An interview with Dr. Maura Reinblatt with SHAPE MAGAZINE © Copyright 2016, SHAPE MAGAZINE, All Rights Reserved. By
Experts say that fit-minded women are turning toward a procedure that tightens you up down there
You may tone up your glutes on the reg, but would you ever consider firming up anything else below the belt? Some women are, and they’re looking for a shortcut too. In fact, the latest trend in plastic surgery involves, err, tightening up your lady bits. (Related: Can Weight Loss Really Shrink Your Camel Toe?)
Labiaplasty—a procedure that essentially reduces the size of your vagina’s lips—is one of the fastest-growing trends in the business, says Maura Reinblatt, M.D., an assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Every year, more and more women are interested in it,” she says.
The stats: The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery estimates that in 2015, 8,745 women went under the knife for labiaplasty in this country; the year before, that number was 7,535.
OK, OK. That doesn’t seem like a huge increase. But while ladies may not be lining up at plastic surgery offices around the country, Reinblatt says that when she started in the industry nine years ago, she would see (maybe) one patient a month seeking out the surgery. Today? “I’ll see patients every day.”
The majority of women are after slimmer lips for cosmetic reasons, says Reinblatt, adding that sometimes labiaplasty is medically necessary—like if your vagina interferes with day-to-day activities or causes you discomfort.
But here’s the thing: Labiaplasty isn’t reserved for porn stars or those who want to look like Barbie. Reinblatt sees everyone from young women concerned about asymmetry and those who are self-conscious in tight-fitting clothes to older women whose inner lips hang over their outer lips and cyclists who chafe (think: to the point of blistering). Ow.
“Most of the time, people ask about labiaplasty because they’re not able to do the activities they want,” says Reinblatt.
And when it comes to the fitness world, the procedure is more popular than you’d think. Reinblatt says a “good proportion” of her clients are athletes.
“Some of my patients run; others are cyclists or triathletes who complain of rubbing with activity, and I have seen some women who are avid yoga-goers and are uncomfortable wearing tight clothes because they feel bulky in their pants,” she says. Dang you, athleisure. (Watch out for these 7 Not-So-Pleasant Side Effects of Living In Workout Clothes.)
“Other women are uncomfortable going swimming or wearing bathing suits or exercise clothes—so they avoid wearing them all together or avoid going to the gym,” Reinblatt says, and some women simply seek the ‘cleaner’ look that’s been popularized by waxing in recent years.
So what exactly does labiaplasty entail? There are two main ways to performing the surgery, says Reinblatt: a wedge excision, where a surgeon moves a triangle of tissue in the lips; or an edge excision, where a doc takes off tissue along the edge of the lip. Which one you have depends on factors like your anatomy and what your particular issues may be, Reinblatt says.
Most of the time, the procedure is done with local anesthesia, complete in an hour, and results in little to no scarring. As for recovery? “We usually tell patients to take a long weekend off,” she says. But it might be two or three weeks until you can return to exercise (bummer) and four to six before sex (serious bummer).
Another downer: Labiaplasty is usually not covered by insurance and it can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 out of pocket.
But the final result usually pays off, says Reinblatt: “When they have it done, patients say they are thrilled and that it gives them more confidence,” she says.
The bottom line? Labiaplasty is certainly not for everyone. (We can think of a lot more we could do with an extra 6K in the bank.)
But if your down-there lips are keeping you from crushing it in spin class or keeping you out of these Printed Leggings We Love—or, hell, if you just don’t feel like your best you—we’re all for doing whatever it takes to feel comfortable in your own skin. (Allow us to be the ones to say: No woman should have to endure blistering from biking.)
Just remember, all women should wait till age 18—or until complete sexual maturation—before considering the procedure, says Reinblatt. And make sure you’re opting in for the right reasons, such as addressing an issue that’s been bugging you for a while. A good plastic surgeon will be able to talk all of this through with you. (In the meantime, make sure to read up on the 12 Things Plastic Surgeons Wish They Could Tell You.)