The SereneLife portable infrared sauna was an unexpected purchase for me. I don’t usually buy things like this from Amazon, so I was a little nervous.
There were lots of reviews and videos stating how hot it got, whether or not it gave you a good sweat, and how big it was. But none of those reviews were based on any significant amount of use. And none of them had anything insightful to say about whether or not a sauna like this was even effective.
So, like everything else here on GymCrafter, I bought one and put it to the test so you can decide whether the SereneLife portable infrared sauna is right for you.
The Short TLDR Review
The SereneLife portable infrared sauna does exactly what it says it will. It gets hot. It makes you sweat. It sets up quickly and breaks down for storage just as easily. It’s well-made and holds up nicely.
Is it better than a built-in sauna like one from Clear Light or other higher-end sauna companies? No.
Is it better than not having a sauna? Absolutely!!!
Would I buy one again? I sure would. But that’s because it fits my needs well. Whether or not it’s right for you will depend on a few things. If you’re still not sure, read on!
There are a lot of preowned options for this type of sauna, before buying one on Amazon (where I bought mine), you can check here to see if there are any good deals on eBay.
Why I’m Reviewing A Sauna On A Home Gym Website
Part of training is recovery. In fact, it’s the most important part of training! Without good recovery, anything you work for in the gym will be hampered.
At 52 years old, recovery is essential for me. It’s what allows me to use my gym every day. Sauna has become a key part of that recovery regimen.
So when I think about a “complete” home gym, it’s not just barbells and squat racks. It’s resistance bands, foam rollers, and, yes, a sauna.
My goal here on GymCrafter is to help you build a home gym that allows you to improve the quality of your life. A sauna does that in many ways.
Why I Bought a SereneLife Portable Infrared Sauna
Saunas are one of the new, hot things in fitness (pun intended!). You can’t listen to too many episodes of any health and fitness podcast without hearing about them. Every health club has one, and they are becoming increasingly popular in homes.
The problem is that saunas take up a lot of room and can be incredibly expensive. This rules out a home sauna for most people, including me.
At least, I thought that was the case until my doctor recommended a portable infrared sauna. He said he owned one himself and loved it. The best part was that this portable option didn’t take up much room, was easily stored, and only cost a few hundred bucks on Amazon!
Enter the SereneLife infrared home spa. With over 2,000 positive Amazon reviews and the endorsement of my doctor, I clicked “buy now,” excited to start my sauna journey.
I won’t lie. I was extremely skeptical. I’d heard bad things about infrared saunas. I’d seen a lot of “experts” say that this type of sauna didn’t get hot enough. And, let’s face it, the $250 Amazon version of something that usually costs thousands of dollars almost never works out well despite any positive reviews!
Well, that was almost nine months ago, and I’ve used my SereneLife sauna thirty minutes a day, five days per week, for that entire time (I did miss a few days in those nine months, but not many!). During that time, I also ventured out to try many different sauna options and dug deep into the science of sauna.
Combined with my personal experiences and health changes, it’s time for me to write a review. So, if you’ve been considering adding a sauna to your home but are short on space and/or money, this is for you!
The Benefits of Sauna
This topic could be its own series of articles. And if you are here reading this review, odds are you already know what the benefits are. But just in case, here’s a quick list of the highlights as well as a video from Dr. Rhonda Patrick, one of the world’s leading experts on the benefits of sauna.
- Reduces anxiety and stress (source)
- Soothes sore muscles and joints (source)
- Strengthens your immune system (source)
- Improves your sleep (source)
- “Detoxes” your body*
- Improves your skin health and appearance (source)
- Increases your metabolism (source)
- Improved cardiovascular health (source)
- Regular use has been shown to reduce “all-cause mortality” by 40%!!! (source)
*I hate the word “detox.” It’s usually only used by woo-woo snake oil salespeople. It’s overused and cheesy. I usually run the other way any time I hear it. But, since this is my doc’s term, I’ll use it here begrudgingly. If you dislike this word as much as I do, just substitute the phrase “sweat out bad stuff,” as that’s pretty much what it means in this context.
SereneLife Infrared Sauna Technical Specs
- Max temp 140℉ / 60℃
- Timer setting up to 60 minutes
- 33″w x 31.4″d x 40″h
- Comes in 2 colors
- The Footpad heater has three settings, low, medium, and high
- Control via a corded remote
- Uses a standard 110v outlet
Pros and Cons of the SereneLife Infrared Sauna
It’s easy to set up
It doesn’t take up much space
It folds down easily for storage
It comes with a chair that fits inside perfectly
It comes with a foot mat for quicker heating
It allows you to have your head outside of the heat
It has arm access that allows you to reach outside without getting out
It heats up quickly
It has a timer and full-function remote
It’s easy to clean
At 6’6″ and 230 lbs, I fit just fine!
It’s energy efficient
It doesn’t get as hot as a traditional sauna
It’s not easy to heat your head, too
The foot pad can burn you if not used right
You must clean it after every use
There are a lot of positives to the SereneLife sauna, but there are a few things I wish were different.
Because of its size, I end up getting sweat all over it with every use. Not just dripping on the floor of the unit, but my arms and neck, and shoulders brush up against it quite a bit.
Just like a hat you can’t get the smell out of (although it turns out you can. See my article here for details!), not cleaning up the sweat with each use will lead to a smelly sauna that you stop using.
It’s not a huge deal. I use these Wipex fitness wipes to wipe the sauna down after each use (if you order some, be sure to use our exclusive discount code “Gym-Crafter-Exclusive”). But it is something I wish I didn’t have to do.
The other big thing I wish were different is the foot heating pad. It works great and raises your core body temperature faster than not using it. But I’ve also burned my feet several times on it. Nothing major, but it’s not pleasant.
Basically, if you put your feet on it first and then turn it on, there are no issues at all. If you turn it on and let it get hot first, though, you’re gonna fry the bottom of your feet!
The Two Major Criticisms of a Portable Infrared Sauna
If you were to poll the “sauna community,” a fair amount of people will knock this type of sauna, always citing the same two reasons.
Do Portable Infrared Saunas Get Hot Enough?
This is always the first critique. When you look at the studies that show all-cause mortality benefits, the temperature range of the saunas used is 180℉ – 210℉ | 82℃ – 99℃ (source).
The SereneLife sauna states that it tops out at 140℉ (60℃), but the highest I’ve been able to get mine is 130℉ (54℃). That’s significantly lower than the saunas used in the studies.
Sauna proponents will tell you that only the temp range in the studies is effective. The problem with that statement is that no other temperature ranges have been studied as thoroughly!!!
Look, I don’t care what people say online. I feel the difference. I notice it distinctly. I know it’s helping me.
Also, as my doc said, “Something is almost always better than nothing.” And since I don’t have the space or the money for a traditional sauna, I went with the one that fit my space and budget!
Is Infrared Heating as Effective as Traditional Methods?
The second knock you’ll hear is that the sauna studies that are out are almost all done in Finland with traditional Finnish saunas, not infrared.
Sauna fans will use this as a reason not to use infrared heating. I, and my doctor, think differently.
If you look at studies done on infrared heating used for muscle recovery, it’s been clearly shown that infrared heat penetrates up to 2.5 cm beneath the skin (source). The dry heat used in traditional Finnish saunas doesn’t penetrate well at all.
That means that heat from an infrared source can increase your core body temp faster than dry heat at the same temperature. This may be why Finnish saunas are so much hotter than infrared. They need to be to have the same effect!
And again, I feel the benefits! No one could tell you you’re not getting hot inside this sauna! Is it as hot as the steam room at the gym? Nope. But again, it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing!
What Benefits Did I Get From 9 Months of Regular Use of The SereneLife Infrared Sauna?
There’s a ton of hype around saunas. If you listen to enough people, you could even be convinced that they can cure cancer, paint your house, and walk your dog simultaneously!
But like many other hyped-up fitness trends, the real question is, can you actually feel and see a difference? I don’t know about you, but I don’t care how much someone says something is good for me. If I can’t really tell that it’s doing something, I’m calling BS!
So while I haven’t experienced every advertised sauna benefit, a few remarkable changes have kept me using my sauna regularly.
This is the number one benefit I’ve experienced. Not only do I fall asleep faster on days I use my sauna, but I sleep deeper and longer too.
This benefit started after only about a week of regular use and went away quickly if I didn’t use the sauna for even a few days.
But I can absolutely count on sleeping better every single day I use my sauna. This benefit alone has made it worth the time and money!
Reduced Joint Pain
I have chronic lower back, hip, and knee issues (don’t get old, folks, it really sucks!). These are very manageable issues when my training and diet are on point. But sometimes, I need a little extra help.
The pain relief from using the sauna is almost immediate and lasts hours after getting out. It’s not as effective as taking pain medication, but it’s really close! And if you don’t like taking pain meds like me, it’s a fantastic alternative.
Faster Recovery From Hard Workouts
We’ve all been there. We push too hard in the gym, all the while knowing the price we will pay the next day.
I’ve done a lot of A/B testing with this type of training. I’ve found that if I get in the sauna right after training, the soreness I feel the next day is significantly reduced.
I also do a LOT of hiking. On days when I push out to 15+ miles in a day, a 30-minute sauna before bed not only makes me sleep like a baby, I feel a ton better the next day! If I get lazy and skip the sauna, I immediately regret it in the morning!
I have to be honest. My skin is not better. I don’t look younger. I’m not less stressed or anxious (a real problem for me). And I sure as heck don’t know if I’ve “detoxed” anything significant😂. In fact, I don’t think I’ve experienced even half of the benefits a sauna is supposed to give.
But the benefits I HAVE experienced are enough to keep me returning for more!
I also really want to believe in the one benefit that attracted me to sauna in the first place. The often repeated statistic that regular sauna use can reduce all-cause mortality by over 40%! (source)
Now, that’s not something I can feel or prove, but I really want to believe it’s true! And considering the other benefits, it’s a nice added bonus if it is.
I think sauna has become a lot like other health fads. When you look at CBD, medical marijuana, cold plunge, and other “new” treatments, their advocates will always make it seem like those things cure every ailment and solve every problem. They never do.
But they do have some value! And sauna is the same. Is it the cure for everything? No. Is it something you’ll be happy you regularly do? Absolutely!
Portable Sauna Models, Options, and Alternatives
As with everything on Amazon, there are a million knockoffs and copycats. I would recommend sticking with one of the SereneLife models.
First, they have 10x the reviews of any other brand. That’s because they’ve been around a lot longer. Almost every other portable infrared sauna on Amazon is a clone of the SereneLife models (just not as well-made).
Second, SereneLife has had great customer service. Since most of the knockoffs are sold by Chinese import companies, good luck getting their help or assistance! In fact, SereneLife sells a wide variety of home goods and is an actual company! They are not some unknown person drop shipping items on Amazon.
Full Size or Not?
There are two sizes of the SereneLife saunas. One is full-size. It’s kind of like a phone booth that you sit in. Like a traditional sauna, your entire body and head are inside the unit. You can see this unit and its current sale price here.
I went with the smaller unit that allows you to keep your head outside of the sauna itself (you can see the exact unit I use and its sale price here).
I had two concerns about the larger model. First, I’m a little claustrophobic and can’t sit inside a dark, small space like that for long. Especially when the high heat is making my brain scream, “get out!” There’s a window, but I’m still gonna pass.
Second, I don’t like having my head inside the sauna. It makes me want to get out almost uncontrollably. I know you’re supposed to suffer through that, but I’m not interested! I much prefer having my head outside of the unit.
Which one is right for you is up to your needs. If you’ve never used a sauna before, I’d suggest getting a day pass to a local health club and trying theirs. Initially, it can be very uncomfortable, and you may not want your head inside the unit.
Keep in mind also that the full-size unit will run about $150 more than the smaller one.
Steam or No Steam?
Adding steam to your sauna helps the heat penetrate your skin. It’s the reason that steam rooms are popular.
Steam is another preference thing. It’s not a bad idea if you want the most possible heat. But there is a very large drawback.
Water ruins things. Review after review stated that the steam units failed quickly, got moldy, smelled terrible, and didn’t really do much. It’s for those reasons that I chose to avoid the steam models.
That said, adding steam will help the heat penetrate more deeply, and a lot of people prefer the feel of wet heat over dry. If this is you, take special care to thoroughly wipe down your sauna after every use and clean the steam unit per the directions.
More than one person has told me that having a sauna is a little extra. And it probably is. If we all lived in Finland, almost all of us would have saunas in our homes.
There is an old Finnish saying, “First build the sauna, then build the house.” And 30% of the world’s saunas are in Finland! (source)
It’s not that way in the US, where I live. But it should be! Whether or not you use a portable sauna as I do, join a health club for access, or install a full-sized unit in your home, a sauna is one of the best things you can do for your health and longevity.
If you’ve avoided portable units like this because people say they aren’t as good as full-sized units, don’t! If a SereneLife portable infrared sauna is the only option that fits your home and budget, don’t hesitate! Get one today.
Is there an adjustment period? I’ve tried sauna a few times and was only able to stay in for a few minutes.
Yes! I’ve found that starting with 5-10 minute sessions at about 90-100℉ is a great way to acclimate.
First, increase the duration until you are at your desired session length. Then slowly increase the heat each day until you are at the max.
I also noticed that my heat tolerance went away very quickly. If you take more than a week off, you may need to ease back in again.
What’s the benefit of the foot heating pad?
The capillaries in your body are closest to the skin in your hands and feet. By directly heating your feet, you heat your blood as well. This warmed blood then travels through your body and helps to increase your core temperature faster.
I’ve noticed that I get a good sweat about ten minutes faster when using the foot pad vs. not using it.
Could you sit all the way inside this sauna if you wanted to?
Instead of sitting on the included chair, you could sit cross-legged on the unit’s floor. A lot of users have done this with good effect. It’s not for me, but it would work if you’d like to have your entire body inside, including your head.