What to Wear in a Sauna

4 July 2024

When it comes to relaxing after an intense workout or sweating out all that unwanted work stress over a long-awaited spa weekend, there are few better ways to do so than with a dedicated trip to the nearest sauna.

Blending a calming atmosphere of quiet contemplation and conversation with the kind of sweat-inducing heat that’s guaranteed to flush out all your blocked pores, saunas are great for improving your physical and mental well-being – shielding you from the hectic, busy nature of the outside world, if only for a short while.

However, if you’ve never used this sort of spa facility before, then you might be unsure exactly what to wear in a sauna; do you need a full bathing suit, or should you be going ‘au naturel’ like they often do on the continent?

If this sounds like you, then don’t worry, we have all the information you need to know about sauna clothes, including tips for both men and women, as well as advice on what else you might want to bring to a sauna to get the most out of your trip.

What is appropriate sauna etiquette?

Before we get started on what sort of sauna wear is and isn’t appropriate when using this type of specialist spa room, it’s important to first touch on common sauna etiquette so you know what’s expected by others when using something like a public sauna for the first time.

To start with, saunas, in general, tend to be shared spaces, meaning you’ll almost certainly be sharing the room with someone else for the duration of your sweat. Therefore, to ensure that all present can benefit from the relaxing atmosphere of a sauna space, music and loud conversation are a no, as is working out in any form.

On top of this, you cannot simply walk into a sauna and sit down in your outdoor clothes (not that you’d want to do that anyway), and the appropriate sauna clothes are required before entering. This also includes a restriction on entering the sauna barefoot, as most sauna spaces do not allow any form of footwear to be worn inside for hygiene reasons.

Finally, all sauna users are expected to shower before entering to remove any dust and dirt they may have picked up earlier in the day. Again, saunas need to be kept as hygienic as possible to avoid the spread of bacteria, and showering before their use can help minimise the potential for this.

What should you wear in a sauna?

Ok, with sauna etiquette out of the way, we can now finally turn our attention towards what to wear in a sauna. And for all of your nervous readers out there fearing that you may have to step in the sauna in the nude, don’t worry, you can breathe a sigh of relief!

Unlike in Scandinavia or other European countries where saunas are popular, here in the UK, the universal rule tends to be that all sauna users are required to wear appropriate sauna clothes in order to retain a respectable level of modesty (though some spas may indeed have areas that allow users to sweat without any clothes on).

However, what qualifies as appropriate sauna clothes can be rather specific. After all, you ideally want to wear something that you’ll feel comfortable in while also allowing your skin to breathe and sweat fully so you get the most out of the experience. Thus, clothing made of natural fibres, such as cotton, is highly recommended.

What should men wear in a sauna?

When it comes to what men should wear in a sauna, their options are quite simple. Knee-length swimming trunks are generally considered the norm, though a simple cotton towel around the waist may also be fine, depending on the rules of the sauna you’re using.

Alongside this, men can also wear a t-shirt or tank top if they want an added degree of modesty in front of the other sauna users. As mentioned above, whatever you wear should ideally be made from natural fibres for enhanced breathability.

What should women wear in a sauna?

As for what women should wear in a sauna, the most commonly suggested piece of sauna wear is a full bathing suit, rather than something more open and flexible like a bikini. This is because swimsuits are generally considered more comfortable to wear in a sauna environment, while bikinis may become uncomfortable under higher heat levels.

Of course, if you’re unsure about the idea of wearing a swimsuit for the duration of your sweat, then a sauna-friendly spa gown is also fine, as it will soak up your sweat in the same manner as a towel, helping to reduce bacterial spread.

What sauna wear is suitable for sauna use?

While you might assume that all swimwear can qualify for use as sauna wear, as we’ve just highlighted, this is generally not considered the case due to the high heat levels present in a sauna environment.

For example, swimwear made of PVC or synthetic fibres is always best avoided as they not only reduce your ability to sweat but also have the potential to melt, creating toxic fumes that should not be inhaled and potentially burning your skin should it come into contact with the affected area.

On top of this, any swimwear with metal on it should be avoided as well, so you don’t accidentally burn yourself, and all forms of metal jewellery should be removed before entering for the same reason.

Finally, tight clothes of any kind are considered a poor choice as they will likely get uncomfortable to wear as you sweat, and all makeup should be removed before you use a sauna to prevent it from mingling with your sweat and blocking your pores.

What to wear in a sauna at the gym?

For the most part, gym saunas are considered similar to public saunas, so the same rules will usually apply to what you can and can’t wear while using them. However, some gym saunas may have specific rules that come with their use, so it’s best to check before using them if you’re unsure.

Should you cover your hair in a sauna?

Although not a requirement when using any sauna, you may find that covering your hair with a towel or a sauna cap for the duration of your sweat can help protect it from damage.

This is especially true if you’re using a dry sauna, where the dry air will dry out your hair temporarily and likely cause it to frizz up. On the other hand, if you’re using a wet sauna, then covering your hair may not be necessary due to the level of moisture in the air.

What else should you bring to a sauna?

Finally, before we wrap up, let’s look at what else you might want to bring to a sauna to get the most out of your visit. None of what we’ve listed below are particularly bulky, but they’ll almost certainly improve your sauna experience:

  • Water (in a plastic bottle) – for staying hydrated while using the sauna.
  • A hair tie – so you can keep sweaty hair out of your face and off your neck.
  • Reading material – so you have something to do besides sit and think while you’re in there.
  • A cotton towel – to sit on while you relax so that you don’t touch the bench.
  • A spare change of clothes – while you could wear the clothes you arrived at the spa with, as with swimming, nothing quite completes a sauna experience like slipping on a fresh pair of clothes once you’re out of the box and showered.

Invest in your own sauna with Helka

And there you have it; that’s everything you need to know when it comes to sauna etiquette and what to wear when visiting a sauna in the UK. Naturally, the rules might differ when you’re on the continent, but experiencing a sauna the ‘natural’ way is just part of the holiday experience.

Of course, if you visit a sauna after reading this guide and get the sauna bug, then you might want to consider investing in one of our premium home saunas for use whenever you want.

Made from natural materials in a traditional Baltic sauna style, our saunas are perfect for those who want to enjoy a private sauna relaxation experience from the comfort of their own homes.

Get in touch with our expert staff today for more information on our barrel saunas and infrared cubes, and don’t forget to visit our blog for more informative guides like this one.



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