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Archive for March, 2008

Jacuzzi Omega Morphosis Steam Showers

Jacuzzi Omega Series Steam Shower

If you can’t view this image all the way, click on it or go to the product page here:

I am a natural cynic and the first thing I thought was “is the ultra-modern chair really necessary?”  But the more I looked at the shower, the more I liked it.  I’m assuming that since it’s made by Jacuzzi it is high quality in every way.  But since it is Jacuzzi, it’s hard to get any real information from the website.  The shower is made from Blackstone (the walls) and tempered glass.  I’m looking forward to feeling and touching the walls, because I’m a bit skeptical that this is a strong sturdy shower, and the site is somewhat vague about what support materials are used and how thick the shower walls are.  The steam room runs off 220 power (very good) and is 89 inches high (good).  Jaccuzi is marketing the shower as “Increasingly more avant-garde to the utmost degree. Minimalist yet livable,” which is frankly nonsense and I don’t see how this encourages anyone to want to buy the shower.  In my opinion, the bathroom & steam shower industry could use a little less hyperbole and a little more reality.  Until I touch one next month, I will holdoff on recommending this unit, especially as it has a pricetag of $20,000.


Why Steam Showers Clean Out Your Pores

It’s all about wet heat.  When you are exercising outdoors or trying to detoxify yourself in a sauna, chances are you are in an environment with 0-40% hummidity.  This means some or all of the water on your skin immediately evaporates.  Water evaporating causes a chemical reaction that ultimately creates a cooling effect.  This is the true purpose of sweating — to cool off the body.  And sweating works very effectively, but it’s purpose isn’t to clear out your pores.  When sweating creates a cooling effect near your body, your pores shrink, even if you are still overheating.  When your pores are smaller, sebum (the gunk that comes out of your pores) tends to clog up and get stuck.  There are other reasons your body can produce excess sebum – a change in eating habits, chemicals in the water or air, hormonal changes induced by working out or aging.  Cleaning out your pores is about opening them up and keeping them wide open.  If your pores stay wide open for about 15-20 minutes, the combination of steam, sweat, and the open pores will induce the sebum to flow out. 

When you use a steam room, you are in a hot environment with 100% hummidity.  Your body reactions to the 100% hummidity by opening up the pores and sweating profusely, but the body isn’t designed to live in an environment with 100% hummidity.  The body evolved in the African desert, an environment that typically has 20-30% hummidity.  When your body sweats and the sweat can’t evaporate (in 100% hummidity, water cannot evaporate because there is no room for it in the air), there is no cooling effect.  The body reacts to this by opening up the pores and sweating more and more.  Instead of cooling off, the pores stay open, sebum and other gunk, toxins, and polutants flow out, and your skin becomes clear.  It’s not an overnight process – in general, you need to steam about 5-10 times to notice real effects.  But the benefits are real, there is no doubt.  Take a look in the mirror after your first session of steaming and you will see the sebum coming out of your pores.  Excess sebum clogged in the pores causes acne, rough skin, and discolored skin.  Many people deal with this by taking unnecessary oral anti-biotics, or using harsh creams on the skin.  These creams (Retin-A, Benzyl Peroxide, Glycolic Acid, among others) turn your skin red, cause free radicals that age your skin, and worse.

This might beat acne, but it’s a far worse solution than sitting in a steam room for 3 times a week and watching your skin turn naturally beautiful without any chemicals or anti-biotics.

To summarize, steaming is all about the wet heat.  When you hop in a steam shower, your body sweats profusely but cannot cool itself off.  After about 20 minutes, wide open pores will have excreted a bunch of junk that makes your skin look worse.

Why Do You Steam?

An ongoing feature of steam room magazine is an interview with various individuals about why they steam.

I asked Stacy, a 29 year old woman who works out at my gym, why she steams.

“Stress relief.” she said first – “it helps me detox from Ambien and Xanax.  When I was anxious and depressed I steamed every day.  It made me feel more normal.  Balanced.  Rejuvinated.”

Next, I asked Jon, another gym member.  “Allergy relief and skin,” he said, “I feel a sense of renewal and feel cleansed after 15 minutes.

Albert is a person I have known for a few years who actually goes to the gym to steam more often than he goes to work out.  “I steam because it’s a stress relief, it opens the pores, and it helps me lose weight.  Especially immediately before I weigh myself.”  said Al. 

Angelina was the 4th person I asked about steam.  I saw her headed into the steam room area of the gym, so I assumed that she did steam.  But she said that she doesn’t steam because “I don’t like to sweat.”

Next, I asked Lance, a friend who talks about steam at least once a day, why he steams.  “I haven’t had a cold or been sick since I started steaming.  It’s been years.  I guess you’d call that detoxification.  Destress.  Increased cardio activity.  My skin looks much better (to me, anyway).”  He said.

I found it interesting that people who don’t steam are a bit skeptical about the activity, but people who do it on a regular basis love it and legitimately believe that it helps them with one problem or another.

Royal Steam Shower

Want to live like a king?  Build a steam shower like this one in your house. 

It’s not as hard as it looks.  This shower is made from alternating black and white bathroom tile, a few Kohler Showerheads (which are certainly expensive, but you can easily buy cheaper showerheads that look exactly the same), a Kohler Steam Generator and Control Panel, and some simple Body Sprays.  Designing the piping system behind the shower and combining it with the control panel certainly takes some work, but it’s not rocket science.  Rather than spend a fortune on a high end custom bathroom remodeler, my recommendation is finding a picture of a bathroom you like, identifying the exact components that you want, and finding some cheap but skilled laborers on craigslist.  There is nothing in this picture that requires an expert.  Connecting electricity to the control panel requires a licensed electrician, but it will only take him 15 minutes.  Even if you have to spend two hours with him, that’s only $150.  You can find an eager-to-work guy with plumbing skills on craigslist for $20, who can easily connect all the pipes to the various body sprays.  I do recommend using a professional to lay down the floor and wall tile, but that only costs $4 per square foot, even for a top company.  One thing to be certain: spend a lot of time testing to make sure the tile is absolutely waterproof.  If you end up with a leak, you could get mold below your shower that you’ll never get out.


Steam Rooms & Yoga

Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 yoga postures, that is essentially practiced in a steam room.  The steam isn’t as thick as your typical steam room, but it exists nevertheless.  Most Bikram Yoga studios turn the temperature up to 110 degrees and create an environment with 100% hummidity by using powerful humidifiers and the effect of sticking 20-50 people in a confined space.  The heater, humidifier, and body heat combine to create an environment almost exactly identical to a steam room.  The only thing missing from a giant steam shower is a drenching ceiling rain, although as you can imagine that affect is created by the sweat of the practicioners.

So why do people practice yoga in a steam room?  Well, Bikram Heat Yoga was invented by Bikram Choudhury, the founder of the Yoga College of India.  Studio’s with Bikram’s name on it can be found in almost every city in the country — even small towns.  All of these people believe in two things not completely supported by science: the benefits of yoga and the benefits of steam.  One thing is certain – the feeling of peace and satisfaction achieved after a heated yoga class is one of the most unrivaled highs that mankind can achieve. Unlike drugs, it is a high of pure health and wellness.  The first thing you will notice when you walk into a Bikram Yoga Studio is that everyone is shirtless, everyone has great skin, and everyone is in pretty good shape.  You run into 50 year olds who look 32, and 32 year olds who look 17. 

The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you about yoga.  There is enough information about that all over the Internet.  I’m just looking to make a point: the benefits of doing in a steam room are non-debateable.  They exist.  Try it, and you will believe.

Installing A Steam Shower

There are a lot of decisions to make when you install your first steam shower.  Do you want to remodel your entire bathroom, or just stick a steam room in the basement.  Certainly, buying a prefabricated steam shower and installing it in the basement is a cheaper solution.  With prefabricated units running as low as $1500 on eBay, $4000 from a more affordable brand name, or $10,000 from a household name like Kohler, the steam room itself is cheap.  The cost is in the installation ($100-$500, depending whether you do it yourself or hire an expensive plumber), and preparing the room.  If you have electricity and water running to your basement, you can build a prefabricated unit, connect it to power and water, and go.  On the other hand, remodeling your bathroom so that it looks great is more expensive.  You’ll need to rip out existing bathroom fixtures and run electricity.  If you want a great look, you’ll probably want to install new tile as well.  My parents recently spent $40,000 building a bathroom, and what they got wasn’t nice but it wasn’t state-of-the-art and it wasn’t absolutely amazing.  But they were happy with the results.  You can check out pictures in another post.  Another decision is whether you want to include a bathtub with your shower.  In an ideal world, you can have a separate bathtub and shower, but it depends what kind of space you have.  If you don’t have enough room for a freestanding bathtub, you need to buy a steam shower/bathtub combo unit, because when it comes time to sell your house you will lose money if you don’t have a bathtub in your master bathroom.  People don’t take baths anymore, but they still want bathtubs in their house.  One of those mysteries of life that might never be solved.  So read on, and hopefully the information found here will help you get started on building the bathroom and steam room of your dreams.