Startups

Published: December 12, 2021 | Updated: December 13, 2021

Feeling the heat – and lovin’ it! Big success for Arlene’s authentic Finnish, wood-fired sauna

Arlene Lukkarinen at the Sandbanks site of The Saltwater Sauna overlooking the beach. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

“A little overwhelming.”

The response from Arlene Lukkarinen, 28, when asked how the first five months of her business, The Saltwater Sauna, have gone.

It’s something of an understatement from the sauna-loving Finn who is also an artist, surfer and yogi.

Because her authentic Finnish, wood-fired sauna, sitting on the promenade at Sandbanks and looking out to sea, has quickly established itself as a big hit.

Since taking its first paying customer in July more than 400 individual sauna sessions have been held.

Ages range from 13-year-olds to people in their 70s and 80s as well as families and groups of friends.

Such is the demand that places for December were fully booked within days of going live with a waiting list for cancellations.

For Arlene, pictured, who used a crowdfunder campaign to pay for some of the investment – the rest was covered by herself – it’s been something of a dream come true.

She said: “Coming from Finland, where there is a ratio of 5.5m people to 3.2m saunas, it was my ambition to share the health benefits of saunas with as many people as possible.

“Where better than the beach, an integral part of why we all love living here?

“The response has been simply amazing. I’ve hardly stopped since we started.

“What’s been particularly special has been the reviews.

“I’m now planning to take on staff in 2020 and consider a second mobile sauna as there’s clearly a demand.”

The Saltwater Sauna is tucked away at the end of the row of beach huts at Sandbanks. Many walk past without even noticing it.

The bespoke, hand-crafted, traditional sauna, designed and created by Heartwood Saunas, seats eight people on two-tier rolling benches.

A panoramic window provides views out to sea and there is a small built-in changing area.

The Saltwater Sauna offers both private group and communal sessions.

They include the 35-minute Sauna Experience.

Recommended for regulars, the ‘quick fix’ experience includes:

  • Up to ten to fifteen minutes in the sauna where the typical temperature will be 80 degrees Celsius.
  • A dip in the sea where the temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius in December – or a chilly beachside shower – and then repeat.

But for the full benefits of authentic Finnish sauna culture, a 65-minute experience gives ample time to change and fully immerse, both in and out of the sauna.

Customers can also manage the ‘löyly’ – the steam that rises from the sauna stove – allowing control of the heat and intensity.

Adding water over the rocks humidifies the session and is considered one of the best aspects of an authentic Finnish sauna.

Charges range from £15 for up to 65 minutes in a communal sauna to £45 for a 35-minute private sauna for a group of up to eight people – that’s £5.63 per person – or £70 for 65 minutes (£8.75 per person).

All the experiences include time for changing.

The five-star reviews posted on Google include comments such as:

  • “Incredible. Our first time and we loved it so much. I’ve never been in a proper wood fired sauna and my goodness it’s so much better.”
  • “Superb experience. Would thoroughly recommend The Saltwater Sauna. Who knew that a sauna followed by a dip in the sea (and repeat) in November could be so enjoyable (apart from the Finns of course…)”
  • “An absolute gem! We had such a wonderful time at the sauna and the views are incredible. It’s truly a unique experience being able to look out on the water.”
  • “The most wonderful experience – not sure how I’ll be able enter the sea without sauna-ing first now.”

Arlene, who also describes herself as a cold water enthusiast, said many customers had been astonished at the health benefits from saunas.

These range from an ability to improve sleep quality, exercise performance and muscle recovery, as well as cardiovascular and brain health, moisture barrier properties of the skin, and detoxification and fat loss.

Regular sauna use is also considered to reduce stress and anxiety, stroke risk, chronic pain and fatigue, and protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as respiratory diseases and pneumonia.

Arlene said: “Some of the comments I’ve received from customers include the fact that they now ‘sleep like a baby after a sauna’ and also have seen benefits for their skin.”

Recent visitors to The Saltwater Sauna included Arlene’s parents, flying in from Finland for a short visit to the UK.

“They thoroughly approved and said how proud and happy they were to see The Saltwater Sauna.

“That made me feel very good,” said Arlene.