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Steam Room Fashion: What to Wear

The world of fashion gets surprisingly controversial regarding steam room attire. Some consider any clothing in a sauna or steam room to be the ultimate faux pas, especially in some European countries like Finland.  

In fact, Finns and other Nordic people are usually very comfortable nude in a public steam room. CEOs are known to be naked when joining staff members in the company sauna.  

In America, however, the debate about proper attire is a little more diverse, as some public spa steam rooms allow nudity while others require clothing.  

When it comes to what to wear, there are no set rules or commonly followed practices in these cases, but rather a range of guidelines to appeal to the many cultures that call the U.S. home.  

That said, although different cultures have different rules, some hard-and-fast principles about public steam room attire exist. It begins with understanding the difference between steam rooms and saunas. 


Steam Rooms vs. Saunas  

First and foremost, you should be aware of some critical differences between steam showers and saunas. Although both may help you lose weight and improve your well-being, their purposes differ.  

First, the construction is different between the two systems: a sauna is traditionally constructed from cedar or spruce wood. In contrast, steam rooms are often built from marble or ceramic tiles.  

Most saunas use dry heat with wood, creating fertile ground for germs and bacteria to multiply. An alternative, infrared saunas, uses light to heat your body directly without heating the air around you. 

Steam rooms improve health with humid heat. Unlike a sauna, the benefits of steam room moisture include: 

  • Improve circulation  
  • Lower blood pressure  
  • Clear congestion  
  • Burn calories

Gym Steam Room Attire vs. Spa Steam Room Attire  

Gym steam rooms are a different setting than spa steam rooms.

As a result, appropriate attire differs between gym and spa steam rooms.  

For instance, the gym is more for people who have finished working out or preparing to work out. In these cases, you are more likely to be required to wear at least a towel. On the other hand, a spa is for people trying to relax and rejuvenate, so nudity is more common.  

Use the Right Footwear 

Never enter a steam shower wearing shoes you regularly use for walking. This can spread germs and bacteria, as more than 420,000 bacteria have been discovered outside of shoes — not to mention the 2,887 on the inside! 

Instead, wear appropriate footwear such as a pair of slip-ons, sandals, or crocs used only in the steam room. Using flip flops in a steam room is not good enough or acceptable if you’ve used them outside. 

Beware Swimsuits  

There is such a thing as having the wrong material in your swimsuit, which may have harmful consequences. Take, for instance, swimsuits that have dangling metal on them. These pieces can get hot, causing your skin to burn when it comes in contact.   

Some bathing suit materials, like PVC, can cause your skin not to breathe properly. That reduces the benefits you may gain from your sessions.  

Cotton Is Your Friend 

Natural fabrics like cotton stands above the rest of the many materials that work well in a steam room. Cotton absorbs excess heat waves, allowing your skin to breathe properly. Just another example of how proper steam room attire can make all the difference in your experience.  

That said, even cotton material won’t be your friend if it’s tight-fitting like underwear and bras. Cotton bras can be acceptable in some cases. However, they should be breathable and loose-fitting.  


Don’t Forget to Bring a Towel 

Even if you plan to be nude in the warm area of a steam room, you should lay down a towel. This will help you stay comfortable during your session so your skin isn’t directly touching the seat. The environment can get quite hot, so you want to avoid exposing bare skin when possible.  

Another benefit of having a towel to lay under you is that it prevents the spread of germs through other people’s sweat. It acts as a protective barrier between you and those sitting in your seat before you.  

on Going Nude in a steam room  

When in doubt, there is always a reliable mantra to live by when getting in a steam shower. As steam bath connoisseur Martha Orellana puts it, “no attire is good attire when you are in a spa with no restrictions. For an effective steam bath, less is more.”   

The less is more mantra extends to everything on the skin, so removing everything from your makeup and lotions to your jewelry and glasses is advisable.  

The above steam room etiquette tips will create a relaxing and refreshing steam session. And it’s an etiquette you can take with you no matter where you are — public or private.  

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Topics: Benefits of Steam, Health & Wellness