Your lady bits deserve tender loving care, but are the treatments to groom your vaginal area safe or necessary? We investigated the 10 most common procedures and spill the deets.
Text: Fiona Liaw / Her World / May 2016
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For more stories on vaginal health, read Everything Your Mother Said About Your Vagina: True Or False? and This Is What Your Vaginal Discharge Is Trying To Tell You.
First popularised by Jennifer Love Hewitt, vajazzling involves decorating your vajayjay area with glitter and jewels like Swarovski crystals. DIY kits are available online, or you can get it done at a beauty parlour.
Pros: Unlike a tattoo, it’s not permanent, and the decorations can be easily removed in a few days. The design options are endless. Fancy a V-zone with glittery hearts, stars or blinged-out words? All possible.
Cons: Dr J.J. Chua, consultant plastic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, cautions that one should ensure the skin is clean, hairless and unbroken before proceeding. Also, there’s the tiny risk that crystals can fall off during sex and be pushed inside your nether regions.
As the name suggests, it’s a facial, but for your private parts. It aims to remove ingrown hairs and also soothe the skin through a process of cleansing, exfoliation and moisturising.
Pros: Besides the feel-good factor that comes with pampering yourself, the exfoliation can help to remove ingrown hairs, according to Dr Gordon Lim, consultant gynaecologist at Gordon Lim Clinic & Surgery for Women.
Cons: The treatment has limited effects on keloid formations that arise from waxing, and unless it’s done regularly, it isn’t likely to prevent a recurrence of ingrown hairs.
Using skin lightening creams to make skin in the vaginal area appear lighter and/or pinker.
Pros: Many creams are available over the counter. These have various active ingredients like kojic acid and vitamin C, and using different types together may improve their effectiveness. Results are often apparent within a few weeks.
Cons: First, there is no such thing as an “ideal” or “pretty” colour for a vagina – ask yourself why you’re doing this. That aside, this process needs long-term maintenance for continued results, Dr Chua says. And as people respond differently to creams, those with sensitive skin should consult a doctor first.
Vaginal steaming is a traditional treatment known as “chai-yok” in Korea, “bajos” in South America
and “ganggang” in Singapore’s Javanese spas. It involves sitting over a bowl of steaming herbs – usually mugwort and wormwood – and letting the steam work its magic down there.
Pros: Supporters claim that it tightens the vaginal area and helps heal tears after giving birth. They also say it helps cleanse the vaginal area, preventing odour. Others claim that it helps with menstrual cramps, infertility and fungal infections.
Cons: Dr Chua says that in his experience, there is no scientific research supporting the claims of V-steaming. So while the process may do no harm, whether it works is still up for debate.
A treatment where intense pulsed light (IPL) is applied to the skin in an attempt to destroy the hair-producing papilla and prevent hair growth.
Pros: You can expect a marked reduction of hair after just a few sessions.
Cons: Dr Lim says that despite being marketed with the term “permanent”, the effects of IPL only last between several months to a few years, after which the hair is likely to grow back. That said, there are few side effects, and this treatment is safe if it is done by a qualified practitioner.
An ancient method of removing body hair with a paste comprising sugar, water and lemon. This is sometimes marketed as better than waxing as the lack of heat and chemicals makes it gentler on the skin.
Pros: It claims to be able to reach shorter and finer hairs, as well as reduce the problem of ingrown hairs.
Cons: While the sugar paste is hypoallergenic, Dr Chua warns that if you have sensitive skin, the process of hair removal itself could still result in some irritation. And since the results are only temporary, it isn’t necessarily a sweeter deal than standard waxing.
NON-SURGICAL VAGINAL REJUVENATION
Claims to tackle vaginal laxity by using radio-frequency energy to stimulate the body’s natural collagen rebuilding processes. A device tip, about the size of a thumb, is inserted into the vaginal opening and moved around the circumference of the area to deliver pulses to the collagen fibres in the tissues.
Pros: No anaesthesia is needed, and the process can be completed in just 30 minutes. Also, Dr Lim says, this is an option suitable for post-menopausal women – declining female hormones cause a drop in collagen production, which in turn results in the vagina becoming lax.
Cons: While the treatment can increase the collagen content and improve the texture of the vaginal mucosa, it won’t help much if the laxity is caused by the vaginal muscles having been stretched during childbirth.
PUBIC HAIR TRANSPLANT
On the other side of the pubic hair debate, some women are extremely bothered by sparse growth. Reports surfaced in 2014 about the popularity of pubic hair transplants in South Korea. The process, called follicular unit extraction (FUE), involves painstakingly removing the hair follicles, one by one, from an area like the back of your head, and transferring them to the desired spot – in this case, the pubic region.
Pros: FUE is known to have permanent effects. You can also get creative growing your bush in different shapes (if that’s your thing).
Cons: Costing up to a few thousand dollars, the procedure is pricey and may need more than a few sessions to show results. Also, contrary to what the pro- pube camp claims, both Dr Chua and Dr Lim are adamant that having hair down there does nothing to protect against bacterial infection.
A controversial treatment, this involves surgically reconstructing the hymen’s torn edges to restore the appearance of a “virgin vagina”.
Pros: Sleeping pills and local anaesthesia injections mean that this process can be painless, and it can be done in just 30 minutes.
Cons: Honestly, why would you feel the need to become a “virgin” again? If it’s because your man wants it, we say please reconsider your relationship with him! Also, this procedure is pricey at around $3,800. You’ll need to abstain from sex for around six weeks, and there is a 2 percent chance of infection.
This involves plumping up your labia with temporary fillers.
Pros: A consideration for women who feel their labia have become thinner and droopy – a possible consequence of massive weight loss or skin losing its natural collagen and fat and becoming less elastic with age. Besides embarrassment, it can cause discomfort when wearing tight clothing. The results can last up to a year, says Dr Chua.
Cons: Claims that this will dramatically change the size or shape of your labia are usually exaggerated. You may need surgery to achieve that.