Summer may be winding down, but it sure as hell doesn't feel like it for many of us. Our morning commutes have officially become pretty miserable now that we’ve entered the tail end of the season; it’s easy to go from cool, calm, and collected to a big ol’ sweaty mess the minute we leave the chilly cocoons of our air-conditioning. Doesn't seem like the perfect time to write about visiting a sauna, right? Wrong. Because apparently, sweat is amazing for your skin in a pore-purging, get-glowy kind of way. When we sweat, our pores expand, loosening and softening up the dirt and gunk residing inside, which makes it easier to coax out blackheads and the like. Hence why steam is the first thing most aestheticians use during a facial. It's also why saunas can make you feel and look like a whole new person when you emerge. But according to the ladies at Higher Dose, a new holistic day spa founded by Katie Kaps and Lauren Berlingeri, all sweat isn't created equal. Case in point: the infrared sauna. These special saunas operate differently from the traditional ones because "unlike traditional (hot-rock or steam) saunas, which operate in excess of 200°F, infrared heat has the benefit of being effective at a more comfortable operating temperature of 100 to 150°F,” Kaps tells me; which is why the typical sweat session at Higher Dose is around an hour rather than the standard 10 to 15 minutes. Unlike a lot of today's hottest beauty treatments, infrared heat is more than just a passing fad. The technology, which originated in Japan, has been used stateside for over 50 years and is actually used to heat the incubators of newborn babies — meaning, it's most certainly safe.
So when I had the chance to sweat it out for myself, I jumped at the opportunity. Higher Dose is a zen oasis smack in the middle of New York City’s Lower East Side. Each sauna — the spa has three in total — is located in its own room, which means you can sweat in total peace. Keeping with the modern theme, each room has a chic, minimalist design and comes equipped with an auxiliary cord so you can listen to your favorite tunes and remote control so you can pick your own mood lighting.
As soon as Didi, the spa manager, explained to me how to work the timer and handed me a few towels, I quickly stripped down to my bathing suit, put on Ego Death, flipped on the blue light (which promotes relaxation), and settled in. Five minutes in, and I was drenched in sweat — even my HIIT workouts don’t make me sweat that fast. After 20 minutes, I had soaked my bathing suit. Per Didi’s instructions, I made sure to stay hydrated through the session and took constant swigs of my alkaline water. Once I adjusted, the time started to go by a lot quicker. By the end of the session, beads of sweat were rapidly falling from every inch of my body — but oddly enough, I didn't have that nauseous about-to-faint feeling I typically get from waiting on the sizzling subway platform for longer than two minutes. Maybe it was the whole "heating your body from the inside" thing that made it more bearable. Or maybe it was not being surrounded by hordes of agitated, surly New Yorkers all late for work. After toweling off — there currently aren’t any showers at Higher Dose, so you probably don’t want to do this right before a Tinder date — I made sure to swipe my face with a makeup wipe before heading out. Since all that sweating expands your pores and forces everything hiding in there to the surface, you want to make sure to cleanse your face as quickly as possible. When I got home, the first thing I noticed was how bright my face looked — it had a subtle flush that made it appear like it was lit from the inside. The next morning when I woke up, my skin looked not only glowier but smoother — so much so that I decided to face the day Skin Tint free. At $65 a session — which is actually cheaper than your average facial in NYC — I will definitely be visiting Higher Dose again. Not only did it make my face shine bright, but the soreness I had from a workout earlier in the week actually eased up, too. Anything that makes my skin look better in just one session and allows me to rock out in peace to my own music for an hour is a no-brainer in my book.