Let’s look more closely at the main two reasons why women seek labiaplasty.
Reason 1: To Change the appearance of the inner “lips”
Labiaplasty can reduce long hanging labia
While large inner “lips” or inner labia can be seen as attractive by some, most women want a “tucked in” look to the labia minora; where they are mostly or completely hidden by the outer labia, the labia majora. A labiaplasty reduces the inner labia so that the outer labia cover them when standing.
Large labia can cause a large number of functional issues. For example:
- Long inner labia get in the way of clothing, exercise and intercourse. Yoga pants, tight jeans, bikini bottoms and thong underwear can be a problem for women with large labia. Not only do the labia pinch and pull in certain clothes, but they can become visible in certain clothing. This leads women with large labia to avoid certain clothing.
- Large labia can interfere with exercise. Women often will tell me that they have to adjust themselves while running or doing yoga, which is a source of distress and discomfort.
- Long labia can get physically in the way of sex. Sometimes the inner labia will get pulled into the vagina during intercourse, leading to injury, tearing, and pain.
- Large labia can actually cause yeast infections. Because of infolding of the labia, fungal infections can become more common, resulting in chronic yeast infections.
- Long inner lips can cause challenges with hygiene. Urination can be a problem because the urine stream can be affected by labia. In addition, toilet paper can get caught in larger labia, making cleanliness a challenge.
Labiaplasty can smooth out the Rough labia edge that doesn’t look “neat” to some women
Not only can folds on the labia minora edge look rough, but as mentioned above they can cause hygiene issues. Beyond that, many women want a smooth look to the outer labia. The best way to achieve this is with an edge labiaplasty to remove the rough edge, and replace it with a more smooth contour.
Labiaplasty can remove Dark Pigment on the edge of the labia minora
A dark edge of the inner labia is the result of hormones, particularly estrogen. The more time that estrogen circulates in the body, the darker the labia minora can get. This is why the inner labia can become darker and darker over time. There is no safe way to lighten the inner labia. The best treatment is to remove the dark edge if this is bothersome to you. A wedge labiaplasty, discussed further below, does not remove the dark pigment or rough edge as well as my modified edge technique. (Of note, the outer labia anal area can be lightened with bleaching cream and pads, which can be found HERE.)
Labiaplasty can make the inner labia more symmetrical
Asymmetry, where one labia is larger than the other, is very common. Just like one testes hanging lower than the other in men, one labia is often longer than the other in women. While this is normal, the long labia can become folded and can pinch and pull, becoming irritated. Moreover, we all would love to think that we are a mirror image, and if surgery can bring us closer to that goal, then it can be a welcome solution.
Labiaplasty can repair Trauma and Injury to the labia from Childbirth
While less common, women can experience tearing of the inner labia during childbirth. Much like a perineal tear occurs very characteristically at the bottom of the vagina, a labia minora tear during childbirth occurs right where the clitoris and labia meet. This is called the clitoral frenulum.
My patient above demonstrates a typical tear at the clitoral frenulum which is a very thin and sensitive structure of the vagina. Many other related birth injuries can be repaired at the time of labiaplasty.
Reason 2: Large labia can make women self-conscious
Large labia can make some women feel self-conscious. The reasons for this are complex and deeply embedded in our biology. For example, why are large male genitalia sought after and seen as masculine in most cultures? The answers lie deep within our anthropology. Regardless, large genitalia is universally seen as a masculine trait. On the opposite side of masculinity is femininity. This is a simple truth: the Yin-and-Yang of our species.
Because of these internalized, deep-seeded sentiments, large hanging genitalia in women can be seen as undesirable and masculine. This is not a hard and fast rule, and it is certainly not my rule, it is just my experience as a physician and labiaplasty specialist.