First off, let’s start with a little lesson. What most of us refer to as the vagina is actually the vulva, a catch-all term for women’s external genitals: the clitoris, labia, and opening of the vagina. The vagina is just part of the package; it’s the canal leading from the vulva to the cervix. Labia, often called lips, surround the opening of the vagina. Outer lips, or labia majora, shield the more delicate inner lips, or labia minora. The lips not only act as gatekeepers of the vagina, they’re also sensitive to sexual stimulation. (Want to balance out your hormones and lose weight? Then check out The Hormone Reset Diet to start feeling and looking better.)
The size of the lips, especially the inner ones, varies widely, and can be a source of concern for women—as in, “What are they actually supposed to look like?” While there is no official classification, there are a few ways your labia could be different from others’. And guess what? Despite what you may have heard, they’re all normal. Thanks to aggressive advertising by cosmetic surgery clinics, the rate of women opting for labiaplasty—a surgery done to reshape the lips—jumped by 16% in 2015, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. And it could cost up to a whopping $8,000 at some clinics. And there’s really, truly no cosmetic need.
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There’s no “standard” size.
Most women believe that outer lips should be larger and, shall we say, “fluffier” than their inner counterparts. But truth be told, a large proportion of women have large inner lips as well. Earlier scientific literature suggested that an inner lip larger than 4 centimeters from base to edge was abnormal. But a study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2005 found that healthy women had huge variations in their labia minora—with many larger than 4 centimeters.
Your labia may not be mirror images of each other.
While some women have symmetrical inner lips, it’s not at all abnormal if one lip is bigger than the other. And in some women, the lips stick out, while in others, they’re tucked in. No matter what they look like, they all serve the same purpose, which is to provide sexual stimulation and keep bacteria out.
There’s a large range of color.
When it comes to variations in hue, the sky’s the limit. The inner lips could be as light as pink or as dark as brown. In fact, different parts of the inner lips may vary in color as well—edges may often be darker than other areas. Moreover, a light skin tone elsewhere on your body doesn’t guarantee pinkish inner lips.
If you want to see a real-life range of labia sizes and shapes, check out this gallery by Labia Library, developed by an Australian nonprofit called Women’s Health Victoria.