Jada Pinkett Smith. Kim Kardashian. Brandi Glanville. The list of celebrities who have spoken publicly — and enthusiastically — about their experiences with vaginal rejuvenation is long, and many women are following their lead. Driven by a massive increase in demand, the global vaginal rejuvenation market is expected to double in value in the next few years, reaching $12 billion by 2026.
While vaginal rejuvenation may be associated with social media influencers and their so-called “designer vaginas,” the procedure isn’t just for famous people — and it’s not just cosmetic.
What is vaginal rejuvenation?
Vaginal rejuvenation isn’t a single procedure, but rather an umbrella term that includes many different treatments. These include:
- Vaginoplasty, surgery to repair or construct a vagina
- Labiaplasty, surgery to change the size and shape of the labia minora (inner lips of the vagina)
- Vulvoplasty, surgery to change the size and shape of the labia majora (outer lips of the vagina)
- Clitoral hood reduction, surgery to reduce the amount of skin around the clitoris
Women seeking vaginal rejuvenation surgeries typically fall into three camps, said Dr. Lauri Romanzi, board certified physician in obstetrics and gynecology and a member of HealthyWomen's Women's Health Advisory Council.
In one camp are women who want procedures like clitoral hood reduction that they believe will enhance sexual response. The second camp consists of women whose motivation is purely cosmetic; they don’t like the way their external genitalia look and want surgery to change it.
This camp sometimes overlaps with the third one, which is made up of women — usually those who have given birth — with pelvic floor problems who want surgery to “tighten” or “revirginize” their vaginas.
These surgeries have long been used to treat pelvic floor disorders, Romanzi explained, but many people are learning about them through the lens of “vaginal rejuvenation” rather than as standardized medical procedures because of the way they’ve been covered in the media.
Since these surgeries correct diagnosable medical conditions, they can be covered by insurance, while vaginal rejuvenation procedures done for nonmedical reasons typically aren’t covered.
Aside from women with pelvic floor problems, other people who may need vaginal reconstruction surgery include those born with issues that affect the development of the vagina and those who’ve had radiation or surgery to treat cancer or other conditions. Transgender women may also undergo vaginoplasty as part of the gender reaffirmation process.
What happens during vaginal rejuvenation?
What happens during vaginal rejuvenation depends on the type of procedure and the outcome you’re hoping to achieve. Vaginal rejuvenation done for cosmetic reasons may be an outpatient procedure lasting only one or two hours, while a vaginoplasty done as gender confirmation surgery is significantly more involved, typically requiring a hospital stay of about a week.
What does recovery from vaginal surgery look like?
As with any surgery, full recovery from surgical vaginal rejuvenation takes time. “All wound healing — whether you fall off your bicycle and skin your knee or get shot in the belly and need trauma surgery — takes three months,” Romanzi said. “So if you’re going to have a surgical procedure where cutting and sewing is involved, including in the vagina, it will likely be three months to full recovery and resuming sexual activity.”
The two most common complications of vaginal surgeries are infection and bleeding. Bleeding can be particularly dangerous — Romanzi said blood flow to the labia is so intense that a patient can hemorrhage within hours of surgery. “You just cannot take enough precaution around the bleeding aspect.”
Other risks include scarring, disfigurement and not getting the cosmetic results you want from the surgery.
Nonsurgical vaginal rejuvenation options
Technology around vaginal rejuvenation has advanced to include energy-based treatments that use heat instead of surgery to treat symptoms such as vaginal laxity.
The two main types of energy-based vaginal rejuvenation are:
- Radiofrequency treatment, which uses heating electromagnetic waves to tighten and firm up tissue
- CO2 laser treatment, which heats the upper layers of tissue to stimulate skin-plumping collagen production in the lower layers
Because energy-based vaginal rejuvenation treatments aren’t invasive, they can be performed in a doctor’s office and require little to no recovery time. People who undergo these procedures can typically return to their day right afterward and can resume sexual activity within a few days.
While these procedures are less involved than surgical vaginal rejuvenation, they’re not without risk. Complications can include bleeding, infection and scarring.
Does anyone “need” vaginal rejuvenation?
For those who have experienced damage related to childbirth or other complications, vaginal reconstruction surgery may help repair and restore your vagina — and reduce symptoms like a feeling of looseness.
Romanzi suggested women who are considering vaginal rejuvenation because of vaginal looseness first try physical therapy with a pelvic floor therapist. “Especially if it’s a postpartum sensation of laxity, you can often treat it without surgery,” she said.
One group of people who shouldn’t consider vaginal rejuvenation, according to Romanzi? Girls under the age of 18. When the body is still growing, she said, it’s impossible to know how surgeries like labiaplasty will affect a young person’s genitalia and sexual function.
Young people wanting cosmetic surgery is nothing new, Romanzi acknowledged, and the aggressive marketing of vaginal rejuvenation on social media may be leading teens to wonder if their vaginas need to be “fixed” or improved.
“There's a lot of peer pressure to make their normal … labia a very different configuration than what they were born with,” Romanzi said. “But there’s no reason for a young person with healthy genitals to surgically change them.”
It’s important to remember that every body is different, and there’s no such thing as “normal” when it comes to the vagina. However, if you’re dealing with challenges related to the look and feel of your genital area, you may want to ask your HCP about vaginal rejuvenation treatment options.