Why is it that we Americans think naked is dirty? Is it our Puritanical history? Our consumerist culture? Or the years of repression of our sexual urges by Hollywood censors? Why else would there so many forums and books written about our collective hang-ups being naked with friends, family or strangers, and especially those of our own gender it makes you think that Tobias Fünke had it right…
Naked is the best way to enjoy a sauna, steam bath, or hot tub. That’s not just my opinion. Millions of Finns, Germans, Swedes, Russians, Koreans and Japanese feel that way too. It’s also a proven fact for a number of reasons:
Your skin is your largest organ. It is the first line of defense protecting your body from harm. One of the weapons at its disposal is the lowly sweat gland. The sweat gland produces a clear secretion that is mostly water, but contains some electrolytes (like salt) and waste products, and discharges it directly on the surface of the skin.
Sweat serves three purposes: Cooling, by the water in the sweat evaporating; Protection, since the water dilutes contaminants that contact your skin and the salt kills microorganisms that try to grow on it; and Excretion as certain toxins in your body are most efficiently eliminated through sweat. Using a sauna or other heat bath exercises your skin. Isn’t it best to do it as nature intended?
It’s not your skin, it’s your clothes that are dirty. Fabric of any kind is a very good filter. It captures and holds some of everything it comes into contact with. It starts with the fibers themselves, especially synthetic fibers, dyes, detergent, bleach, fabric softeners, chlorine from the pool, airborne pollutants, perfumes plus any microorganisms that the fibers come into contact with all stay trapped in your clothes. Now, as you start to sweat, the fabric against your body traps that sweat preventing it from migrating away. All that other junk trapped in your fabic becomes mobile in the water and trapped against your skin. Your skin can act as a two-way street for that junk in the same way it can for “patch” medicines.
If you’ve ever had to maintain a hot tub, you know what I’m talking about… Body film clearing enzymes, anti-foaming agents, scum removers… all of these are to deal with the contaminants mostly trapped in our swimsuits.
Chlorine and Bromine vapors are irritants to your eyes, mucous membranes, and respiratory tract. Chlorine and Bromine are commonly dissolved in water as a disinfectants to keep public pools clean. However, when you heat water, these compounds want to become vapors. The amount of Chlorine that water will hold decreases by a factor of 7 from swimming pool temperatures of 75°F / 24°C to sauna temperatures of 200°F / 93°C while the tendency for Chlorine to vaporize increases by a factor of 6! Exposure to low levels of Chlorine or Bromine gas can cause irritation to your eyes, and the mucous membranes in your throat and lungs. You may not be susceptible to these irritants, but the stuff coming off your swimsuit may be a hazard to your fellow sauna-goers’ health. (If you miss P-Chem, there are some charts here.)
Heat is transferred to your body more efficiently. Much of the heat that you feel in the sauna comes from IR radiation. IR is light. The more of your body it can see, the more heat that you feel transferred to your body. Something thin like a swimsuit gets in the way of the light and cuts down on the heat that reaches you. Something thicker like a towel or robe cuts down on the heat you receive more dramatically.
Of course, there are some rules of etiquette to be followed:
This doesn’t mean you sit bare-assed on the benches! Unless they are your benches. Sit on a towel, please. If you’re going to lay down, bring a big enough towel for you. If you’re going to sit on the upper benches, put a towel under your feet too. Look at the photo with this post, and you will see that these two sauna goers have their benches completely covered. I don’t want to sit on your sweat stain when I get into the sauna, and I’d bet you don’t want to sit on mine either. This goes for any other places you might sit while naked, save one.
Leave your cell phone in your locker! Most cell phones have cameras on them these days. I don’t care how important your e-mail, text message, or friend request on Facebook is, but it can wait until you’re in a place where people are fully dressed. Most cell phones have cameras on them these days. When you start playing with a cell phone somewhere where I’m naked, I assume you’re taking a picture of my junk. I don’t like that.
The sauna is a place to relax and cleanse yourself. Why are you polluting your (and my) experience by pulling out your crackberry.
So, the next time you’re at a sauna, steam room or hot tub where you can let it out, do it. You’ll feel better and it’s better for your body too.
Check our database for a full listing of places where you can take your sauna naked. Here are a few examples.