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Does regular sauna use have any effect on acne?

What steam may do for your skin.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
sauna
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Saunas have been popping up in gyms, wellness clubs, and homes nationwide. It's no surprise: There’s something relaxing about spending time in a steamy room. And it may come with a whole host of benefits, including detoxification, decreased pain, reduced stress, relaxation, improved circulation, and even increased sleep quality!¹ 

But do regular sauna visits benefit your skin—and can they help to alleviate your acne? Allow our experts to explain what the research supports. 

What are saunas?

Saunas have existed since ancient times and have increasingly gained popularity for their potential wellness benefits. A sauna can be a room or an infrared pod that produces dry heat up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit.² Rather than sit in a heated “room” like traditional saunas, a pod is like a comfortable bed you lay inside, exposing your body to infrared heat exposure while keeping your head out. 

During the time spent in the sauna, the body temperature rises, allowing the heart rate to increase and the body to begin producing a lot of sweat. 

Traditional saunas can allow multiple people to sit inside for various durations. Typically, these saunas alternate between dry and humid air and use higher temperatures. The increasingly popular infrared saunas use lower temperatures and different wavelengths of their emitters.³ 

There have been many studies surrounding the benefits of regular sauna use, but little to directly link sauna use with acne improvement. Rather, study findings show sauna use promotes relaxation, as well as improves mental health and sleep.⁴ 

The evidence thus far has been a mixture of proven benefits and the need for more. 

Can sauna use promote skin health?

Though the heat produced by saunas may affect people differently, some health benefits have been observed for the skin. Saunas have been shown to kill various microorganisms and increase the removal of scales in people with psoriasis.⁵ Exposure to hot steam has been shown to promote collagen production,⁶ which can help improve the appearance of wrinkles. Some believe that regular sauna use may improve acne, but the general consensus is that more research is still needed. 

Can using a sauna help with acne?

There’s not enough research to conclusively say yes, but some limited studies suggest it might have an impact. According to one study, regular sauna use was demonstrated to provide a protective impact on the skin, including decreased sebum content. This study found that individuals who used saunas regularly had decreased sebum levels.⁷  

Sebum is produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands and is composed of a complex mix of lipids, or fats.⁸ Sebum is essential for our skin protection but it is optimal when at just the “right” amount. Too little sebum can cause dry skin and too much can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts.

Sauna routine for acne 

Even if some studies show decreased overall sebum production as a result of time spent in a sauna, sweating may still contribute to skin breakouts. So, it’s important to use saunas properly to reduce the potential for breakouts:

  • Hydrate before, during, and after saunaing. 

  • Wash your face before and after. We recommend the Curology 3-step routine.

  • Shower soon after.

  • Use a non-comedogenic moisturizer for acne-prone skin

  • Avoid the sauna if you have just had a waxing appointment.

What are the other benefits of using a sauna?

The vast majority of studies on the benefits of saunas highlight their potential to improve circulation, sleep, and mental well-being. But there are some other potential benefits, too!

Increased collagen production

One study demonstrated that heat treatment increased collagen production, which can improve the appearance of wrinkles. More specifically, this study reviewed the effects of heat treatment for just a few minutes per day for two months. The results showed that a heat of 40-42 degrees Celsius (about 104-107 degrees Fahrenheit) is an optimal condition for wrinkle repair.⁹ 

May improve depression

Researchers performed a double-blind study to determine the effect of full-body hyperthermia (this increase in heat promoting a higher body temperature is intentional and purposeful) on depression. Their findings concluded that after just one session, participants were scored lower on their depression scales.¹⁰ 

May improve pain

Some studies support the claims that regular sauna bathing helps alleviate pain, improves joint mobility, and may temporarily improve lung function.¹¹ 

Improved cardiovascular function

The positive impact of using infrared saunas on the cardiovascular system, such as the improvement of blood pressure and heart rate, has garnered significant attention due to numerous research findings.

According to the experts, although blood pressure and heart rate temporarily increase during sauna sessions (in response to the increase in body temperature), the post-sauna blood pressures decrease. This suggests that sauna use may be an option to help lower and control blood pressure.¹²

When someone experiences an event such as a heart attack, damage to the cells occur as a result of inflammation and oxidative stress. Heat therapy has shown to be promising for reducing cellular damage after ischemia.¹³ 

Potential side effects of using a sauna

Though regular sauna use has been considered safe for most people, alcohol consumption is discouraged during sauna bathing, as it can increase the risk of irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, and more.¹⁴ In order to prevent additional issues with dehydration and potential heart irregularities, it is safest to refrain from consuming any alcohol right before or during sauna use. For people with atopic dermatitis, the increased sweating invoked by infrared saunas can also cause an enhanced itching response.¹⁵

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FAQs

Does the sauna make your skin clear?

There is a need for further research on the benefits of regular sauna use on our skin. Studies have mentioned that regular sauna use can decrease sebum production.

Can you get acne from sauna use?

Though no research findings directly mentioned saunas causing acne or skin breakouts, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t occur. Saunas increase your body temperature to induce sweating, so it is important to remember to maintain your skincare routine.

Does a sauna or steam room help acne?

There is a ton of research highlighting the benefits of sauna use and they include improved blood pressure, relaxation, decreased pain, improved depression, and increased collagen production. Research shows that increased collagen production can lead to improved skin appearance. Research has also stated that the heat production can help kill certain bacteria found on the skin, which in theory may decrease breakouts. However, more direct research is needed to determine whether sauna use helps with acne.

• • •

P.S. We did the research, so you don't have to:

  1. Hussain, J. and Cohen, M. Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (2018, April 24). 

  2. Hussain, J. and Cohen, M. Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. Ibid.

  3. Hussain, J. and Cohen, M. Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. Ibid.

  4. Hussain, J.N., et al. A hot topic for health: Results of the Global Sauna Survey. Complement Ther Med. (June 2019).

  5. Hannuksela, M. and Vaananen, A. The sauna, skin and skin diseases. Ann Clin Res. (1988, n.d.).

  6. Yamamoto, Y., et al. Efficacy of thermal stimulation on wrinkle removal via the enhancement of collagen synthesis. Journal of Dermatological Science Supplement. (December 2006).

  7. Picardo, M., et al. Sebaceous gland lipids. Dermatoendocrinol. (March-April 2009).

  8. Hussain, J. and Cohen, M. Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. Ibid.

  9. Yamamoto, Y., et al. Efficacy of thermal stimulation on wrinkle removal via the enhancement of collagen synthesis. Journal of Dermatological Science Supplement. Ibid.

  10. Janssen, C.W., et al. Whole-Body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. (August 2016). 

  11. Hannuksela, M.L. and Ellahham, S. Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. Am J Med. (2001, February 1). 

  12. Lee, E. et al. Standalone sauna vs exercise followed by sauna on cardiovascular function in non‐naïve sauna users: A comparison of acute effectsHealth Sci Rep. (2021, October 1). 

  13. Brunt, V.E., et al. Passive heat therapy protects against endothelial cell hypoxia-reoxygenation via effects of elevations in temperature and circulating factors. The Journal of Physiology. (2018, August 17). 

  14. Hannuksela, M.L. and Ellahham, S. Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. Am J Med. Ibid.

  15. Hannuksela, M.L. and Ellahham, S. Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. Am J Med. Ibid.

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

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