As women, we pay a lot of attention to the effects of aging and even follow strict anti-aging routines for our faces and bodies. But it doesn’t stop there, as more attention is now being placed on the area below the belt, and for a good reason.
Until recently, the vagina was an often overlooked area in the anti-aging game, yet it deserves equal attention regarding age-related changes. For years, conversations regarding female rejuvenation—specifically, the look, feel, and functionality of the vagina and the surrounding areas—were considered taboo. But as more women seek treatment and solutions for problems that bother them, the topic is becoming less hush-hush and more mainstream, which is a big step in the right direction for women’s sexual health and wellness.
There are a lot of changes that a woman’s body goes through. Childbirth and menopause are two of the most significant ones that affect a woman’s vagina and vulva. But the natural aging process, which causes a decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels, also changes the female reproductive organs. According to Dr. Michelle Jones Singer, a cosmetic surgeon and gynecologist (also check out her amazing educational videos on Instagram here), the vagina can become lax and lose some of its tight appearance and elasticity, which were not present previously. “There can also be vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, and a loss of confidence, too,” she adds. However, women now realize that non-invasive procedures and surgical options can help relieve these symptoms. “Millions of women may be suffering in silence due to the changes in their gynecologic health, but they don’t have to,” Dr. Singer says.
Vaginal rejuvenation treatments may seem like they’re all about how the labia and vagina look, but many have a medical purpose: improving function. Issues like urinary incontinence, a relaxed pelvic floor, vaginal prolapse, and even a low or nonexistent sex drive can dramatically improve with modern-day treatments that don’t involve surgery.
When it comes to non-surgical treatments, which are often downtime-free, fractional CO2 laser and radiofrequency are often the go-tos. Like facial procedures that use these energies, fractional CO2 and radiofrequency heat up the tissues to activate fibroblasts, stimulating collagen production and improving tightness in the vagina and vulva. “They also help increase vaginal moisture and improve the tone of the vagina to help with urinary incontinence,” Dr. Singer says. Non-surgical treatments also encourage healthy blood flow to the area, increasing lubrication and enhancing the surrounding skin. “I have seen overwhelmingly positive results in my patients with these treatments, which are non-hormonal and chemical-free.”
But it’s not just devices that help. Injectables and fillers also have their place. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) has long been a staple for improving the skin on the face, and its regenerative benefits also help further down the body. For example, extracting stem cells from a patient’s blood and injecting them into the vagina and clitoris helps with vascularization to improve sensitivity and climax. Plus, the treatment (it goes by the name of the O-shot) uses rejuvenating platelets that help with moisture issues and leakage, too. Going one step further, some doctors choose to mix PRP with hyaluronic acid fillers to plump up an aging labia that has lost volume.
The Surgical Approach
If non-surgical options aren’t suitable, there’s always surgery. A labiaplasty and vaginoplasty are the two most commonly performed procedures. Labiaplasties surgically remove extra skin from the labia, making it trimmer so that women are less self-conscious when wearing bathing suits and tight-fitting pants or shorts. Dr. Singer says that the procedure can address vulvar appearance issues like if lips are large, uneven, poorly shaped, protruding, thinned out, or unsightly, and alleviate discomfort and irritation from enlarged intimate areas.
A vaginoplasty works more for surgically tightening and repairing the vagina when laxity is a considerable problem. “It helps to tighten the vaginal muscle that usually becomes loose after a vaginal childbirth delivery,” Dr. Singer says. While childbirth is a common reason for a vaginoplasty, she says looseness can also be from trauma or aging. “Removing the loose tissue tightens the vaginal muscles, improves sexual satisfaction, increases the desire to be intimate, and improves self-confidence.”
Dr. Singer sees many patients in her office for labiaplasty and vaginoplasty. “Women are self-conscious and embarrassed about their appearance and are concerned that their vulva and vagina have lost their shape or youthful appearance,” she says. “Some also have a decreased sensation with intercourse or have pain from vaginal dryness, too.” That’s why these procedures may need to be combined with other treatments to tackle all the issues.
Even though these surgeries may not be as invasive as other types of cosmetic procedures, they’re still surgery and nothing to take lightly. During the first few weeks, there will be swelling and soreness in the area, so loose-fitting clothes are best to wear. Also, you’ll want to take it easy and not sit for an extended period or put pressure on the area. That means no sex for a while or any workout where you sit on a bike, like spinning. After the six-week mark, your doctor will remove any remaining stitches, and you should be good to go.
More videos from Dr. Michelle Jones Singer (follow her on Instagram here!)
Written by Elise Minton Tabin