I’ve seen more wellbeing fads come and go than I’ve had fruit smoothies. There have been celery juice diets, no carb diets, cooking everything with coconut oil diets, animal movement classes and activated charcoal pills, to name just a few. The noise around the benefits of infrared light has been getting louder over the past few years and, I’ll be honest, I initially threw this in my fad file, too. However, there appear to be many medical studies that confirm its myriad benefits, from helping with arthritis to depression and dementia among others.
Sweating it out in a heated room is nothing new – they did it in the Roman baths, as did the Native Americans in their sweat lodges. The skin is our largest organ, and perspiration is one of our major toxin-elimination channels. However, while Finnish-style saunas cause you to sweat by heating the room to a high temperature, an infrared sauna penetrates the skin, heating the body itself rather than the air around it. Infrared is part of the sun’s spectrum of light minus the harmful ultraviolet rays. It is also naturally healing heat, and safe – which is why hospitals use it for keeping premature babies warm.
So why the wellbeing buzz? Research shows that infrared infiltrates our tissues, activating cell regeneration, causing anti-ageing effects and also detoxification. According to leading infrared sauna company SaunaSpace, scientifically observed effects of infrared include decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, reduction of inflammation and pain, increased collagen, improved sleep, reduced stress and (whoop!) cellulite. And that’s not all: if you go on the Conscious Spaces website you’ll find a whole section on infrared studies, including one that shows it can potentially alleviate depression and mood disorders. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga recently posted about her infrared sauna, which she swears helps her chronic pain syndrome. And, unlike traditional saunas, infrared ones can also leave you feeling invigorated, not like you’ve done five rounds with Tyson Fury in a heatwave.
The only downside? You may have to sell a kidney to buy one. The SaunaSpace Luminati Portable Near Infrared Sauna starts at £2,999 (consciousspaces.com). However, thanks to the likes of redjuvenatemedical.com, you can enjoy infrared therapy in your lunch break. Founded by Drs Xu and Greenland, who together have 35 years of medicine under their belts, Redjuvenate, which is based in London’s Kensington, offers red-light sessions for £85.
Not in London? Then there’s another option I’ve been trialling – the Higher Dose Sauna Blanket (£399, higherdose.com). A bit like a rubber sleeping bag, it plugs into the mains and uses infrared heat to warm it up. Initially, I found lying on my floor fully clothed (you have to be dressed otherwise you’ll stick to the sides), pouring sweat like a pig in a blanket, a bit bonkers. But when I emerged and my temperature dropped, there was a sense of calm that didn’t exist before. My skin was also post-facial glowy. After only a week of using it for half an hour, every other day, the pain I’ve had in my right toe for ages has gone. Coincidence? I don’t know, but this may well be my new wellbeing obsession.
The good scent guide
Essential oils have been a form of daily support for me throughout lockdown. They provided comfort amid the chaos of our home-cum-office-cum-school-cumcrèche. Not every essential oil is created equal (there are many I don’t love), so it’s important to choose quality. Here are my favourites:
For brain fog
My ultimate reset remedy, it boasts eucalyptus, peppermint and pine, and is what I reach for when I want to feel grounded and clear; uplifted, yet calm.
Its sandalwood, geranium and clary sage soothe anxiety and induce positivity.
An uplifting blend of neroli, mimosa and lemon, it has been a permanent fixture in my Neom Wellbeing Pod (£95).
Is your home fragranced with eau de dog or stinky trainers? This sweet orange and spearmint is a natural alternative to air freshener.