Finland. It is a small, enclosed room made of wood, typically cedar or hemlock, designed to generate dry heat. The heat is produced by pouring water over heated rocks, which increases the temperature inside the room.


The Finnish sauna experience is characterized by high temperatures ranging from 80 to 100 degrees Celsius (176 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit). The hot, dry air causes you to sweat profusely, which is believed to have numerous health benefits. The sauna environment is known for its tranquility and the gentle crackle of the burning wood, creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere.


One important aspect of a Finnish sauna is the löyly, which refers to the steam created when water is poured over the heated rocks. It is a unique and essential element of the sauna experience. The löyly enhances the heat and humidity inside the sauna, creating a soothing and cleansing effect on the body.


In Finland, saunas are not just for relaxation but also have cultural significance. They are deeply rooted in Finnish traditions and are considered a place for physical and mental purification. Saunas are often a social gathering spot for family, friends, and even business meetings. It’s common for Finns to enjoy a sauna together before jumping into a refreshing lake or rolling in the snow, known as the “sauna-töyly.”


It is important to note that Finnish saunas are different from other forms of saunas, such as infrared saunas or steam rooms. Finnish saunas provide a dry heat, while infrared saunas use infrared rays to heat the body directly. Steam rooms, on the other hand, have high humidity levels and lower temperatures compared to Finnish saunas.


Now that you have a better understanding of what a Finnish sauna is, let’s explore the health benefits it offers and how you can prepare yourself for a sauna session.


Health Benefits of Using a Finnish Sauna

Using a Finnish sauna offers a range of health benefits that can improve both your physical and mental well-being. Here are some key benefits you can expect:

  1. Improved Circulation: The high heat in a Finnish sauna causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow throughout the body. This improved circulation can help deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and organs more efficiently.
  2. Relieved Muscle Tension: The heat from the sauna can help relax your muscles, reducing tension and relieving soreness. This makes saunas especially beneficial for athletes or those with physical exertion or muscle-related conditions.
  3. Detoxification: The intense heat in a Finnish sauna induces sweating, which is the body’s natural way of eliminating toxins. Regular sauna sessions can help flush out harmful substances and promote a healthier, detoxified body.
  4. Stress Relief: Saunas have been long known for their stress-relieving properties. The warmth and peaceful environment of a Finnish sauna help promote relaxation, reduce stress levels, and release endorphins, the body’s natural mood-enhancing hormones.
  5. Improved Skin Health: The heat and sweat from the sauna open up pores and promote deep cleansing of the skin. This can help remove impurities, dead skin cells, and unclog pores, leaving your skin refreshed and rejuvenated.
  6. Boosted Immune System: Regular sauna use has been shown to have a positive impact on the immune system. The increased body temperature during sauna sessions can stimulate the production of white blood cells, which helps in fighting off infections and illnesses.

It is worth noting that while saunas offer these potential health benefits, they are not suitable for everyone. If you have certain medical conditions or concerns, such as high blood pressure or heart problems, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using a sauna.


Now that you’re aware of the health benefits that come with using a Finnish sauna, let’s move on to the next section and learn how to prepare for a sauna session properly.


Preparing for Your Sauna Session

Before stepping into the soothing heat of a Finnish sauna, there are a few things you should do to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some essential tips for preparing for your sauna session:

  1. Hydrate: It’s important to hydrate your body before entering the sauna. Drink plenty of water or other hydrating fluids to prevent dehydration during the session.
  2. Cleanse your body: Take a shower before entering the sauna to remove any oils, lotions, or contaminants from your skin. This will allow for a more effective sweat and detoxification process.
  3. Remove jewelry and accessories: Take off any jewelry, watches, or other accessories before entering the sauna. Metal can heat up quickly and potentially cause discomfort or burns.
  4. Bring a towel: Carry a clean towel with you to sit on in the sauna. This will help keep the sauna benches clean and prevent any excess sweat from getting on the wood.
  5. Choose suitable attire: It’s common to wear a towel or a bathing suit in the sauna. However, some prefer to go au naturel for a more authentic experience. Choose whatever makes you feel comfortable.
  6. Set a timer: It’s easy to lose track of time in the sauna’s relaxing environment. Set a timer or keep an eye on a clock to ensure you don’t exceed the recommended time and overheat your body.
  7. Pace yourself: If you’re new to sauna sessions, start with shorter sessions at lower temperatures. Gradually increase the duration and heat as your body becomes more accustomed to the sauna environment.
  8. Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body feels during the sauna session. If you start feeling dizzy, excessively hot, or uncomfortable, it’s important to step out and cool down.

By following these preparation tips, you’ll be ready to step inside the Finnish sauna and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer. In the next section, we’ll dive into the proper techniques for using a Finnish sauna, ensuring you make the most of your sauna experience.


How to Use a Finnish Sauna Properly

Using a Finnish sauna properly involves understanding the correct techniques to make the most of your session. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a Finnish sauna:

  1. Preheat the sauna: Start by preheating the sauna. Allow enough time for the sauna to reach the desired temperature, usually around 80 to 100 degrees Celsius (176 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. Get comfortable: Once the sauna is heated, enter the sauna room. Choose a comfortable spot to sit or lie down, using your towel or sauna seat cover to protect your skin from the hot benches.
  3. Add water to the rocks: Pour water over the heated rocks, known as löyly, to increase the humidity inside the sauna. This creates a soothing steam and intensifies the heat. Be cautious when pouring water to avoid getting burned by the steam.
  4. Relax and enjoy: Sit back, relax, and embrace the heat. Allow your body to gradually acclimate to the sauna environment. Deep breathing can help you relax and enhance the experience.
  5. Induce sweating: As the sauna heat increases, your body will naturally start to sweat. Sweating is the body’s way of cooling down and releasing toxins. Allow yourself to sweat freely, and don’t forget to hydrate by drinking water between sauna rounds.
  6. Cool down: After a sufficient sauna session, it’s important to cool down gradually. Step outside the sauna and take a cool shower or splash cold water on your body. This helps regulate your body temperature and provides a refreshing sensation.
  7. Rest and repeat: Allow your body to rest and cool down before returning to the sauna for another round. It’s common to have multiple rounds, each followed by a cooling down period. Take breaks between rounds to relax and hydrate.
  8. End with a cool shower or plunge: Once you’re done with your sauna session, take a final cool shower or plunge into a cold pool or lake if available. This helps close your pores, refreshes your body, and provides a rejuvenating sensation.

Remember, the key to using a Finnish sauna properly is to listen to your body. If you start feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or uncomfortable, it’s important to step out and cool down. Always prioritize your safety and well-being during sauna sessions.


In the next section, we’ll explore some helpful tips to enhance your sauna experience and make it even more enjoyable.


Tips for a Relaxing Sauna Experience

A Finnish sauna is not just about heat and sweating; it’s also a time for relaxation and rejuvenation. Here are some tips to enhance your sauna experience and make it more relaxing:

  1. Practice deep breathing: Deep breathing exercises can help you relax and release tension while in the sauna. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth, focusing on calming your mind and body.
  2. Use aromatherapy: Enhance your sauna experience by adding a few drops of essential oils, such as eucalyptus or lavender, to the water you pour over the hot rocks. The aroma can have a calming effect and promote relaxation.
  3. Bring a cool cloth: Wet a small cloth with cool water and place it on your forehead or neck while in the sauna. This provides a refreshing sensation and can help regulate body temperature.
  4. Listen to calming music: Consider playing soft, soothing music or nature sounds in the background to create a tranquil atmosphere in the sauna. This can further enhance your relaxation and create a spa-like ambiance.
  5. Try sauna rituals: Explore traditional sauna rituals like whisking, where you gently strike your body with a bundle of birch twigs to improve circulation and invigorate the senses. Research regional sauna customs and incorporate them into your experience.
  6. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session to stay hydrated and replenish the fluids lost through sweat. This will help you feel refreshed and prevent dehydration.
  7. Take breaks: If you’re spending an extended period in the sauna, take short breaks between rounds. Step outside, cool down, and allow your body to rest before going back in. This can help invigorate and rejuvenate your body.
  8. Engage in mindful meditation: Use your sauna time as an opportunity to practice mindfulness and meditation. Focus on being present in the moment, observing your thoughts, and bringing a sense of peace and clarity to your mind.
  9. Stay comfortable: Bring a small towel to wipe away excess sweat and keep yourself comfortable in the sauna. You can also try different seating positions or lie down on your back or side for maximum relaxation.
  10. Take it slow: Allow your body to gradually adjust to the heat of the sauna. Start with shorter sessions and lower temperatures if you’re new to sauna use. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

By incorporating these tips into your sauna routine, you can create a truly relaxing and enjoyable experience for both your body and mind. In the next section, we’ll discuss some common mistakes to avoid when using a sauna.


Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Sauna

While using a Finnish sauna can be a wonderful experience, it’s important to be aware of some common mistakes to ensure your safety and maximize the benefits. Here are some mistakes to avoid in the sauna:

  1. Spending too much time: Spending excessive time in the sauna can lead to overheating and dehydration. It is recommended to limit each sauna session to 10-15 minutes, especially if you’re new to saunas or have certain health conditions.
  2. Using the sauna when intoxicated: Saunas should never be used when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The combination of heat and intoxicants can strain your cardiovascular system and increase the risk of accidents.
  3. Not staying hydrated: Sweating in the sauna can cause you to lose a significant amount of fluids. To avoid dehydration, remember to drink water before, during, and after your sauna session.
  4. Skipping the cool-down phase: Cooling down properly after a sauna session is essential to regulate your body temperature. Skipping the cool-down phase can result in dizziness, and it prevents your body from fully reaping the benefits of the sauna.
  5. Using oils or lotions: While essential oils can enhance your sauna experience, avoid applying oils or lotions directly to your skin while in the sauna. They can block pores and create an uncomfortable, greasy feeling.
  6. Not following sauna etiquette: Be respectful of others in the sauna by following proper sauna etiquette. Keep conversations quiet, refrain from using strong fragrances, and always sit or lie on a towel to maintain cleanliness.
  7. Entering the sauna with wet swimwear: Wet swimwear can create humidity and discomfort in the sauna. Make sure your swimwear is dry before entering the sauna to avoid unnecessary moisture and potential bacterial growth.
  8. Not listening to your body: It’s crucial to listen to your body’s signals while in the sauna. If you experience dizziness, shortness of breath, or any other discomforts, exit the sauna immediately and cool down to prevent any potential health risks.
  9. Using electronics in the sauna: Saunas are often high in humidity, which can damage electronic devices. Avoid bringing electronic devices such as smartphones or tablets into the sauna to prevent potential damage.
  10. Neglecting post-sauna care: After your sauna session, take care of your body by rinsing off the sweat and toxins with a cool shower and moisturizing your skin. This will help maintain the health and hydration of your skin.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure a safe, enjoyable, and beneficial sauna experience. In the next section, we’ll discuss the proper etiquette to follow when using a Finnish sauna.


Sauna Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

When using a Finnish sauna, it’s important to adhere to proper sauna etiquette to ensure a respectful and enjoyable experience for everyone. Here are some essential do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:



  1. Do shower before entering: Take a quick shower before entering the sauna to cleanse your body and remove any lotions, oils, or contaminants from your skin.
  2. Do bring a towel: Always bring a clean towel to sit or lie on while in the sauna. This helps maintain cleanliness and hygiene for both yourself and others using the sauna.
  3. Do sit or lie on a towel: Use your towel to create a barrier between your body and the sauna benches to prevent direct contact with sweat and maintain cleanliness.
  4. Do keep conversations quiet: While it’s common to socialize in the sauna, keep in mind that it’s also a place for relaxation. Be mindful of others by keeping conversations quiet and respectful.
  5. Do practice sauna modesty: Saunas are generally considered a respectful and modest environment. Avoid any behaviors that may make others uncomfortable, such as staring or inappropriate actions.
  6. Do respect personal space: Allow personal space for others in the sauna. Choose a spot that leaves enough room for others to sit comfortably without feeling crowded.
  7. Do control the sauna temperature: If you notice that the sauna is too hot for your comfort, it’s acceptable to add some ventilation by slightly opening a door or window. However, be mindful of others who may prefer a higher temperature.
  8. Do hydrate before, during, and after: Remember to drink plenty of water or fluids to stay hydrated before, during, and after your sauna session. Hydration is crucial to prevent dehydration from excessive sweating.


  1. Don’t bring glass containers or alcohol: To prevent accidents and ensure everyone’s safety, avoid bringing glass containers or any alcoholic beverages into the sauna. Alcohol and saunas do not mix well and can lead to dizziness or other health risks.
  2. Don’t use strong fragrances: Some people may be sensitive to strong fragrances in the sauna. Avoid using heavily scented lotions, perfumes, or oils that may overwhelm others or cause discomfort.
  3. Don’t splash water on others: While adding water to the hot rocks is a common practice, avoid splashing water on others in the sauna. It can be disruptive and may not be appreciated by fellow sauna-goers.
  4. Don’t stay in the sauna if you feel unwell: Listen to your body and exit the sauna if you start feeling unwell, dizzy, or excessively hot. It’s important to prioritize your health and well-being.
  5. Don’t litter: Keep the sauna clean and tidy by disposing of any trash or personal belongings properly. Respect the environment and leave the sauna as you found it.
  6. Don’t hog the space: Be considerate of others by not occupying the sauna for an excessive amount of time. Allow others the opportunity to use the sauna as well.

By following these sauna etiquette guidelines, you can contribute to a harmonious and respectful sauna experience for everyone. In the next section, we’ll discuss important safety precautions to keep in mind while using a Finnish sauna.


Safety Precautions while Using a Sauna

While sauna sessions can be incredibly beneficial and enjoyable, it’s essential to prioritize safety to prevent any accidents or health risks. Here are some important safety precautions to keep in mind while using a Finnish sauna:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session to prevent dehydration. The high heat in the sauna can cause excessive sweating, and staying hydrated is crucial for your well-being.
  2. Limit your sauna time: Avoid spending too much time in the sauna. Limit your sessions to a maximum of 15-20 minutes, especially if you’re new to saunas or have certain medical conditions. Prolonged exposure to high heat can lead to overheating and discomfort.
  3. Know your health limitations: If you have any health concerns or medical conditions, consult with your healthcare provider before using a sauna. Certain conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart problems, may require caution or even avoidance of sauna use.
  4. Monitor your body’s signals: Pay attention to your body’s signals while in the sauna. If you start feeling lightheaded, dizzy, excessively hot, or have difficulty breathing, exit the sauna immediately and cool down. Respect your body’s limits and prioritize your safety.
  5. Avoid sauna use when under the influence: It is strongly advised not to use the sauna when under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any substances that may impair judgment or hinder your ability to react to the sauna’s heat properly.
  6. Refrain from excessive alcohol consumption: While a light beverage such as water is acceptable, consuming excessive alcohol before or during your sauna session can be dangerous. Alcohol can impair your body’s ability to regulate temperature and increase the risk of dehydration.
  7. Use caution with heat-sensitive conditions: If you have heat-sensitive conditions such as multiple sclerosis or hypothyroidism, it’s important to exercise caution and consult with your healthcare provider before using a sauna. These conditions can be aggravated by high temperatures.
  8. Avoid saunas during pregnancy: Pregnant women should avoid using saunas, especially during the first trimester. The high heat can increase the risk of overheating and dehydration, which can be harmful to the developing fetus.
  9. Use proper ventilation: Ensure that the sauna room has proper ventilation to allow for fresh air exchange. This helps maintain a comfortable environment and prevents excessively high temperatures or stuffiness inside the sauna.
  10. Enter and exit the sauna carefully: Take caution when entering and exiting the sauna, as the steps or floor may be slippery. Use handrails if available, and be mindful of your footing to avoid any accidents or injuries.

Remember, the sauna should be a place of relaxation and rejuvenation, but safety should always be a priority. By following these safety precautions, you can enjoy your sauna experience with peace of mind. In the next section, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about Finnish saunas.


Frequently Asked Questions about Finnish Saunas

As Finnish saunas continue to gain popularity worldwide, it’s natural to have questions about their usage and benefits. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:


1. How often should I use a Finnish sauna?


The frequency of sauna use depends on your personal preference and overall health. However, using a sauna once or twice a week is a common recommendation for most individuals. Allow your body time to rest and recover between sauna sessions.


2. Is it safe to use a sauna if I have a heart condition?


If you have a heart condition or any concerns about using a sauna, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before doing so. They can provide specific guidance based on your individual health circumstances.


3. Can children use the sauna?


It is generally recommended that children under the age of 5 do not use saunas due to their limited ability to regulate body temperature. For older children, it is best to consult with a pediatrician and follow their guidance regarding sauna use.


4. Can I use a sauna if I’m pregnant?


Sauna use is generally not recommended during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. The high heat can raise the body’s core temperature and potentially harm the developing fetus. It’s best to consult with your healthcare provider for specific advice.


5. Should I shower before or after using the sauna?


It’s recommended to shower before entering the sauna to cleanse your body and remove any lotions, oils, or contaminants. However, taking a cool shower after your sauna session can be refreshing and help rinse off any sweat or toxins.


6. How long should I wait to eat after using the sauna?


After using the sauna, it’s generally recommended to wait at least 30 minutes before eating to allow your body to cool down. It’s also important to hydrate and replenish fluids with water or a light, nutritious snack.


7. Can I use a Finnish sauna if I have tattoos?


Tattoos should not be an issue when using a Finnish sauna. However, it’s important to keep in mind that excessive heat or prolonged exposure to steam may affect the color or appearance of tattoos over time.


8. Can I use a Finnish sauna if I have high blood pressure?


Individuals with high blood pressure should exercise caution when using a sauna. Saunas can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure, so it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before using a sauna and follow their advice.


9. What’s the difference between a Finnish sauna and an infrared sauna?


Finnish saunas use heated rocks and water to provide dry heat, while infrared saunas use infrared rays to directly heat the body. The heat experience and benefits differ between the two types of saunas, so it’s a matter of personal preference.


10. Can I use a Finnish sauna if I have respiratory issues?


If you have respiratory issues, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before using a sauna. The hot and dry air in the sauna may exacerbate respiratory symptoms for some individuals.


Remember, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider if you have any specific concerns or medical conditions before using a Finnish sauna. They can provide personalized advice based on your health history and individual needs.


With these frequently asked questions answered, you’re now equipped with a deeper understanding of Finnish saunas. Enjoy your sauna sessions responsibly and immerse yourself in the ultimate relaxation and rejuvenation experience.