Sauna vs. Steam Shower: What’s the Difference?

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Is there anything better than a hot, relaxing shower after a long day?

Well, a hot shower in the morning might come close. But really, hot water and steam are always the perfect combination of sensory heaven to relax you at any time of day. It’s the ultimate way to unwind, regardless if you’re lounging in a sauna or enjoying your own home steam shower.

But wait—saunas and steam showers: aren’t those the same thing?

Not exactly! Saunas and steam showers are often used interchangeably (both in name and in practice), but there are some substantial differences between the two that you should know.

What is a sauna?

Most of us have tried a sauna at least once in our lives, and for good reason. The health benefits of heat have been acknowledged for thousands of years, in every culture, and by numerous health professionals. And even today, it remains a popular way to de-stress and soothe aches and stiffness. But how do they work?

At their most basic, saunas are small, simple rooms, usually built from wood and adorned with little more than a few benches for sitting. Each sauna has a small, electric heater in the corner (filled with rocks) that manages the room’s temperature and humidity levels. Pouring water over these rocks creates more heat and steam, allowing you to craft your ideal environment.

It’s an easy and fun way to relax, but some of us take our personal sauna time seriously! For example, did you know that saunas are a national pastime in Finland? The Finns love their saunas so much that they have an estimated 2 million saunas to serve its total population of 5.3 million people.

That’s one sauna for every two-and-a-half people, folks!

(Are plane tickets available?)

What is a steam shower?

Saunas might be sexy, but where do steam showers come in?

Unlike a sauna, which uses an electric generator to produce heat and small amounts of steam, steam showers are more akin in function to your home shower—only cranked up to 11.

The secret is the steamhead. Unlike saunas or normal showers, steam showers leverage a steam-producing nozzle that superheats water until it becomes hot, soothing steam.

Steam shower users bathe themselves in this steam flow for as long as they like for a luxurious and sauna-like experience you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

On top of that, ThermaSol offers a series of accessories that can take your in-home steam shower to the next level, including lights, sounds, aromas, automated timers, and more. Saunas are great, but if you’re looking for the most soothing, relaxing, and calming spa experience out there, you can’t go wrong with an at-home steam shower.

Steam Shower and Sauna Similarities Worth Noting

There are some key differences between the two (which we’ll dig into in a minute), but first, we’d like to review a few similarities between the two worth noting.

  • Both offer big boosts to your health. The health benefits of heat (be it dry or wet) are well-documented. Both saunas and steam showers can help improve circulation, loosen muscles, boost skin health, and generally support a healthy body.
  • Both use heat to produce natural, soothing relief: The physical benefits are one thing, but it’s impossible to deny how mentally-relieving the heat can be. Regular steam sessions can be great for stress relief, with some research suggesting that steam baths may even be better than saunas for overall wellness.

The Biggest Differences

They do sound similar, don’t they? But there’s one key difference between saunas and steam showers, and that’s the difference between dry and wet.

Saunas are built for dry heat. They’re not meant to be steam baths as much as warm, therapeutic environments where you’ll sweat out your toxins and loosen up your aching muscles. There’s some steam in there, sure, but humidity levels are usually kept low in traditional sauna sessions.

On the other hand, steam showers are designed to fill your shower with “wet” steam. This will open up your pores and flush out your toxins just like saunas do, but through a more controllable system that users can adapt to suit their own preferences.

There’s also the matter of public vs. private to consider. Few of us have access to our own private saunas, and those who visit public saunas or steam rooms need to be conscious of sauna etiquette, cost, and the health issues that come with a shared bath. On the other hand, in-home steam showers offer a private and relaxing way to make regular steam sessions part of your routine.

Plus, steam baths are just great. We all know the best part of the sauna is when you get those hot rocks steaming, and in-home steam showers offer this experience at the touch of a button.

Choosing between a steam shower and a sauna

Now that you know the difference between a typical sauna and a steam shower proper, you can start thinking about how to take advantage of these benefits for yourself. Public saunas are always a great option, but you just can’t beat the luxury and privacy of having a sauna or steam shower in your own home.