What Is Vaginal Rejuvenation? Sexual Health Experts Explain

Some celebs rave about results, but is vaginal rejuvenation worth the hype? "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," says a gynecological expert.

Whether you aim to smooth your skin or make a bodily tweak for a self-confidence boost, there’s probably a procedure for that. While cosmetic enhancements like Botox or liposuction are well-known and reputable within the medical community, though, there’s a lot more confusion (and controversy) regarding certain vaginal procedures that promise to turn back the clock, broadly referred to as vaginal rejuvenation.

“Despite the widespread use of the term vaginal rejuvenation, this is not an actual medical term but rather a phrase often used in marketing,” explains Karyn Eilber, MD, a urogynecologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Eilber and her colleagues Victoria Scott, MD, and Jennifer Anger, MD—the “Down There Doctors”—are co-authors of published vaginal rejuvenation research and the book A Woman’s Guide to Her Pelvic Floor: What the F*@# is Going On Down There.

Speaking with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest, the Down There Doctors separate fact from fiction when it comes to all things vaginal rejuvenation.

So, what is vaginal rejuvenation?

In their research, the doctors interviewed both medical professionals and non-professionals, finding that many thought vaginal rejuvenation referred to a laser procedure to tighten the vagina. “Others thought it was a surgical procedure to improve the cosmetic appearance of the genitals,” Dr. Eilber says. Lasers and surgeries are both vaginal rejuvenation options—but there’s a bit more to it.

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Non-surgical vaginal rejuvenation procedures

Vaginal energy-based devices (laser and radiofrequency) help maintain the vaginal lining, which can lose elasticity and strength with age. But a laser procedure will not make a woman “tighter” or correct issues like urinary leakage, Dr. Anger explains. “True vaginal reconstruction may be needed for this,” she says. “Unfortunately, a great deal of advertising is not accurate.”

Here’s what energy-based devices can do: “These devices deliver controlled energy to the surface of the skin to stimulate the tissue to repair and remodel, eventually becoming more robust and healthier,” Dr. Scott says. The goal is to improve the quality of vaginal tissue, which may help reduce vaginal dryness and pain during sex associated with menopause, according to the doctors’ research published in Menopause in 2020.

However, it’s important to note that these devices are not currently approved for vaginal rejuvenation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA,) which warned of “deceptive marketing of unproven treatments” in a 2018 statement.

Adds Dr. Scott: While not a “procedure,” there is good evidence that pelvic floor muscle training (Kegel exercises) can help achieve many of the desired effects from vaginal rejuvenation.

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Surgical vaginal rejuvenation procedures

As for surgical enhancements, several cosmetic options aim to improve genital appearance. Dr. Scott says that the most common vaginal rejuvenation procedures include:

  • Labiaplasty: Modifying the labia (the folds on the outside of the vulva/genitals), usually to reduce the size.

  • Clitoral hood reduction or “hoodectomy”: May be performed to decrease the width and length of the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris.

  • Vaginoplasty and perineorrhaphy: The most common way to “tighten” the vagina by reducing the size of the opening. Vaginoplasty can also help with pelvic floor or incontinence issues due to childbirth.

Urgent or medically necessary surgeries do not fall under the “vaginal rejuvenation” umbrella, Dr. Eilber adds.

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Pros and cons of vaginal rejuvenation

In general, most vaginas don’t need a “facelift.” Vaginal size, shape and appearance varies widely from woman to woman, regardless of body size, body type or demographic, according to the International Urogynecology Journal. Past research also says that a vagina’s appearance has no impact on sexual function, desire, arousal, orgasm, pain and satisfaction.

But some women may have vaginal issues that interfere with their quality of life, such as impacts from having children, cancer treatment or a structural abnormality. In such cases, a vaginal rejuvenation procedure may help certain issues.

Still, the term vaginal rejuvenation incorporates many different procedures that have individual risks and benefits. “It’s important to know that few procedures cause harm, but a woman needs to know exactly what she is having done and what the benefits are,” Dr. Anger says. “Ususally, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

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Sources

People:

Karyn Eilber, MD, Professor of Urology and Associate Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Program Director for the Cedars-Sinai Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS) fellowship training program

Jennifer Anger, MD, Professor of Urology and Vice Chair of Research at the University of California, San Diego Department of Urology

Victoria Scott, MD, Attending Urologist at Optum in Los Angeles, California

Journals:

Menopause: "Vaginal laser treatment of genitourinary syndrome of menopause: does the evidence support the FDA safety communication?"

International Urogynecology Journal: "Quantitative analyses of variability in normal vaginal shape and dimension on MR images"

International Urogynecology Journal: "Does vaginal size impact sexual activity and function?"

Websites:

FDA: "Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on efforts to safeguard women's health from deceptive health claims and significant risks related to devices marketed for use in medical procedures for "vaginal rejuvenation""

Leslie Finlay, MPA
In addition to The Healthy, Leslie has written for outlets such as WebMd.com, Fodors.com, LiveFit.com, and more, specializing in content related to healthcare, nutrition, mental health and wellness, and environmental conservation and sustainability. She holds a master's degree in Public Policy focused on the intersection between public health and environmental conservation, and an undergraduate degree in journalism. Leslie is based in Thailand, where she is a marine conservation and scuba diving instructor. In her spare time you'll find her up in the air on the flying trapeze or underwater, diving coral reefs.