The pandemic cosmetic procedure boom isn’t limited to brow lifts and breast implants – nor is it always aesthetic.
The “Zoom boom” – people pursuing cosmetic procedures after fixating on “flaws” highlighted during the pandemic’s digital deluge – is real, and has been reported on by outlets from The Economist to Refinery29. While breast augmentation, liposuction, eye surgery, rhinoplasty and face-lifts continue to top the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ list of popular procedures, recent reports indicate a boom in below-the-belt treatments, particularly vaginal rejuvenation.
“Women are thinking, ‘What can I do to improve the quality of my life? What’s important to me?’” says Dr. Burt Webb, a gynecologist at VitalityMDs in Scottsdale. For many, it’s boosting their genitourinary health – for aesthetics, pleasure and even function. According to a 2020 report by research firm Global Market Insights, the vaginal rejuvenation market – which includes labiaplasty, vaginoplasty, hymenoplasty, G-spot amplification and related procedures – is predicted to grow 33.7 percent through 2026, at which point it will be a more than $5 billion industry. This is particularly impactful in the Scottsdale-Phoenix-Tucson area, which leads the nation in total cosmetic procedures, according to ASPS.
“A lot more women are interested in their labia being more petite. I’m seeing more women interested in better sensation and tighter vaginas,” Webb says. He also sees patients experiencing urinary incontinence, dryness, lack of sensation and pain after childbirth, menopause or cancer. Based on what he’s seen in his practice, he estimates “40 percent of women have some kind of discomfort with intercourse… I’ve seen a lot more, during COVID, of women coming in seeking some solutions.”
Treatments range from topical creams and hormones to non-invasive procedures (see sidebar). “Women are learning that they don’t have to have surgery to treat their leaky bladder,” Webb says. “They don’t have to have surgery to increase vaginal sensation and improve their ability to enjoy intercourse.”
These procedures are also in demand at Scottsdale plastic surgery center and medical spa Arizona Facial Plastics – along with one made famous by rapper Cardi B. “One of our most popular procedures is vaginal lightening – intimate lightening, we call it,” says CEO and co-founder Felicia Munion. With “the rise of social media and people like Cardi B, who posts videos about her vaginal bleaching, it’s just becoming something people talk about that nobody talked about before.”
Munion and Webb tout intimate wellness as part of holistic health. “We really look at it as a component to healthy aging,” Munion says. “Sexual health is one of those components. If you’ve been through something like menopause or cancer or just feeling blah, this is another thing that’s going to help you feel integrated so that you feel overall happiness.”
U.S. vaginal rejuvenation REVENUE by treatment type (USD Million)
Cosmetic surgeons are bullish on vaginal rejuvenation, as demonstrated in these projected figures.
Nether Region Rejuvenation
These non-invasive treatments are popular with patients and physicians alike, say Dr. Burt Webb and Felicia Munion.
This procedure takes about 30 minutes total and uses the patient’s own platelet-rich plasma “to rejuvenate the clitoris and its nerves,” Webb says. “That can improve bladder function and sensation as well as orgasms. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a very safe procedure and it can be done with no pain.”
A CO2 laser is used internally to “thicken the vaginal wall, increase lubrication, increase sensation,” Munion says. “It can also tighten, so some people will find that they get relief from urinary incontinence.” Three sessions are recommended for best results. “That’s a great one for ladies that have had a baby or someone who has vaginal dryness and wants sensation to improve, and also postmenopausal women,” Webb says.
This employs “sound waves that help improve the health of the clitoris,” Webb says. “It’s similar to the shock wave therapy for men and erectile dysfunction in that it sends sound waves and it shakes up the tissues and tells the body that they need to heal.” It improves blood vessels and flow, which leads to engorgement and better sensation.
A radiofrequency device “stimulates the tissues around the vagina so that they are stimulated to heal, so they produce more blood vessels, more nerves, more collagen, more cells to make the tissues healthier,” Webb says. It’s a one-time, one-hour treatment.