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Sauna vs. Spa: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 17, 2024
A sauna is a small room or house designed for experiencing dry or wet heat sessions, while a spa is a place offering health and beauty treatments through water-based therapies.

Key Differences

A sauna is traditionally a wood-lined room heated to high temperatures, where individuals sit to sweat for health benefits. In contrast, a spa is a facility offering a range of treatments like massages, facials, and hydrotherapy, often associated with relaxation and rejuvenation.
Saunas typically focus on the use of dry heat, occasionally augmented with steam, to promote sweating, detoxification, and relaxation of muscles. Spas, however, offer a broader range of services including hot tubs, steam baths, and therapeutic treatments, emphasizing overall wellness and beauty.
The experience in a sauna is generally more private and introspective, often enjoyed in silence or with quiet conversation. A spa experience is more varied, potentially communal, involving interactions with therapists and a variety of treatments.
Maintenance and setup of a sauna involve managing heat sources and ensuring a properly insulated room. Spas require a more complex setup, with facilities for various treatments, including specialized equipment for water therapy, massage tables, and skincare facilities.
The cultural roots of the sauna can be traced to Finland, where it has been a part of life for centuries. Spas, on the other hand, have a history that dates back to ancient times, with roots in Roman, Greek, and Eastern traditions of communal bathing and healing.

Comparison Chart

Primary Purpose

Heat therapy, relaxation
Wide range of wellness treatments


Dry or wet heat rooms
Various treatment rooms, pools, and baths

Cultural Origin

Finnish tradition
Global origins including Roman and Greek

Typical Services

Steam baths, wood heating
Massages, facials, hydrotherapy

User Experience

Solitary or small groups
Individual or communal treatments

Sauna and Spa Definitions


A sauna is a small wooden room used for heat sessions.
After a long day of skiing, they relaxed in the hotel's sauna.


A spa is a location offering health and beauty treatments through water.
They spent their vacation at a luxury spa in the mountains.


A sauna is a facility for perspiration and relaxation through heat exposure.
Their gym offers a sauna for muscle recovery after workouts.


A spa is a commercial place providing wellness services like massages and facials.
He received a gift certificate for a day at the urban wellness spa.


A sauna is a cabin or room for heat baths, often using wood paneling.
The new spa center boasts a state-of-the-art infrared sauna.


A spa is a center for health treatments, often involving mineral-rich waters.
The historic spa is famous for its natural hot springs.


A sauna is a place for experiencing dry or wet steam for health.
He installed a sauna in his backyard for regular detox sessions.


A spa is a facility for relaxation and rejuvenation with various therapies.
The resort's spa offers an extensive menu of massage treatments.


A sauna is a therapeutic space with controlled heat and humidity.
She uses the sauna therapy for improving her skin health.


A spa is an establishment for therapeutic baths and treatments.
She booked a weekend retreat at a well-known spa for stress relief.


A bath or period of time spent in a sauna.


A resort providing therapeutic baths.


A resort area having mineral springs.


Can anyone use a sauna?

Most people can use a sauna, but it's advisable to consult a doctor first if you have health concerns.

What is a spa?

A spa is a place offering health and beauty treatments, primarily involving water-based therapies.

What's the difference between a spa and a wellness center?

A spa focuses more on relaxation and beauty treatments, while a wellness center may include fitness and medical services.

Is it safe to use a sauna daily?

Using a sauna daily is generally safe for healthy individuals, but moderation is key.

Are spas only for relaxation?

While relaxation is a key aspect, spas also focus on health, beauty, and overall well-being.

What is a sauna?

A sauna is a small room or house designed for experiencing dry or wet heat sessions.

What services are typically offered at a spa?

Spas offer massages, facials, hydrotherapy, and various wellness treatments.

What are the health benefits of using a sauna?

Sauna use can aid in relaxation, muscle recovery, and detoxification through sweating.

How hot does a sauna typically get?

Traditional saunas can reach temperatures between 150°F to 195°F (65°C to 90°C).

What should you wear in a sauna?

It varies by culture and location, ranging from bathing suits to towels or nothing at all.

Are spas beneficial for mental health?

Yes, spas can help reduce stress and promote mental well-being.

Can children use saunas?

Children can use saunas under supervision, but it's important to limit their exposure to the heat.

What is a day spa?

A day spa offers various beauty and wellness treatments but doesn't provide overnight accommodations.

How long should you stay in a sauna?

It's recommended to stay in a sauna for about 5-20 minutes, depending on personal comfort and heat tolerance.

What's a medical spa?

A medical spa offers traditional spa services along with treatments that require medical supervision, like Botox.

Do spas offer fitness programs?

Some spas offer fitness programs, but it varies by the facility and its focus.

What is a dry sauna?

A dry sauna uses dry heat without adding steam, typically heated by rocks or a stove.

What's a mineral spa?

A mineral spa uses water naturally rich in minerals, believed to have health benefits.

Is hydration important when using a sauna?

Yes, it's important to stay well-hydrated before and after using a sauna.

Can pregnant women use spas?

Pregnant women should consult their doctor before using spa services, especially those involving heat or intense therapies.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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