Vaginas. They're one of the most private parts of the body, but also the part almost all women have some insecurity about. Does it smell normal? Does it look normal? Should it be a different color? No matter what your insecurity is, there's someone out there who has just the treatment you need for a flawless vajay. Medical professionals and spas are offering all sorts of treatments and products that are meant to improve the vagina, and some of them sound flat-out insane. We talked to Dr. Sherry A. Ross, a Santa Monica-based OB-GYN and author, and Dr. Janet Gersten, an OB-GYN from TopLine MD in Miami, to find out what these trending treatments might really do to our vaginas.
Vaginal bleaching is a treatment utilized by women who want to lighten the pigmentation of the skin around the vagina. There are creams available online for purchase, spas that offer the service, and even some doctors who will do it. Regardless of who is doing it or where the substance is coming from, neither of our doctors recommend it. "The problem with bleaching any part of the body is that you dry out the skin," says Ross. "Bleaching could cause irritation or even burning—it just worries me." She adds that she has concern about the long-term effects on the skin around the vagina from bleaching, and says that it is just as sensitive as the skin on our faces. Let's start treating it with the same care we give our faces then, deal?
Yep, these are real, but don't go rushing to buy them. No matter how good they might sound, the main ingredient in a lot of these "mainstream mints" is sugar, just like the Altoids in your purse. And that definitely shouldn't be going in your vagina. Both doctors say putting something like that in the vagina can only do harm and open up the user to a host of problems, like yeast or bacterial infections. These mints are capitalizing on women's insecurities—in this case, vaginal odor. "So it's not the best smelling place in the world," says Gersten. "Neither is your mouth, your underarms, lots of areas! This is why we bathe." Rest assured, some smell is normal, and the pros say you should only worry if there's a somewhat fishy smell and if discharge is an odd color, like yellow, green, or gray. If you have a slight—but not unhealthy—odor you're worried about, Ross recommends paying attention to your diet. Drinking a lot of water and eating foods like pineapple and Greek yogurt can help sweeten the smell and taste, while onion, garlic, nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine can all cause an abnormal odor.
"Shaping the labia and cutting it up and making it beautiful, it's ridiculous," says Gersten. "Who's setting that standard? I'm offended by this commercialization of a medical issue that's a very private and sensitive thing for women." Likewise, Ross says the procedure, which involves labiaplasty and/or laser treatments to make the vagina appear younger and "sexier," is unnecessary for almost all women. Unless your lips are physically hindering or hurting you in some way because of their shape and size, you have nothing to worry about. If they are, vaginal surgery may be the best route for you—but Ross says the idea of vaginal rejuvenation is misleading. "There's nothing to rejuvenate," she says. "You rejuvenate your energy, not your vagina."
Steam treatments for the vagina were made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow, who boasted the benefits of it on her website, Goop. Apparently, people who offer the service are telling clients that steaming promotes fertility, balances hormones, cleans the vagina, and helps with dryness and pain. Sounds great. In reality, you're only opening yourself up to a nasty potential burn, or an imbalance in your vagina's PH. "[Steaming] could ultimately affect the vagina's balance and lead to bacterial infections," says Ross. She adds that while steam might work mentally in making users feel more clean and relaxed, a warm bath is going to be just as relaxing, and a lot safer. Put simply by Gersten, steaming is "absolute made up garbage." Both doctors recommend taking medical advice from your own medical practitioners instead of celebrity endorsements.
Shailene Woodley famously told the world that she recommends getting the vagina some vitamin D for an amazing energy boost. According to Woodley, sunbathing the vagina offers an incredible burst of energy and helps with genital issues and yeast infections. While the sun is great in moderation on your arms and legs, it doesn't need to be anywhere near your vagina. "God forbid you get a sunburn down there," says Ross. "That would be horrible. That's a trend I don't endorse at all."
Vagina Vampire Therapy, or the "O-Shot"
Remember when Kim K got a vampire facial? Apparently, people in the medical and spa communities do, as well, because they've started offering similar treatments for the vagina. The procedure starts out the same—blood is drawn, plasma is extracted—and that's about where the similarities end. After that, the plasma is injected into the supposed g-spot and vaginal canal, all to increase sexual pleasure and create a vagina that is more youthful in appearance. Both doctors say there is absolutely no merit to this treatment at all. "To preform that under the medical umbrella is a really huge misrepresentation," says Gersten. " That's not a medical treatment. It's a profit center." While there are some testimonials that back up the claim that this treatment is effective (though no medical studies that support the effectiveness), Ross speculates those might have more to do with the placebo affect than anything else. Regardless of the testimonials, we think we'll listen to the doctors' advice and keep needles clear of our vaginas, thank you very much.
Dr. Gersten and Dr. Ross debunked each and every one of these treatments, celebrity endorsed or not. Like it always has, the market is capitalizing on the insecurities of women—but instead of offering us waist trainers and diet smoothies, it's focusing on our sexuality a lot more directly.
Ross says 1 in 5 women compare their vaginas to what they see in porn and aren't satisfied. No surprise there—through surgeries and special effects, women in porn look about as "perfect" as they can by time they get to your (or your boyfriend's) computer screen. Don't believe you're normal? Check out the Great Wall of Vagina. Gersten praised the project for showing women what actual vaginas looked like, instead of what vaginas that have been altered in a doctor's office look like.
The takeaway here? Whatever you have going on down there, it's probably normal. And if you think it's not, don't be afraid to ask your doctor about whatever is bothering you. "There is no such thing as a perfect vagina," says Ross. "Variation is normal. Different is normal."