What is labiaplasty? Everything you need to know

More and more women and girls want to change the way their vagina looks with something called labiaplasty. But what is labiaplasty, why is it more and more common? And is it really necessary?

Two young people are standing outside in a field googling "What is labiaplasty?" on a phone

Just like ears, and noses and penises, labia come in all different shapes and sizes. While that’s the straight-up truth, we’re often led to believe (by porn especially), that vaginas should be uniformly ‘neat’ and labia-less. As a result, more and more women and girls are turning to labiaplasty – a serious reconstructive surgery that changes the appearance of your vulva (the external, visible bit of your vagina) to look more ‘pornstar-perfect’.

If you’re worried about what your vagina looks like and have been thinking about getting a labiaplasty procedure, read on. If you’re wondering is porn real, read this (spoiler alert, no it isn’t).

Cosmetic surgery for your vaginal lips

Back in the day, there was no such thing as the ideal vagina, but with the rise of porn and societal pressure to look a certain way, we’ve become obsessed with having Barbie-style vaginas.

In real life, most vaginas are either larger, more dangly or more wrinkly than what you see in porn. And this is totally normal. Annoyingly, it’s also really normal to compare our bodies, and that’s why we start to worry there’s something wrong with us when there really, truly isn’t. A few other things that can affect the way you feel about your bits are:

  • Nasty comments from sexual partners. This is a form of body shaming that shouldn’t be tolerated. If a sexual partner makes hurtful comments, they don’t deserve the privilege of seeing you naked. If a sexual partner goes as far as sharing naked photos of you, this is considered revenge porn – an illegal act with major consequences. Learn more about body shaming here.
  • Comments and jokes. Whether it’s friends at school making fly-by comments about ‘beef curtains’, or a meme you’ve seen on social media, these things can all feed into our perception of what is normal.
  • Visual representation of the vulva. If porno vaginas and those flapless vagina diagrams in your science book are the only vaginas you’ve ever seen, you’re bound to have a narrow-minded view of what vaginas look like.

So what exactly is labiaplasty?

Sadly, some girls are so embarrassed by the way their vagina looks, they avoid having sex, going for smear tests and wearing bikinis. If this sounds familiar, you might have looked up labiaplasty.

A labiaplasty is a serious surgical procedure that’s expensive and more than a bit uncomfortable. It involves surgically reducing the size of the labia minora (the inner flaps) and on occasion ‘plumping up’ the labia majora (the outer lips) with fillers. There are several risks involved with the surgery and there’s no guarantee you’ll be happy with the end result. Many women who have had the procedure done say they didn’t feel any more body-confident afterwards.

Your labiaplasty can be performed under local or general anaesthesia, both of which prevent pain during the surgery. If you haven’t had a general anaesthetic before, that’s the one that puts you completely under.

A labiaplasty can also be combined with a clitoral hood reduction, which can reduce the skin around the clitoris.

Do I need labiaplasty?

The overwhelmingly likely answer to this question is no. A very small minority of women and girls will have a medical reason for labiaplasty. In these cases, the labia can be abnormally big to the point that exercise, sex and physical activity is painful.

The other reason for labiaplasty is to remove vaginal lumps which are considered abnormal and potentially dangerous. In these rare cases, the NHS will cover the costs of the surgery. Unless you are experiencing these symptoms, you do not need labiaplasty.

How much does labiaplasty cost?

According to the NHS, in the UK a labiaplasty costs about £2,000 to £4,000, plus the cost of any consultations or follow-up care.

Learn to love your vagina

The most constructive thing to do if you feel unhappy about your vag, is learn to love it. To do this you might want to:

  • Have a good look at a variety of vaginas. By diversifying the pool of vaginas you’re looking at, you’ll begin to understand how amazingly different they can look. Rather than asking randomers if you can look at their nether regions, take a look at The Great Wall of Vaginas – a sculpture made from plaster casts of 400, very different vulvas.
  • Masturbate. Get to know your vagina. Bond with it and show it some love. After all, your vagina is a pretty amazing part of you that deserves love and respect.
  • Try talking to your partner about your insecurities. If your partner is supportive, they will be able to reassure you there’s nothing to worry about. They’re probably just chuffed you want to have sex with them in the first place. Struggling to know what to say? Our guide to talking about sex with your partner might help.
  • Try not to compare yourself to what you see online and read our article on Is My Vagina Normal?
  • Go to your GP. If you’re seriously concerned there is something wrong with your vagina, ask to see a female GP. She’ll be able to tell you whether or not you have anything to worry about. If she tells you all’s in working order, that could be just what you need to feel more confident about the way you look.

Concerns or worries about your appearance? Check out the rest of our articles here.

Next Steps


labia| sex| vagina

By Olivia Capadose

Updated on 17-Nov-2022