How to get high, naturally

The HigherDOSE founders make a case for the infrared sauna’s recovery powers

It all started with probiotic gum. Or maybe it was toothpaste. Whatever it was, a meeting in a downtown New York City restaurant on the topic brought Katie Kaps and Lauren Berlingeri together almost exactly four years ago—and was the impetus for their company, HigherDOSE.

Berlingeri was a business development specialist at a health and wellness startup, sitting in a boardroom for hours a day trying to create the next detoxing, anti-aging, weight loss elixir. In the process she met “the most amazing specialists and doctors and naturopaths and nutritionists in the space.” One of them told her about saunas using infrared (on the electromagnetic spectrum, it’s the one between visible light and radio waves) light. The idea is that the light heats your body from the inside out (whereas traditional saunas warm the air around you, heating you from the outside in). And the purported benefits abound.

After trying an infrared sauna for herself, Berlingeri “immediately fell in love with it.” She remembers: “My skin was glowing and I slept like a baby that night.” But when she started researching the topic, she was shocked to find that this special type of sauna was inaccessible and flying under the collective wellness radar.

She knew she had to start a company of her own to change that. Which is why she crashed the gum/toothpaste meeting for a chance to meet Kaps, who was working in corporate finance at the time. Berlingeri told Kaps about infrared saunas and they started HigherDOSE the very next day. “We became fast friends, fast partners, and we were together every day since,” says Kaps.

Currently, HigherDOSE saunas has a location in Equinox East 74th Street in New York City. Now, the duo is ramping up their partnership with Equinox, launching new saunas in additional clubs. Furthermore talked to them about how HigherDOSE can benefit your fitness routine, their best entrepreneurial secret, and why all the “new” wellness trends are actually pretty ancient.

Katie, what key learnings from your startup background did you tap into when launching HigherDOSE?

Katie: The founder and CEO of Tough Mudder (where I worked before going into the finance world), Will Dean, believes in the lean startup concept, which is basically the concept that before spending a ton of time on research and development and investing in building a product, just get an initial version out there. Have people try it. Get customer feedback. See if you're making money and iterate from there. I think that was really important in terms of guiding the development of HigherDOSE because we were able to launch the company with limited resources by being super crafty and resourceful. We were partnering with existing spaces thinking we could get our concept out there with limited cash, and luckily we saw that people loved it, and we had traction. Then we were able to attract bigger investors and grow from there.

In a nutshell, what are the key benefits of the infrared sauna for the high-performing Equinox member?

It’s good for muscle stiffness, inflammation, and just all-around pain. The infrared penetrates the muscles and loosens everything up, and because it's increasing blood flow and circulation, you're flushing fresh clean blood to those areas for quicker healing and repair. Because of this, we notice people sleep way better at night. It also strengthens your immune system.While you’re in there, it speeds up your heart rate to the pace of a light jog, so you're actually burning calories. It’s like you're getting a cardiovascular workout, so it's good for your heart. There's a 20-year-long study that just came out on people in Finland that use saunas regularly. It shows that regular sauna use can combat high blood pressure or cholesterol, heart disease, hypertension, and all sorts of diseases.

How does have it that effect?

Lauren: I think the main reason is because you're detoxing, because you're increasing fresh blood flow because you release something called heat shock proteins, and these are all really amazing stressors for the body.

What about the skin benefits you mentioned you experienced on your first visit?

Lauren: From a beauty aspect, you leave there and your skin is glowing. It's soft, it's dewy, it's beautiful, and the more you come the better your skin gets. When you're an athlete and you're taking care of yourself and you're going to Equinox, it’s also really important to have glowing skin, because I think that's the first reflection of what's actually going on in your body. Katie: Just bringing it back to our name, HigherDOSE, DOSE stands for dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. Those are your four main happy chemicals, and the infrared sauna is one of the best ways to release serotonin. Naturally when you're out in the sun, you release serotonin because your eye picks up on invisible light. It's the exact same thing that happens within the sauna, so it can combat seasonal affective disorder.

So all these things are happening to your body while you’re just sitting there. But can you multitask?

Lauren: You have 25 to 45 minutes where it's about you, so it's the ultimate self care, and because the sauna is quite hot, you can't [be on your phone] which is a blessing. It really helps stressed-out people disconnect. We do have a box within the sauna that allows you to plug in your iPhone so you can play a podcast, catch up on an eBook, listen to music, a meditation, a sound healing—whatever it is to enhance your experience. We're really excited about launching the swivel iPad within the sauna; then people won’t need their phones in the sauna at all. Katie: It's also a great way to socialize that doesn't involve eating or drinking. It seems like so many of the socializing options are not that healthy, and then even if you work out together, you're not really able to talk during that, but in our experience you really do have that time to talk and connect and you're in a really purifying, open space where you are feeling relaxed. You're feeling connected.

You guys were ahead of this trend. As competitors are emerging, how will you continue to stand out?

Lauren: Katie and I are coming out with our own HigherDOSE custom sauna, based on learning a lot about our clients and what they're looking for. I think a big part of what's going to separate us is just the programming [on the iPad]. We are turning our saunas into photo booths so they're very playful. They're really chic and beautiful.

What wellness trends do you think will be next?

Lauren: I would love to see more hot and cold therapy being used together. That's why we're really big on pushing three-minute cold water showers after [the infrared sauna]. I think also [we’ll see] more customized regimes and protocols based on all the genetic testing and blood work that's going on. Delivering people very specific IV drips and that sort of thing, which that's not our area of expertise, but we would like to partner with more companies that are doing that, and eventually fold that into the content we're delivering to give people more specific suggestions and recommendations based on their health profile. I personally love rebounding for lymphatic drainage and myofascial release. Kundalini yoga is a big one. I feel like a lot of the things that have been around for a while are starting to resurface, but [companies are] repackaging them in a more digestible way for people. It's the same as the sauna; you just have to create an experience around it so that the millennial wants to share their experience and it takes off.

How to live more sustainably

“Little things that aren’t super hard can have a positive environmental impact.”

Is this the most sustainable meat?

Is this the most sustainable meat?

My virtual dinner party: Shiza Shahid

"Even while we are physically distancing, we can still choose to show up."