Originating in Finland, saunas are small wooden cabins lined with benches. Ideally, the air is heated by a wood-burning stove. Their scorching heat (90°C!) is maintained by hot volcanic stones onto which water is poured to increase the temperature as needed. Steam rooms (or hammam spas) are tiled and heated up to 50°C - a temperature suited to Oriental beauty treatments. Some people prefer them as it's a humid heat, although in reality, based on the premise that water is a better heat conductor than air, they can feel extremely hot. Whichever you choose, the aim is to pamper your body with a deep, revitalising cleanse.
Whether wet or dry, the aim is to sweat and open the skin's pores, so that all the toxins your skin has accumulated during the day or after strenuous exercise are eliminated. Both relaxing and cleansing, saunas and steam rooms relieve stress, relax the muscles, eliminate aches and pains and promote sleep. Finishing off with a cool shower causes blood vessels to constrict, which in turn boosts the circulation. Your skin will be left cleansed, toned and firmed. Saunas can also help ease rheumatism and dermatological conditions, while steam rooms clear the respiratory tract to combat colds. But bear in mind that they won't help you lose weight!
Some people swear by saunas and hate steam rooms... and vice versa! Each one has its benefits and it all depends on whether you prefer a dry or wet heat. How will I know? Easy, give them both a try!
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