light brown vulva with visible inner lips, dark brown vulva with small open lips, and light pink vulva with small closed lipsShare on Pinterest
Illustrations by Cristie Wilson

Vaginas — or more accurately, vulvas, and all their components — come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. They even have different smells.

Many people worry that their genitalia doesn’t look “normal,” but there really is no normal. The only normal out there is what’s normal for you. And unless your normal involves pain or discomfort, everything is likely fine.

Still unsure? Take a look at these pictures of real labia to get a sense of how varied they can really be, and read on to learn more about their overall appearance.

When people mention vaginal appearance (“lopsided” or otherwise), they’re usually talking about the labia, or “vaginal lips.”

The fleshy outer lips of the vulva are known as the labia majora. The inner lips, which usually lead the way to the vaginal opening, are called the labia minora.

Even if your labia take after a common “type,” they probably have variations that make them unique. Some labia have characteristics associated with multiple types and can’t be boxed into one specific category.

Want to get a closer look? Grab a handheld mirror and go somewhere private. Use this time to explore your anatomy and learn more about your body.

Asymmetrical inner lips

If one inner lip is longer, thicker, or larger than the other, it’s considered asymmetrical. It’s actually quite common for vulvas to have labia minora that aren’t even.

Curved outer lips

Think of your outer lips like a horseshoe flipped upside down — a round curve that meets evenly at the end. When this happens, it usually leaves the inner lips exposed. They may or may not extend below your labia majora.

Prominent inner lips

More often than not, the inner lips are longer than and stick out from the outer lips. This difference in length may be more subtle, with the inner lips just barely peeking out, or it may be more pronounced.

Prominent outer lips

Prominent outer lips sit much lower on your vulva. The skin may be thick and puffy or thin and a bit loose — or somewhere in between.

Long, dangling inner lips

These are a form of prominent inner lips. They can dangle up to an inch (or more) past your outer lips. They may even hang outside your underwear. You may notice a bit of extra skin or additional folds.

Long, dangling outer lips

These are a form of prominent outer lips. They’re usually on the larger side, often leaving the skin thin and loose. As with dangling inner lips, it’s possible for the folds to hang outside your underwear. This may give your inner lips a little more exposure.

Small, open outer lips

The outer lips are flat and rest against your pubic bone, but they’re separated slightly, showing your labia minora.

Small, closed outer lips

The outer lips, in this case, aren’t set apart, so they conceal and contain your inner lips completely. Although this type of vulva is commonly seen in adult entertainment, it’s actually the least common type of vulva overall.

Visible inner lips

With this type, the inner and outer lips are usually the same size. Your inner lips aren’t visible, because they’re hanging outside the outer folds; they’re visible because the outer folds naturally sit or pull toward either side. They can typically be seen from the top to the bottom of your outer lips.

There isn’t a ton of data available on labial measurements, but the most recent study from 2018 was the largest and most comprehensive so far on external genitalia length.

The cross-sectional study, which included 657 participants between the ages of 15 and 84, reconfirmed some findings of previous studies.

For instance, there’s a correlation between body mass index (BMI) and labial majora size. The researchers also found a connection between vaginal delivery and labial majora length.

Their results suggest the following for the average labia:

  • The right labia majora is 79.71 millimeters (mm), or about 3.1 inches (in), long.
  • The left labia majora is 79.99 mm (just over 3.1 in) long.
  • The right labia minora is 42.1 mm (about 1.6 in) long and 13.4 mm (about 0.5 in) wide.
  • The left labia minora is 42.97 mm (about 1.7 in) long and 14.15 mm (just over 0.5 in) wide.

While the largest of its kind, the study did have limitations:

  • It included a small amount of cisgender women in the 75 to 84 age group due to eligibility and willingness — or rather a lack thereof — to participate in the study.
  • The researchers purposely included only white women in order to create a large homogenous group without ethnic diversity.

The study did help establish the variation in sizes across different ages and body sizes and highlighted how different healthy vulvas can look.

Regardless of what the average size may be, if your labia minora or majora are especially sensitive or prone to pain and discomfort, you may be experiencing symptoms of labial hypertrophy. This is the medical term for enlarged labia.

Labial hypertrophy rarely causes symptoms, but for some, it can make cleansing difficult or uncomfortable, and it may ultimately lead to infection.

If this sounds familiar, consult a healthcare professional (HCP). They can assess your symptoms and advise you on any next steps.

Research from 2020 suggested labial size doesn’t appear to affect sexual function or orgasm.

That said, if you’re self-conscious about the size or appearance of your labia, it could weigh on you and negatively impact your enjoyment of sexual activity.

Labial hypertrophy could also make sex uncomfortable.

In either case, it’s worth talking with an HCP.

It’s common for both sets of labia to be darker than the surrounding skin. But there’s no average labia color. Some people may have pink or purplish labia, while others may have reddish or brown labia.

The darker skin down there is the result of melanocytes, which are cells in the skin’s basal layer that produce a brown pigment called melanin. Melanin is responsible for skin color.

Genital skin is densely packed with melanocytes, more so than any other part of the body.

These cells are sensitive to things that affect the area, like hormone fluctuations and trauma. As a result, the changes in estrogen levels as you age, coupled with friction from sexual activity and daily wear and tear over the years (hello, tight jeans) causes the skin to become darker the older you get.

It’s also natural for the clitoris and inner lips to become darker when you’re aroused. This is because of increased blood flow to the area. It’ll return to its usual color after you climax or the feeling otherwise subsides.

Despite what you may have heard, hair removal doesn’t affect the color of your labia (just like it doesn’t affect the color of your legs). Sure, your skin may appear lighter, but that’s because it’s no longer hidden under a mop of hair.

A change in color typically isn’t a cause for concern, unless you’re experiencing additional symptoms. Consult an HCP if:

  • the color doesn’t fade after a day or two
  • your labia are swollen or itchy
  • your discharge is green or yellow
  • you notice an unexpected or unusual odor
  • there are small spots of color change on the skin

These could be a sign of yeast infection or other irritation.

Your vaginal area is distinct in more ways than just labia appearance. Your clitoris, pubic hair, and smell all add to your vulva’s uniqueness.

Clitoris glans

The clitoris glans is an organ that’s usually covered by a hood. It’s located where the two inner lips meet at the top of the vulva.

But not all clitorises are created equal: There isn’t an average clitoris glans size, and some may have a larger or smaller clitoral hood.

Hair

Most people develop pubic hair as a response to rising testosterone levels during puberty. But how pubic hair grows depends on the person and their hormones.

You can have thick hair, thin hair, a lot of hair, a little hair, hair just on your pubic bone or all over your vulva, and, yes, the carpets may not match the drapes.

Discharge

Some vaginal discharge is typical.

It’s usually caused by:

Sometimes, changes in color and texture are a sign of an underlying condition. Consult an HCP if your vaginal discharge:

  • is cloudy or gray
  • has a foul odor
  • is “frothy” or has a cottage cheese-like texture

Unusual discharge is often accompanied by symptoms, like:

  • itching
  • pain
  • burning

These are typically signs of infection, such as vaginitis, bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, or gonorrhea.

Smell

All vaginas have a slight odor. Your smell will depend on a variety of factors, including your diet and hormones.

Although it’s typical for things to get a little funky during your period or after the gym, your scent should return to usual after you wash.

Consult an HCP if the odor lingers or if you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as itching or burning.

Bumps and lumps on the labia

It’s common for random bumps and lumps to come and go. Bumps caused by ingrown hairs, pimples, swollen veins, or harmless cysts typically fade after a week or so.

Consult an HCP if the bump persists or is accompanied by itching, burning, or other unusual symptoms. It could be caused by a sexually transmitted infection or other underlying condition.

Labia have dozens of natural variations. They can be small or large, visible or hidden, lopsided or symmetrical. All are common and are what make your vulva uniquely yours.

The only thing that isn’t OK is pain or discomfort. If you’re experiencing unusual tenderness, itching, or other symptoms, it’s important to consult a clinician. They can identify the cause and help you find relief.

You can book an appointment with an OB-GYN in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool.


Annamarya Scaccia is an award-winning freelance journalist who reports on public health and social justice issues. Like any native New Yorker, she drinks too much coffee and has strong opinions about the Yankees.