I Used a Portable Sauna Almost Every Day for a Month, and Now I'm a Believer


Welcome to Month of Me, where every day in January, we'll be publishing a new fashion, beauty, or wellness article featuring a first-person account of shaking up an old habit, pushing beyond a comfort zone, or simply trying something new. Follow along for 31 days of storytelling, including what it's like to quit alcohol for 80 days, try Beyoncé's very strict diet, or completely overhaul your closet.


(Image credit: @erin_jahns)

Name: Erin Jahns, beauty editor, Who What Wear

What did you try? I used Sunlighten's at-home portable solo sauna system almost every day for a month.

Why did you try it? By the end of 2019, my body was in a state. I had so much fatigue, accrued stress, and, not to be dramatic, but I just felt ill in general. (I also wasn't sleeping well, which wasn't great.) Previously, I've gone through phases of going to Shape House in West Hollywood once or twice a week (and it did wonders for my sleep and overall equilibrium), so when Sunlighten offered to send me one of its portable solo sauna systems, I was all about it.

Basically, the system (which is dropped off to your house and which you put together—no worries, it's easy!) is like a little cacoon you lie in for 30 to 45 minutes while your body reaps the benefits of infrared. If you're unfamiliar, infrared warms up your core body temperature (versus the skin's surface) which can have benefits like lowering blood pressure, aiding in weight loss, and more. Sunlighten's website has tons of studies and articles if you're looking for more information! I wasn't looking to lose any weight, per se, but was hoping a regular sauna ritual would help ease my anxiety, improve my sleep and ability to relax, clear my skin, and, hey, if I felt a little leaner afterward, I had no issues with that either.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Sunlighten)

How did you prepare? I didn't really have to prepare. Sunlighten dropped the sauna off on my doorstep, and I was sent easy-to-follow instructions from the brand to set it up. I kept the sauna in my living room—we have wood flooring, and conveniently, the Sunlighten sauna is a completely self-contained unit. Since absolutely no water is used, it can go on concrete, wood, laminate, vinyl, carpet, stone, etc.

What happened during the whole process? Since my workweeks and nights can get pretty hectic with deadlines, events, and meetings, my goal was to use the sauna for a minimum of four nights per week. (Though, you can definitely use it every day, according to the brand.) I typically timed each session to be about 45 minutes since the last 15 is when I really noticed my body heating up and sweating, which was what I wanted. No pain, no gain, right? Just kidding, this is totally not painful, and the Sunlighten system has a really handy temperature setting dial so you can adjust the warmth to what's manageable for your body. Everyone is different, and it will probably take some trial and error until you find your hot spot. 

This customizability factor, in addition to the convenience of being able to sauna and promptly shower from the comfort of my own home, is one of the reasons I love the system far more than Shape House, where you have limited control over settings and the overall environment. Plus, Sunlighten is the only portable sauna on the market boasting built-in chromotherapy lighting. According to the brand, this LED lighting provides the ancient healing method of light and color therapy, which is touted to improve health and harmony. 

Also, for what it's worth, I usually sauna'd completely nude with towels underneath to soak up my sweat. That said, you can totally wear shorts, a bathing suit, a sports bra, or whatever else feels most comfortable for you to sweat in. (Sunlighten also has a specially designed Bamboo Carbon Body Wrap, which doesn't have any bearing on the effectiveness of your sauna session but is just another cover-up option.)


(Image credit: Courtesy of Sunlighten)

Any challenges? Not really! I'll admit that at first, I was intimidated by putting the sauna together (it looks way more complicated than it actually is), but that ended up being no problem. I did notice after a few days of sauna'ing in a row, I felt a little fatigued, but I'm also horrible at drinking enough water throughout the day, and once I increased my intake (and chugged post-sauna and before bed), that totally went away. Overall, my Sunlighten sauna sessions became a ritual I really looked forward to at the end of the day. 

Any surprises? After I figured out how much I had to hydrate myself to feel non-fainty post-sauna, I was actually really surprised how much my daily energy levels in addition to my ability to stay focused and calm improved. It's hard to describe, but I felt less nervous and more like I could easily take on whatever the day had in store for me. I hesitate to talk about it, but I do suffer from depression and anxiety, and while I know regular sauna sessions aren't the answer to my struggle (and aren't a feasible or realistic option for many!), I definitely noticed that the ritual seemed to pacify and alleviate some of my symptoms. I'm always a bit skeptical when it comes to wellness practices or trends that boast lots of lofty claims (as infrared saunas do!), but making it a regular practice really turned me into a believer, and I think it could be really beneficial for people who deal with mental illness. 


(Image credit: Courtesy of Sunlighten)

How did you feel afterward? What kind of changes did you notice? As I mentioned, I definitely noticed that I felt calmer and more relaxed after using the sauna, which is why I chose to always use the system before bed. I also felt like my sleep quality drastically improved, and I woke up fewer times throughout the night and felt refreshingly well-rested when my alarm would sound the next morning. I'm not sure if the increase in energy I noticed was part of the detoxification perks associated with saunas or a happy side effect of the improved sleep, but I also felt like I had more stamina—emotionally and physically—to get through long days at work.

You do sweat a lot, so I think my skin went through a few growing pains as far as some clogged pores and breakouts, but after I started to shower and wash my face (like twice) immediately post-sweat, that seemed to go away. Last but not least, I work out almost every day, and I definitely noticed that my body seemed to recover more efficiently after I started to regularly use the solo system. Plus, I experienced fewer aches and pains, in general. 

What did you like about it? I loved the convenience, ease, and all the amazing benefits I noticed. Sadly, I have to give the sauna back, but thanks to the amazing difference I've noticed in my overall well-being, I'm going to try to start infrared sauna'ing at least once or twice a week again. 


(Image credit: Courtesy of Sunlighten)

What did you hate? Honestly, nothing. 

Would you try it again? One million percent! I'm so sad I have to stop!

Any advice for someone who is thinking about trying it? My biggest advice would be to do your research and find a high-quality sauna system (or house!). Regular sauna sessions do have a huge impact on your body, so I would clear it with your doctor and make sure the routine and how often and for how long you want to do it is given the green light by a medical professional you trust and who is familiar with your health history. Children shouldn't use saunas, and if you have any underlying medical conditions, are pregnant, or are breast-feeding, you should also make sure to talk to your doctor. (Please!) 

Keep scrolling for 11 wellness products and supplements I used during my month of using the sauna. (I'm obsessed!)


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions.

Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.