Your exercise routine. Your sex life. Your mindfulness practice. These are things that might need rejuvenating.
Not your vagina or vulva.
But you wouldn’t know that with all the box “beautification” procedures gaining popularity — or the slogans being used to peddle over-the-counter (OTC) products.
Below, an OB-GYN busts the myth that vaginas and vulvas need rejuvenating, and they offer answers to your top questions about vaginal rejuvenation.
Don’t roll your eyes! It sounds beyond cheesy, but it’s true.
Just like snowflakes, vaginas and vulvas come in all different sizes and shapes… and they’re all beautiful.
“There’s a lot of variation for what vulvas and vaginas look like that are within a normal range,” says Felice Gersh, MD, the author of “PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones, and Happiness.”
Basically, Barbie-like genitals are just one of many, many, many, many kinds of genitals out there.
Vaginal rejuvenation is a broad term that encompasses anything that alters the vulva (the external portions of the genitals)or the vagina (the internal portions of the genitals).
The point? Usually, it’s to make the vulva more symmetrical (and Barbie-like). Or, it’s to alter the vagina so that penetrating it feels better for the person doing the penetrating.
A quick note
There’s a big difference between reconstructive and cosmetic vulvavaginal procedures.
Reconstructive procedures are typically required to improve a person’s functioning. For example, it may be necessary to treat urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
This article is talking about the latter: elective “beautification” procedures.
Vulvavaginal surgical procedures include:
- Labiaplasty: designed to alter the length, shape, or width of one or both of the labial lips
- Vaginoplasty: designed to loosen or tighten the vaginal muscles in order to alter the length or width of the vaginal canal
- Mons pubis reduction: removal of fatty tissue above the vulva to alter appearance
- Clitoral hood reduction: removal of tissue around the clitoral hood in order to increase access to the clitoris and/or ease discomfort
- Perineoplasty: designed to make the space between the vagina and anus stronger
Surgeries that involve repairing the bladder, rectum, or vagina — known as anterior, posterior, or vaginal colporrhaphy — are usually not categorized as vaginal rejuvenation procedures.
“The trend of altering vulvas and vaginas to mirror those of prepubescent girls is not without risks,” Gersh says.
Some vagina-havers, for example, undergo tightening procedures with the hope of narrowing their vaginal canal to make penetrative intercourse more pleasurable. But healing from the procedure often means internal scar tissue, which can make penetration impossible or painful.
“Some people are made so narrow during these procedures that you couldn’t even get a pencil up there,” she says.
Other people undergo labiaplasties with the hopes of feeling more confident during sex.
“But some end up getting so much of their labia removed that they experience an increased rate of infection after,” Gersh explains.
And nothing says confidence killer quite like an infection that makes sex impossible or uncomfortable. Sigh.
Other risks of surgical vaginal rejuvenation procedures include:
- pain during penetrative sex
- recurrent pain
- change in sensation
These options are also designed to alter the genitals in some way shape or form.
These methods all involve using energy-based treatments — light therapy, radio frequency, laser, or a combination — to tighten, increase blood flow to, and lubricate the vagina.
Important: None of these treatments are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
On the contrary, the FDA
According to the statement, “These products have serious risks and don’t have adequate evidence to support their use for these purposes. We are deeply concerned women are being harmed… In addition to the deceptive health claims being made with respect to these uses, the ‘vaginal rejuvenation’ procedures have serious risks.”
Increasingly, genital ointments, suppositories, gels, and yoni eggs are using phrases, like “vaginal rejuvenation,” “feminine rejuvenation,” and “vaginal tightening,” to appeal to consumers.
More accurately, these companies are tapping into consumers’ inner shame about their genitals in order to get them to make a purchase.
Vaginal rejuvenation is a multi-billion dollar industry, so it makes sense why more and more companies are entering this space.
The problem is that most vaginas and vulvas don’t NEED rejuvenation!
“These products are coming out, because they make companies money, not because people need these products,” Gersh says.
For the majority of people, vaginal rejuvenation is *not* medically necessary.
But the reality is that, for some people, vulva or vagina shape and function does interfere with their everyday life.
For instance, someone with long labia might sit on their labia every time they pop a squat. Or they may have to be careful not to allow their labia to get pushed into their vagina during penetrative sex, Gersh explains.
For these folks, a labiaplasty could improve quality of life.
Someone who has undergone a number of vaginal childbirths or has pelvic floor incontinence issues may choose to undergo a vaginoplasty to prevent wetting themselves when they laugh.
To determine if one of these procedures is medically necessary, talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional.
According to Gersh, it’s common for people to go into a doctor’s appointment thinking they need vaginal rejuvenation and come out knowing they don’t.
“These products aren’t rejuvenators though,” she clarifies. “They’re products made for a very specific purpose that can make life and sex better.”
If you think your vagina or vulva needs rejuvenating, be gentle with yourself.
Mainstream porn and social media brainwash vagina-havers into thinking that their bits need to look one particular way.
The result? People whose vaginas do not look that one particular way may:
- feel self-conscious about how their vagina looks
- think their vagina needs rejuvenating
The amount of celebs speaking out about their vaginal rejuvenation procedures (Brandi Glanville, Julie Delpy, and Kim Kardashian) aren’t helping.
Watching indie porn may also be helpful. These platforms feature more body and genital diversity compared with the free stuff floating about the internet.
If you’re experiencing this, let us just say: You deserve much better!
“Nobody, especially a partner, should be making you feel bad about any part of your parts, and especially your genitals,” Gersh says.
If your partner is encouraging you to undergo a knife, laser, or needle to alter your genitals, that’s especially problematic. The FDA has deemed them dangerous.
Obviously, only you can determine when or if it’s worth ending your relationship over. But if you send your partner this article, and they still think criticizing your bits is cool? Let’s just say the writing is on the wall.
If you’re reading this, your vagina and vulva do not need rejuvenating.
There may be some cases where a vagina might medically benefit from a procedure, like a labiaplasty. But in these cases, the intent isn’t to ~rejuvenate~ your vagina, but instead it’s to improve quality of life.
As Gersh puts it, “Vaginas don’t need rejuvenating… the language we use to describe them is what needs rejuvenating.”
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.