Labia (also known as vagina lips) come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Get to know your labia — which are as unique as you are — and learn to treat them well. First a primer: The vulva comprises the external parts of the female genital organs that surround the vaginal opening. The labia are the inner and outer folds of the vulva, at either side of the vagina. Here’s a diagram for visual learners.
Your labia may be dark and full. Alternatively, they may be pink and flowery. Labia can be pink, brown, white, or otherwise colored. They can be fat or skinny, droopy or firm.
Some cultures adorn them with tattoos and piercings, while other cultures lengthen them at puberty. Sadly, in other cultures, labia are removed or mutilated. Some labia have wrinkles, which, as you approach menopause, may go away as the skin becomes dry and flat.
The beautiful thing about labia, aside from the fact that they protect our vaginas, is that there is no “normal” color, shape, or size. They are just as varied as the women who have them. No matter what shape, size, or color the labia may be, vaginal lips are all made of the same kind of tissue and the skin should look healthy.
The labia majora, also known as the outer lips, are like skin elsewhere on the body. They are covered with hair and contain glands. When you spread them, you will see the labia minora, also known as the inner lips.
These inner lips are nestled just inside the labia majora on either side of the vaginal opening. They have no hair but have more glands and muscles beneath the skin than the outer lips.
The labia majora and labia minora get nutrients from different blood supplies and their sensation from different nerves. Therefore, some parts of the vulva are more sensitive than others. To avoid or decrease vulvar itching, burning, dryness or bleeding, we recommend following these general tips for good vulvar care.
Do’s and Don’ts of Labia/Vulva Care
- Moisturize your vulva daily, like you do other body parts.
- Use hypoallergenic detergent and fabric softener.
- Find pads with a low latex content if you use them (look for 100 percent cotton),
- Change pads often and moisturize your vulva every time you do.
- Wash your labia gently with cold or warm water only.
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Rinse or wash gently after sex.
- See your doctor if you think you have an infection.
- Mistake a vaginal lubricant that you might use during sex for a vaginal moisturizer.
- Use scented or colored detergent or fabric softener.
- Use pads if you don’t have to.
- Wear a G-string if it irritates you.
- Wash your vulva with harsh soap and hot water.
Want more tips for vaginal health? Here’s how to give your vulva a little TLC.