By Quin Ooi
Yes, you read that right. A 'vagina' facial - a labia rejuvenation that is.
When I went in for a Brazilian wax appointment, the esthetician asked if I wanted a labia rejuvenation after. “There is a promotion and it is very affordable now” she said. “It usually cost RM400 (USD96) but only an extra RM28 (USD7) now for the first try.”
If your eyebrow is raised, mine was too. I asked her “Why would women do it?”
The labia rejuvenation is promoted as a non invasive and non surgical anti-ageing ‘facial’ to tighten, lift and firm the labia. It is also promoted as a temporary alternative to labiaplasty, a permanent cosmetic surgery to reshape our labia (the lips of the vaginal opening).
“Is it permanent?” I asked. “It lasts for a week,” she assured me. “Many women do it too, don’t worry.”
At only RM28 (who doesn’t love discounts?), I was curious and tempted. So, I said yes.
After the Brazilian wax, the esthetician dried and cleaned my bikini and vulva area. Then, she added a cooling gel and used a wand-like applicator on the left labia with light pressure in a circular motion. To my surprise, it was relaxing and calming without any pain at all.
After 10 minutes, she stopped and took a mirror out. “See how it’s lifted and plumper than the right!” she said. She then repeated the same process on the right side.
I looked into the mirror but I couldn't see what she was referring to. Except for being more relaxed, I did not see any visible difference. So I began to question the experience. Do women need this? Are there practical benefits? Why do other women do it?
I dived deep into research. Here’s what I learnt (and my verdict at the end of the article):
1. The vagina, vulva and labia
The vagina and vulva (where the labia is) is not the same.
An anatomy diagram of the vulva. Photo: ladysuitebeauty.com
The vulva is the external parts of the female genital, including the vaginal opening while the vagina is the internal parts. Both the labia majora and labia minora are parts of the vulva.
The vulva shields the vagina from external elements such as bacterias. It also has the thinnest skin on our body thus, is very sensitive and can be prone to dryness especially with age.
So, we must handle it with care. According to gynaecologist Dr Watt Wing Fong, washing it with warm water (and unscented gentle soap without harsh chemicals if wanted) is the recommended way to clean the vulva area.
2. Labia size and quality of sex
While explaining the benefits of the labia rejuvenation, the esthetician affirmed that some women even receive the labia rejuvenation as gifts from their partners. “It improves their sex life,” she said.
Does it really?
Illustrations of different labia sizes. Photo: healthline.com
A study found that women who seeked labiaplasty were usually very dissatisfied with the appearance of their labia. Some even called it “odd”, “weird”, and “freaky”.
Some women experienced folding of their labia during sexual intercourse. This affected their confidence, creating body image struggles and lowering their libido.
So, reshaping their labia may improve their body image struggles hence, increasing their sexual confidence and improving their sex life.
However, (and important to note) all women in the study did not medically fall outside of the normal labia size range. In other words, there was no medical abnormality with their labia sizes and functionality.
This brings me to my next point.
3. The variety of vulva appearances
How did the women become dissatisfied with their labias? Where was the source of the dissatisfaction?
The same study and another separate study found that social and cultural factors are possible culprits. Unrealistic depiction in media and porn played a role in setting an ídealistic aesthetic of a woman’s vulva and labia.
So, what do women’s labia and vulva really look like?
Illustration of different vulvas. Photo: helloclue.com
There isn’t a “one size policy” or uniformed look. The Vulva Gallery, an educational Instagram page challenges this misconception by celebrating the diversity of our vulva shapes through awareness and representation. Our vulvas come in different shapes, colours and sizes, and it is perfectly normal.
Women can do without this.
The rejuvenation experience kickstarted a women's health journey. I learnt more about my female genitals than I ever did in school or at home. I also learnt of many ‘treatments’ and services that are available to reshape or rejuvenate the female genitalia.
When I asked my girlfriends of their experiences, I found out that some of them were insecure about the appearance of their female genitals.
Why didn’t anyone talk about it?
Usually a taboo topic, even the word ‘vagina’ is considered taboo to be spoken aloud. Instead, we have nicknames such as “down there” and “cookie”.
Why should it be?
There is enough pressure for women to act and look a certain way. These services (often promoted as self love luxuries) do not come cheap! Getting to know your labia and vulva is the most direct way of expressing self love.
It is confusing to navigate the world of women’s health especially when no one talks about it. The conversation should be normalised not only with a doctor or an esthetician but also with our mother, our sisters, our friends and our partner.
Knowledge is power. Having positive education will lead us to a happier and healthier relationship with our bodies.
Truly love yourself and your vulvas too!
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