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What to Wear in a Sauna: The Ultimate Guide

Elegant and comfortable sauna attire spread out, illustrating what to wear in a sauna for a soothing experience

Stepping into a sauna’s soothing warmth is an experience like no other, but it leaves many wondering: ‘What to wear in a sauna?

I remember my first sauna visit, feeling both excited and a bit uncertain as I stood before the wooden door, towel in hand. It was then that I realized how essential the right clothing choice is to fully embrace the serene sanctuary of the sauna.

Whether you’re new to saunas or a devoted enthusiast, the right attire enhances the experience significantly. It helps create a safe, comfortable and inclusive sauna space for everyone.

This guide has everything you need to pick the ideal sauna attire for any situation or purpose, whether its an infrared or a traditional sauna. It explores all the factors you should consider when choosing your attire for sauna- from fabric, style, and accessories to respecting cultural traditions. 

Ready to dive in? Read on for tips to pick the best sauna gear for an optimal experience.

Sauna Nudity: Cultural Perspectives & Benefits

Cultural perspectives on nudity, gender dynamics, and social norms have shaped sauna dress codes.

Many traditional sauna cultures accepted nudity as normal, particularly in single-gender settings. For instance, sauna etiquette in Finland and Sweden did not frown upon naked bathing. Being unclothed was seen as enhancing the authentic sauna experience.

However, public nudity is not permitted in most modern mixed-gender saunas. Being naked can also make some bathers feel uneasy. In such cases, covering up with a towel is recommended. You should respect cultural norms and personal modesty when choosing whether to be nude.

If you have your own private home sauna, you have all the freedom to go nude. You don’t have to worry about offending others or breaking taboos in the privacy of your own sauna. Though not technically a sauna, this holds true even for portable saunas.

Explore our picks for the Top 7 portable saunas here.

For those comfortable with nudity, going nude in a sauna offers these benefits:

  • Sauna clothes may cause discomfort as they can stick to sweaty skin. Nudity prevents this.
  • Clothing traps heat, slowing sweat release. Nudity allows better perspiration.
  • Bathing suits can hold sweat, dirt and bacteria against the body. Nudity promotes hygiene.

What to Wear in a Sauna for an Optimal Experience

Over time, sauna attire has evolved from simple loincloths to tailored bathing suits and moisture-wicking athletic wear.

Swimwear in the sauna

A couple enjoying a sauna session, wearing swimwear for a relaxing sauna experience

While less authentic than going nude, wearing swimwear is a common way to meet public sauna dress codes.

For sauna swimwear, pick a well-fitted but loose design in lightweight, breathable fabrics. Cotton, nylon, and polyester blends work well. Avoid metal fasteners that can heat up. One-piece suits allow free movement.

Pros:

  • Provide coverage and modesty in co-ed saunas
  • Made from quick-drying synthetic fabrics designed for water
  • Protect sensitive areas from high heat

Cons:

  • Can feel restrictive during long sessions
  • Hold in bodily fluids and bacteria against the skin
  • Some materials like spandex may overheat

Towels for Sauna Etiquette and comfort

Woman wrapped in a towel enjoying the warmth of a sauna

Cotton towels are very absorbent but heat up faster. Microfiber towels stay cooler against the skin.

In nude saunas, towels are used for:

  • Sitting or lying on for hygiene, comfort, and to avoid burns on benches.
  • Covering up when walking to wash or cool down
  • Draping across the body for modesty

Using your own towel is more hygienic than sharing the provided ones.

Best Clothing Fabrics for Sauna Use

Choosing sauna wear made from natural, breathable fabrics maximizes air circulation and sweat release. Recommended materials include:

  • Cotton – Soft, absorbent, durable and washable. Allows evaporation.
  • Linen – Made from flax fibers, linen is lightweight and moisture-wicking.
  • Bamboo – Bamboo fabric has cooling antibacterial properties which is ideal for saunas.
  • Muslin – Lightweight cotton, which keeps skin dry.

Avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon, which can trap heat. Look for loose, light and airy sauna clothes, especially if the recommended sauna temperature for your targeted session is going to be very high.

Innovative new fabrics using nanotechnology promise enhanced temperature control and ventilation.

Sauna Clothing Choices for Men

Man in red swim trunks with a towel in a sauna

When selecting attire for the sauna, men have several comfortable and practical options to choose from. The goal is breathable, lightweight fabrics that allow sweat to evaporate while protecting the skin.

  • Boxers and briefs made of breathable cotton are ideal for absorbing sweat. Look for a loose, relaxed fit.
  • Gym shorts and swim trunks should be lightweight and quick-drying. Darker colors hide sweat stains. Elastic waistbands allow flexibility.
  • Lightweight shirts and tank tops help protect the chest from high heat while letting steam circulate. Choose loose, airy cuts.
  • Kilts are a great traditional option, allowing air to flow to the lower body freely. Select lightweight tartan or wool fabrics.

Sauna Clothing for Women: Fashion & Function

For women, the optimal sauna wardrobe combines style and functionality. The goal is to allow the skin to sweat freely while providing coverage.

  • One-piece swimsuits provide full coverage and freedom of movement. Look for racerback, halter or tank suit styles.
  • Two-piece bikinis should be conservatively cut for saunas. High-waisted bottoms stay put.
  • Wraps, dresses and skirts should be loose and light. Sarongs, kaftans, and maxi dresses allow airflow.
  • Lightweight tops like breathable tees, tanks and tunics protect the skin.
  • Spa robes and kimonos in soft terry cloth or lightweight cotton are ideal sauna cover-ups.
  • Sarongs and pareos can be wrapped in diverse styles for coverage and comfort.

Eco-Conscious Sauna Wear Choices

Sauna-goers concerned about ecological impact should choose sustainable, eco-friendly fabrics.

Recently, I’ve been exploring the world of sustainable sauna wear. Choosing a hemp-based robe was a small but meaningful step towards aligning my sauna practices with my environmental values, adding an extra layer of satisfaction to each session.

Sauna-goers can reduce their environmental impact by:

  • Seeking out biodegradablenatural and recycled materials like bamboo, soy, and sea cell fibers.
  • Choosing organic cottonhemp, or linen clothing, which have a lower footprint than synthetic fabrics.
  • Opting for sustainable fabrics like Tencel and Modal, which come from renewable wood sources.
  • Using non-toxic dyes for sauna suits, as conventional dyes contain harmful chemicals.
  • Minimizing attire to reduce laundry frequency, as fewer clothes equals less water and energy used.

With some thoughtful selections, sauna fans can relax guilt-free in eco-conscious comfort.

What to Wear in a Public Sauna- Global Sauna Dress Codes

Public sauna dress codes vary globally based on cultural outlooks on nudity.

  • Northern European nations like Finland and Germany tend to allow nude bathing in gender-segregated saunas.
  • In Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, swimsuits or towels are worn to cover up in mixed-gender hammams.
  • Japanese onsens prohibit swimwear, as it is considered unhygienic. Bathers must be naked, washing beforehand.
  • Korean jjimjilbang saunas provide loose-fitting outfits called basak for modesty.
  • Many American and British saunas mandate swimwear for both genders. Nudity is frowned upon.

What to Wear in a Sauna to Lose Weight

The detoxifying heat naturally boosts calorie burn and weight loss in a sauna. Making smart clothing choices can further enhance the sauna’s slimming and toning benefits.

  • Wear loose, lightweight, minimal attire that allows vigorous sweating to eliminate toxins.
  • Use sweat-absorbent towels and regularly change out of damp clothes to remove flushed-out toxins.
  • Rub essential oils like grapefruit, cypress or fennel on the skin – some studies find they may help reduce cellulite.
  • Stay well-hydrated by drinking electrolyte water before, during and after sessions.
  • Allow the body to fully cool down after sessions to maximize calorie burn through the thermogenic effect.

Sauna Accessories: Enhancing Your Experience

Assorted sauna hats hanging in a row, essential wear for a sauna session
Sauna hats

Small accessories can help you optimize comfort, convenience and enjoyment during a sauna session.

I recall a session where a fellow sauna-goer brought along a cedarwood headrest. The simplicity of this accessory, coupled with its aromatic contribution, completely transformed the ambiance. It’s these little touches that can elevate the sauna experience to new heights.

  • Headbands or sauna hats made of soft, absorbent fabric keep sweat and hair away from your face while protecting your head.
  • Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated before and after sessions. Glass or BPA-free plastic works well.
  • Seat cushions provide padding on hard sauna benches for comfort and hygiene.
  • Wear a Robe or cover-up to wear before and after the sauna for modesty and comfort.
  • Slip-resistant sandals or flip-flops protect feet when walking to cool-off areas.
  • Tech wearables like fitness trackers monitor heart rate, calories burned, and workout benefits.
  • Water bucket and ladle for pouring water on the sauna rocks to increase humidity.
  • Sauna whisk not just for that skin massage and blood circulation but also to feel relaxed with it’s gentle aroma.
  • Aromatherapy oils with menthol, eucalyptus or lavender create a relaxing, spa-like vibe.
  • Reading materials like magazines or books provide entertainment during long sessions.
  • Sunglasses can be worn if using an outdoor sauna.
  • Portable speaker with relaxing music or podcasts.

What Not to Wear: Avoiding Sauna Fashion Faux Pas

Along with selecting what to wear in a sauna, being aware of what not to wear is crucial for preserving etiquette, comfort, cleanliness, and safety.

On a particularly steamy afternoon, I once made the mistake of wearing a synthetic t-shirt in the sauna. The discomfort was immediate and eye-opening, leading me to deeply appreciate the virtues of natural, breathable fabrics like cotton and linen.

Items to steer clear of when using a sauna include:

  • Tight, restrictive clothing prevents sweating and causes discomfort and overheating. This includes shapewear, compression wear, skinny jeans, and clingy dresses.
  • Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and spandex. They can trap heat and sweat against the skin.
  • Metal fasteners in swimsuits can get very hot and burn skin.
  • Heavy sweat suits and workout clothes hold sweat and bacteria against the skin, remaining damp and unhygienic.
  • Street shoes, socks, and dirty clothes bring germs into the sauna space. Always wear clean attire.
  • Jewelry like rings, bracelets, watches and metal necklaces can heat up and burn skin.
  • Makeup, including Lotions, creams and oils clog pores and trap heat instead of allowing the skin to sweat freely.
  • Strong perfumes and deodorants have overpowering scents that may disturb other sauna users in an enclosed space.

Being mindful of unsuitable fabrics and accessories makes for a more pleasant sauna experience.

Sauna Etiquette and Attire: Respecting Norms and Comfort

Man rinsing off in a shower before entering the sauna, highlighting a key pre-sauna ritual for hygiene
Pre-sauna shower

Proper sauna etiquette ensures all guests have a pleasant, comfortable experience. This includes respecting privacy, maintaining cleanliness, and avoiding behaviors that could disturb others.

  • Never wear swimwear in cultures that require nudity. When in Rome, do as the Romans do!
  • Be mindful of privacy – cover up with a towel when moving around if nude. Face away when changing.
  • Always shower before sauna to rinse off dirt, sweat and oils.
  • Sit or lie on a towel for hygiene and prevent contact with benches.
  • Avoid strong scents from heavy perfumes, oils, etc.
  • Be courteous of other patrons – keep noise levels low, and don’t drizzle water on hot rocks too frequently if others are present.

Following basic sauna rules makes the experience enjoyable for everyone.

Preparing for Sauna Session

Essential items for a sauna session including a robe, towel, water bottle, and slippers neatly arranged on a bench
Gathering sauna necessities

Before picking out what to wear for your sauna visit, brushing up on some essential sauna usage tips is a good idea. Being well-prepared before a sauna session helps ensure a safe and comfortable experience. 

  • Gather necessities like a towel, robe, sandals, headband, water bottle. Having everything ready avoids hassles later.
  • Shower thoroughly before the sauna to wash off dirt, sweat and body lotions that can clog pores.
  • Hydrate by drinking 16-20 oz. of cool water 30 minutes prior. Avoid alcohol before saunas, which causes dehydration.
  • Use the restroom to empty the bladder – sweating releases excess fluids.
  • Tie up long hair to keep your neck sweat-free.
  • Remove makeup to allow the skin to breathe and sweat freely.

Taking time to fully prepare allows sauna-goers to relax and gain the full benefits.

FAQs About What To Wear In A Sauna

Which fabric is best for sauna wear?

Natural, breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, or bamboo are best for sauna wear.
They let your skin breathe and sweat easily, which is great for detoxification in a sauna.
Try to avoid synthetic fabrics; they’re known to trap heat and limit natural sweating.

Should I avoid wearing jewelry in a sauna?

Definitely avoid wearing jewelry in a sauna.
Metals in jewelry can get hot quickly, leading to discomfort or even burns.
For safety and comfort, it’s wise to remove all jewelry before entering a sauna.

How does sauna attire vary globally?

Sauna attire changes a lot from one culture to another.
In Nordic countries, for example, people often go nude in saunas, while in the U.S. and many other places, wearing swimwear or towels is more usual.
Always check and respect the local sauna customs wherever you are.

Is it necessary to bring a towel to a sauna?

Bringing a towel to a sauna is highly recommended for both hygiene and comfort.
A towel serves multiple purposes: it provides a clean surface to sit or lie on, can be used for modesty in communal areas, and helps manage sweat.
In many cultures and sauna facilities, using a towel is a part of essential sauna etiquette.

Why is loose-fitting clothing important in a sauna?

Loose clothing is important in a sauna because it allows air to circulate better and helps prevent overheating.
While some might prefer tighter clothes for quicker sweat evaporation, loose cotton garments are often the most comfortable and practical choice.

How can sauna attire aid in weight loss?

Choosing the right sauna attire, especially loose and lightweight clothes, can boost your sweating.
This increased sweating aids in detoxification, which can play a role in weight loss.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when choosing sauna attire?

When choosing sauna attire, avoid tight clothing, as it can hinder sweating and movement.
Opt for natural fabrics over synthetics like polyester to prevent discomfort from trapped heat.
Prioritize personal comfort and hygiene, and be mindful of the sauna’s cultural and etiquette rules to ensure a pleasant experience.

Conclusion

Choosing suitable attire is key to an optimal sauna experience. With the right sauna gear, you can relax and rejuvenate in the soothing dry heat.

  • Respect cultural traditions about nudity and swimwear.
  • Select lightweight, breathable natural fabrics that allow sweat release.
  • Avoid tight or unbreathable clothes that overheat.
  • Choose eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton, hemp and bamboo.
  • Accessorize for comfort with slippers, headbands, water bottles, and so much more.

Follow these sauna attire tips to ensure an optimal, safe and healthy sauna experience while being respectful of local traditions.

Now that you are an expert in choosing the most appropriate attire for the sauna, it’s time to learn about the ideal sauna duration to get maximum benefits.


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