First published on 4 Apr 2012. Updated on 5 Apr 2012.
Not to be confused with the ultraviolet radiation typical of tanning beds, infrared heating takes steam out of the sauna equation. What’s more, it’s said to be better for one’s health thanks to the use of near-, mid- and far-range wavelengths. Oh, and it also consumes no more power than a hair-dryer.
Sunlighten’s saunas range in size from a single-person stall that takes up about as much space as a refrigerator to a much more roomy five-seater. I took my seat in the three-seater (which sells for $10,900) and was immediately glad that I didn’t have to share, not because it felt cramped but because I could relax without feeling self-conscious and coping with gawking eyes. The sauna’s digital touchscreen offers a choice of six preset or custom-designed programs, from detoxification and weight loss to pain relief. I opted for the ‘cardio’ setting, which runs through all three infrared wavelengths. If I was going to go through with this non-steamy steam bath, it was going to be scalding, Sahara Desert-hot, not fuzzy-blanket warm and cosy.
The best way I can think of to sum up the infrared sauna experience: it delivers all of the sweat and none of the steam of a conventional sauna. The first thing I notice is the lack of pressure from steam pushing into the skin and weighing down the lungs. Instead, sweat forms naturally. The heat is noticeable, but instead of mopping my brow like I do when exposed to the blazing sun in Singapore, I just let it slide. The music player installed in the booth soothes with its easy-listening tunes, even as my pulse pounds out a far more upbeat rhythm. To intensify the process – and ‘increase toxin release’ – I apply a waxy lotion known as Pure Sweat to open up the pores even more. There are pores on my legs! Who knew? The temperature occasionally hits an eye-glazing 53 degrees Celsius, but mainly sticks to a comparatively balmy 50. When 45 minutes are up, I feel relaxed (albeit thirsty) and ready for another round. The idea quickly evaporates when I try to stand up on wobbly knees.
Verita offers the chance to try out its saunas, and if you’ve got the cash, you can opt to install one in your home. Also available is a heart-rate monitor that wirelessly connects to the unit, transmitting the number of calories lost and updating your results to a website where you can track your progress. To say this newfangled sauna is a hot property is something of an understatement. Once again, I wonder: “Why is this the only place in town with infrared saunas?”
Sunlighten Infrared Sauna at Verita Advanced Wellness costs $60 for one session, $480 for ten sessions.