Water is the essence of a spa and steam baths are a big part of that. Traditionally, whether Turkish, North African, Scandinavian or Roman, spas included some element of steam -- its soothing and muscle-relaxing properties have always been valued.
What is a steam room?
A steam room is exactly what it sounds like: a room full of steam. From the suite of grotto-like chambers and steaming pools of a full-size Turkish hammam, steam rooms vary a great deal.
In some smaller steam rooms, you will sit down in a tiled chamber/room and relax while the hot wet steam oozes over you; you're wise only to stay for about 15 minutes as the heat is quite intense. In others, the term refers to suites of steam rooms and hydrotherapy pools where you can stay all day in warehouse-sized baths with lots of rooms and pools, offering different temperatures and types of water and steam, promising different benefits.
The heat can be very wet and sensuous. Some steam rooms are more like saunas, in that the heat is not so wet. Aroma grottos or Tropicariums are mildly-heated tiled steam rooms in which a scented oil such as eucalyptus or lavender is added to the steam to help you breathe more easily.
In many steam rooms, you have a degree of control over the temperature and intensity of the steam by using a panel or tap in the room. You can usually sit or lie down in a steam room in tiled alcoves.
What are the health benefits of a steam room?
Relaxing and refreshing, a steam room is said to be great for your health - drawing out toxins while soothing weary or aching muscles and aiding joint pain. The moist heat is also great for sinuses and, along with sauna use, it is reported to be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Heat therapy is often used as a pre-workout warm-up.
Before you go
If you're going to use a steam room, it's worth finding out beforehand what you're expected to wear; some spas offer single-sex facilities and you're encouraged or welcome to be naked; in others you'll be expected to wear a swimming costume; some spas will provide towels for you to wear.
Don't use a steam room if you:
are, or think you might be, pregnant
have a history of heart or respiratory problems
have problems with your circulation
have diabetes or an infection
have any other medical condition, or are receiving treatment of any kind
have had any alcohol
have a fever.
Steam rooms are not good for young children and some older people. If you’re in any doubt, check with you GP.
Watch the time! Fifteen minutes is the maximum time advised for some steam rooms, particularly if you're going in as part of a mud treatment. Listen to your body, only stay as long as you are comfortable.
If you're booked in for a facial use the steam room ahead of your treatment to open your pores.
Cool off under a cold shower or rub ice all over your skin to bring your body temperature back down from being very hot. This combination of hot and cold it thought to boost your circulation and has been tried and tested by the Swedes for years.
Drink plenty of water so you don’t get dehydrated; you'll sweat a lot, and at the same time as you're sweating and cleansing your skin, you'll also be losing fluid.