Glow Bar infrared sauna – I feel like a showerhead on its most diffuse jet setting | Life and style

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I can’t stand saunas. I mean this literally: I cannot stand the heat for more than a few minutes. I feel as if I am going to die. Steam rooms are even more intolerable, like poaching in one’s own juices. In fact, I actively avoid any situation involving small talk with hot, naked strangers. I once watched a Viggo Mortensen film in which he got ambushed in a Turkish bath and had to fight for his life with his Captain Fantastic flapping about, and I am scarred for ever.

I am also unnerved about lying down in 100C, the boiling point of what two-thirds of my body is made of. This is why I am interested in the idea of infrared saunas, the theory being that this electromagnetic radiation penetrates the skin more deeply than hot air can, stimulating sweat glands more effectively at a lower temperature. The difference between traditional and infrared saunas sounds like the difference between roasting a pork belly in a hot oven or zapping it in the microwave, and I know which I would prefer. Infra me! They’ve all got it infra me.

I have come to Glow Bar, a self-care space in central London, to have a go. Inside, it is all pink walls and green leaves, like being inside a healthy colon, if more relaxing. I stride purposefully past the adaptogen-spiked lattes and super-infused moon milks, and the “bros” and “babes” changing areas, to the dedicated infrared sauna downstairs. To my antisocial delight, this comprises private cabins housing small, glass-fronted pods. You can’t lie down in them, but there are speakers, so you can listen to podcasts. That is all the company I want.

I put on a podcast and settle myself on the pale wood. I am being cooked from all sides by invisible light … and it is soothing. Malcolm Gladwell is on the speakers, trying to convince me that country music is the best genre, his most implausible theory yet. It is comfortably warm – the temperature is set to 45C – and almost immediately I begin to glow. My skin is that of an Instagram influencer. Maybe this is what I look like now. Maybe I am glamorous.

Whole-body thermotherapies rely on heat stress, which causes sweating, exercising the body’s temperature-regulation mechanisms and making the heart work harder. The detoxing effects of a sauna, traditional or infrared, are probably overstated, the kidneys and liver being your go-to guys for that. That said, any sauna activity, four or five times a week, is reported to have some benefits for the metabolism, skin and lungs and to deliver high levels of relaxation and relief from cold symptoms. Researchers are persuaded by the benefits for heart health, too. All in all, saunas do sort you out on some level.

After 10 minutes, I get ambitious and crank up the heat to 50C. My glow turns to flow as the sweat starts to run. I feel like a showerhead on its most diffuse jet setting. The sensation is compelling. I increase the heat to 65C and soon there is a force field of sweat surrounding every inch of my skin. Sweat drips off my eyelashes, puddling in my belly button. If it weren’t for the towel, I wouldn’t be able to sit in one place – I would be aquaplaning up the walls.

After a shower, I feel somehow stoned and revived. There is no sign of the cold I have had for weeks. I didn’t die; in fact, I had a lovely time. At £40 for a 45-minute session, the only thing prettier than the decor is the price. Four of these a week would kill your wallet. Also, being a sauna novice, did I fail to rehydrate properly? Did I overexert myself with a cold and spend two subsequent days in bed, looking all crumpled, like a date? I didn’t put it on Instagram, so who is to say. Still, as far as this trend goes, I advise you to walk towards the light.

Bleakest mental image of the week

Infrared saunas are not recognised by the International Sauna Association. Imagine their annual meetups. Do they wear national-flag towels and sign decrees in commingled international sweat?

Wellness or hellness?

Touched by the invisible and radiant, I am a born-again sauna man. 4/5

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