SAUNA IN THE SPA: trends and new technologies

The sauna environment is experiencing a real revolution thanks to new technologies and innovative design. New saunas offer increasingly comfortable, personalised and engaging experiences. Caution though! Design and business planning should be entrusted to experts.

In Europe, and many parts of the world in general, it is now common to spend part of the year in a SPA or wellness centre, taking advantage of packages that combine relaxation, massages, sometimes combined with food and beverage appointments or wellness itineraries that stimulate guests, make them feel cared for, pampered and bring economic benefits to the SPA. This is also why figures such as the Spa Operator, the Aufgussmeister or specialised spa design and management teams are essential today. Clients are aware of what is new in the wellness world, either through personal experience or word of mouth, and expect to experience unique moments. The sauna is certainly one of the most highly valued and trendy SPA environments.

Sauna Tradition

The first historical records of sauna environments date back to 12th century Finland, but the use of heat baths can be traced back to customs with even deeper roots. Many cultures worldwide have developed this knowledge and created environments dedicated to relaxation and health, often combined with purification rituals. For example, the construction of sweat lodges was a common practice among many pre-Columbian populations in North and Central America. The ancient Romans developed and spread a true spa culture in which the alternation of immersion in hot (calidarium) and cold (frigidarium) pools of water in many ways resembled the sauna experience. Similar customs were widespread in the Middle East, Russia and Japan. It was probably from these areas that the Finns imported the custom of the heat bath and developed it into what is now known worldwide as the Finnish sauna.

The benefits

The warm environment promotes relaxation, purification and well-being of body and mind. Today, the benefits of the sauna have been greatly enhanced, mainly by introducing new technologies, new ways of experiencing it and welcoming, inviting design choices that amplify its pleasantness, transforming this environment into a modern, sophisticated space that offers personalised experiences of well-being and socialisation.

  • Detoxification: the intense heat of the sauna induces sweating, which helps the body to eliminate toxins and impurities.
  • Muscle relaxation: the heat helps to relax muscles and relieve tension and joint pain.
  • Improved circulation: the alternation of hot and cold, typical of sauna use, stimulates blood circulation and enhances oxygenation of tissues.
  • Stress reduction: saunas promote relaxation and stress reduction combining heat, silence and often a natural environment.

Types of saunas

There are different types of saunas, each with its own characteristics and benefits. Here are the most common:

1. Finnish sauna: This is the most common and traditional type of sauna. It is characterised by a warm and dry environment, with temperatures of up to 90-100 degrees Celsius. The walls are lined with wood, often fir or pine, and the hot stones are sprayed with water to create steam.

2. Infrared sauna: This type of sauna uses infrared lamps to heat the body directly, without heating the surrounding air. Temperatures are lower than in a Finnish sauna, but the penetration of infrared rays can promote sweating and provide health benefits such as relief from muscle pain.

3. Steam sauna: better known as a Turkish bath or hammam, the steam sauna is characterised by a hot and humid environment. Temperatures are generally lower than in a Finnish sauna, but humidity can be very high.

4. Smoke sauna: This type of sauna is typical of Nordic cultures (such as the traditional Sami sauna). Instead of using a stove or hot stones, the smoke sauna uses a fire outside the building to heat the walls. When the walls are well heated, the smoke is removed, and the sauna is ready for use. The environment inside is warm and smoky.

5. Mobile sauna: This is a sauna environment designed to be transported and used in different locations. It can be a sauna on wheels or a dismountable structure.

6. Panoramic saunas: very popular today, these saunas are appreciated for their breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside or for their ‘immersion’ effect in the surrounding nature, thanks to panoramic windows and skilful planning and design.

When designing a sauna, it is very important to consider which type to include depending on the experience you want to offer your audience. This is because not all the above activities are suitable for every sauna environment: each requires specific spaces, temperatures, lighting and essences, as well as the possible presence of specialised trainers.

Designing a sauna in a SPA

The design phase of a sauna in a SPA is crucial in ensuring an optimal wellness experience for the target clientele. A careful design takes into account various aspects such as available space, capacity, materials, ventilation, environment, staff and equipment required.

A well-designed sauna helps to create a relaxing and rejuvenating environment and contributes to raising the level of SPA services.
An important detail is the capacity of the sauna: it is necessary to determine how many people can use it at the same time and to ensure that the space can comfortably accommodate all guests.

The choice of materials is another important aspect. The materials used must guarantee good heat resistance and hygiene, but they must also help to create a warm, cosy atmosphere that is in harmony with the SPA environment and landscape. Ventilation is another important consideration to ensure that the air in the sauna has the right temperature/dryness/humidity balance and is free of unpleasant odours.

Then come all the other elements that make up a pleasant sauna experience: benches, lighting, remote control of temperature and humidity, water supply system for aromas, sounds, etc.

New frontiers: technology and design

Technological innovations include advanced control systems that allow temperature, humidity and lighting to be adjusted to suit different user needs. Some saunas are also equipped with integrated touch screens allowing the user to select personalised programmes and enhance the desired experience. For example, some saunas have aromatherapy programmes that diffuse essential oils to enhance the relaxing or rejuvenating atmosphere. Others are equipped with integrated sound systems to play music or relaxing melodies during the sauna session.

When it comes to design, modern saunas are characterised by clean, minimalist lines combined with high-quality materials such as glass and wood, which are used to create elegant and comfortable environments. Where possible, saunas are designed to blend in with their surroundings by using glass windows that offer panoramic views of nature.

Sauna experience

The Aufguss is undoubtedly the most popular sauna ceremony today. However, other practices can be experienced in the sauna to enhance the experience, benefits and relaxation. Here are a few examples:

1. Exfoliation: before entering the sauna, body exfoliation can be performed in a specially designed room opposite the sauna to remove dead cells, improve blood circulation and better enjoy the effects of the sauna.

2. Face masks: while you are in the sauna, you can apply a face mask (e.g. clay-based or with natural ingredients) to moisturise and purify the skin.

3. Massage: while in the sauna, you can opt for a guided, relaxing self-massage to complete the experience or, immediately after the sauna, you can treat yourself to a massage to relieve muscle tension.

4. Yoga or meditation: Practicing yoga in the sauna can be a unique and beneficial experience for both body and mind. It is an increasingly popular practice, but it is important to follow a few simple rules and to rely on the guidance of a trained teacher.

Why invest in the sauna to grow your SPA business

Today, the benefits of the sauna have been greatly enhanced by introducing new technologies, new ways of experiencing it and welcoming, inviting design choices that enhance its pleasantness, transforming this environment into a modern and sophisticated space that offers personalised wellness experiences. This is why the sauna is a powerful ally in growing the business of SPA and wellness centres. Let’s discover why together:

  1. Saunas attract people all year round. They are not too dependent on seasonality, so their revenue potential is considerable.
  2. The sauna is considered to be an ally of health, which is very important given the great emphasis placed on prevention and wellness in today’s society.
  3. Integrating the sauna with other services (e.g. food & beverage) opens new opportunities for growth and customer satisfaction.
  4. Once installed, saunas require little maintenance and, if well managed, provide high returns.
  5. The sauna is known worldwide as a place of tradition and well-being. Its potential for activity is therefore considerable.

Designing and implementing a profitable sauna environment that meets modern requirements is not easy and requires the intervention of professionals who can follow the investment through all its phases: architecture, functions, technical solutions, management, etc.