Vaginal bleaching is a procedure carried out using topical creams, laser treatment, or chemical peels to lighten the skin of the vulva and the general bikini area.
Although it has risen in popularity in the last decade, it is not considered safe. Read on to learn more about vaginal bleaching, what it is, and why you shouldn’t do it.
Vaginal Bleaching Explained
Although it is commonly called vaginal bleaching, there is no actual bleach involved in the process. Even when the labels of store-bought vaginal bleaching products mention “bleaching ingredients” or specialized salons speak about “bleaching agents”, there is still no bleach involved. In reality, the process is a lightening of pigment cells in the skin.
Why Do Women Consider Vaginal Bleaching?
The majority of women undergo vaginal bleaching to make their vagina look the same color as the skin on the rest of their bodies. What perhaps most women don’t realize, however, is that skin all over the body changes over time and the vulva is rarely the same color as the rest of the body.
Natural changes to the color of the vagina, vulva, and labia can be due to years of waxing, changes in pigmentation during pregnancy, or hormonal variations during perimenopause, or menopause. These changes are commonplace for the majority of women and should not be considered unpleasant or rectifiable.
How Is Vaginal Bleaching Done?
It starts with applying skin-lightening creams or serums that contain Retinoic acid or Kojic acid and anti-inflammatory steroids for 4-6 weeks to render the pigment cells around the vagina less active.
Some women purchase over-the-counter products to do this at home or it can also be performed in specialized salons. Applying these creams is not a one-time thing, however. Ongoing treatment is required to prevent any reactivation of the pigment cells.
The more difficult-to-reach areas, like the groin creases, labia minora, labia majora, and the perineum and anus are usually lightened using laser treatment. This procedure is carried out at a salon using micro-pulsing lasers, which can cause temporary scabbing or crusting on the genitals.
Ongoing laser treatment is also required to prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), which is when the skin can change color to tan, brown, or purple.
Are DIY At-Home Vaginal Bleaching Kits Safe?
In a word, no. The vulva and labia are incredibly sensitive parts of your body and damaging them in any small way can have major implications for the rest of your life. Over-the-counter creams and serums can adversely irritate the vulnerable skin of the intimate area, resulting in a burning sensation, swelling, bacterial infections, or yeast infections.
If you are trying it at home, be sure to test the cream or serum on another part of your body first, like your arm, to check for any adverse reactions. Experiencing any pain, itching, or burning on your arm will mean the same reaction on your genital area. However, even if you don’t experience any adverse effects on your arm, that does not necessarily mean it won’t happen when used on the vagina.
Is Vaginal Bleaching Safe at a Salon?
It depends on the salon and the procedure. Laser treatment, for example, can sometimes burn the vulva, resulting in a complete loss of feeling in the area, or severe pain. Scarring can also sometimes occur on the clitoral hood causing it to attach to the clitoris, making any future sexual arousal incredibly painful.
Unfortunately, there is nothing doctors can do to reverse these side effects, and women who experience them have to live with them for the rest of their lives.
What The Experts Say About Vaginal Bleaching
Due to the rise of this widely misunderstood cosmetic procedure, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has cautioned that women should be informed about the lack of data to support the efficacy of these procedures and their potential complications, including infections, altered sensation, adhesions, and scarring.
According to the ACOG, “These procedures are not medically indicated, and the safety and effectiveness of these procedures have not been documented.”
When To Seek Medical Advice for Vaginal Discoloration
Experiencing gradual changes to the pigmentation of your vagina over time is perfectly natural and typically nothing to worry about, however, sudden changes may require medical advice.
Sudden changes to the color of your vagina could signal an underlying condition such as diabetes, eczema, vulvar lesions, or cancer and a doctor should be consulted immediately.
If your vulvar skin abruptly changes in color, consult with your doctor to understand if there may be an underlying cause. However, if you are otherwise healthy and simply don’t like the color of your vulvar skin, think carefully before trying vaginal bleaching.
Remember that it is perfectly normal for the labia, vulva, and clitoris to darken with age.
However, if you are adamant about proceeding with vaginal bleaching, don’t try it at home. Seek out professionals that specialize in the procedure and ensure that you thoroughly check their salon credentials and client reviews before making an appointment.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists - Vaginal Rejuvenation, Labiaplasty, and Other Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery - https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/vaginal-rejuvenation-labiaplasty-and-other-female-genital-cosmetic-surgery