Labia surgery is one of the fastest growing cosmetic procedures. Gen Z is leading the trend.

In 2024, labia surgery is on a steep rise. Known as 'labiaplasty', recent research has found it's one of the fastest growing cosmetic procedures among young people in Australia and worldwide. In fact, it's been found that one in 10 women are considering undergoing the treatment.

The surgical procedure involves cutting the folds of skin surrounding a woman’s vagina, the labia minora (inner labia), so that it doesn’t extend beyond the outer skin folds (the labia majora).

Labia surgery can also include procedures like vaginoplasty to tighten the vagina, or vulval lipoplasty to remove fat around the vulva.

Watch: Do you love your vagina? Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

Dr Liz Golez, specialist GP, cosmetic doctor and founder of Lift Aesthetics Sydney, told Mamamia there can be various health reasons for reducing the size of elongated labia minora, particularly for patients who experience persistently distressing or functional symptoms on the genital area.

"These persistent symptoms include pain, irritation, chronic infection or the problem contributes to poor hygiene. Functional issues on the labia may also interfere with common activities such as walking, standing and sitting, playing sports (i.e. cycling, horseback riding, or wearing tight undergarments) and during sexual activities."


However, this recent research from Women's Health Victoria (which runs the Labia Library) proves the sharp increase in labia surgery, which involves significant risks, is instead driven by social pressures and a lack of awareness of genital diversity. Statistics show the trend is largely made up of the Gen Z demographic, with Australian girls as young as 11 seeking cosmetic surgery on their genitals for cosmetic reasons.

As part of the study, University of Melbourne researcher Emma Barnard interviewed young women seeking medical advice about their genital appearance.

Read: 'I had a labiaplasty and I’m terribly sorry to my vagina.'

One study participant told Barnard she was just 13 when she started worrying about how her vagina looked after noticing textbook drawings looked different to her body.

The girl’s mother then took her to a doctor, before she was referred her to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne where she was told her vulva was perfectly normal.

"Something has changed in the last 10 to 15 years to make women and girls more aware of the appearance of their genital anatomy," Barnard said.

"For nearly all the women I spoke to, this experience of having concerns is happening from around 13 to 16. It is a very specific and fraught time when they are trying to figure out who they are and how their bodies work."


Reports show that Medicare claims for labiaplasty and vulvoplasty have more than doubled in recent years. The average age of girls referred to the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), concerned by how their labia looked? Fourteen years old.

Interestingly, in nearly a quarter of cases it was the child's mother who was concerned. Meaning? Unrealistic body standards and the general lack of awareness around genital diversity isn't just prevalent in Gen Z — it spans across generations.

Why is labia surgery on the rise?

So, what's behind a new generation of people with vaginas considering labia surgery? Why is there such a sharp rise in labiaplasty cases, particularly among Gen Z? According to the study by the University of Melbourne, participants shared that when they were growing up, they'd only seen vaginas in stylised or airbrushed images in textbooks, magazines, social media or on the internet.

In a recent Australian report: The Real Bodies: Understanding and Celebrating Labia Diversity, it was found a significant proportion of young people are getting information on a what 'normal' labia looks like from porn, social media, and cosmetic surgery advertising.

In a survey of women and gender-diverse people aged to 18 to 50, it was found that 23 per cent of respondents aged to 18 to 24 said they felt anxious, ashamed or embarrassed about how their labia looked, while 31 per cent associated their labia with negative words such as 'weird', 'disgusting' or 'ugly'.


Of the one in ten Australians considering cosmetic treatment, 46 per cent said their decision was influenced by images and videos online. One in five of Gen Zs said they obtained their information of what their genitalia "should look like" through porn — which often depicts airbrushed, digitally enhanced images.

Together with social media and pornography, fashion requiring Brazilian waxing, tight-fitting clothing and G-strings have also been noted as an influence.

In terms of what she's seeing in her own practice, Dr Golez told Mamamia, "The trend for young people now is wearing tight sportswear or form-fitting pants everywhere all the time. On some females, these cause pain and chaffing ‘down there’, especially on those with wider labia, or excess skin (on their labia minora)."

"Some will avoid wearing tights altogether, but others would tolerate the pressure and pain to be trendy. The increased demand for surgical or non-surgical labiaplasty recently is to shrink the labia minora, to improve comfort when wearing tight yoga pants and avoid the 'camel-toe' or 'bulge' on the outside."

"Some of my patients would 'fold up' the excess skin and push into the vagina area to avoid the 'bulge'."

Anxiety around vulval appearance can have a number of concerning negative consequences — not only can it impact mental and emotional health but also influence sexual relationships. Further to this, it can also lead to people ignoring their sexual and reproductive health.


For example, in a YouGov survey, it was also found that a one in eight young people were too embarrassed to go to the GP for sexual and reproductive concerns because of the appearance of their labia.

The fact is, while sex and body positivity have come such a long way, the conversation around the stigma and shame of vulvas is still not there — and it's trickled through generations of women, who are still falling through the cracks.

Popularised in the early 2000s under the term ‘designer vagina’, in the decades since, the demand for labiaplasty has only continued to increase.

In an interview with Mia Freedman on No Filter, Ellie Sedgwick — a vulva photographer who founded Comfortable In My Skin — spoke about growing up being self-conscious about her vulva.

"Two of my best friends growing up have had labiaplasty. One when she was 16 and then again when she was 18. And then another one had it when she was 18."

"My friend [who had labiaplasty] actually showed her mum and said, 'Why do I look like this?' And her mum said, 'Oh, I did as well. And I don't want you to go through what I did,' feeling like it was not sexy or blah, blah, blah, and she took her and gave her permission [to get the labiaplasty].  

Listen: In this episode of No Filter, Mia Freedman interviews Ellie Sedgwick — also known as 'the vulva photographer' — on being self-conscious about her vulva. Post continues below.


"My friend doesn't regret it at all. She's happy with her labiaplasty. But we always laugh and say, 'Imagine if we had all spoken with each other about it'.

"One of the first guys to see my vulva... his brother messaged me, saying that his brother said that my vagina looked like a truck had run over it. And it's definitely... I was really young. I lost my virginity quite young. It was devastating. I just remember sitting there being so insecure. I held on to that comment forever, for sure."

So, where does this leave us?

Although conversations about sex and body positivity have come such a long way, the evidence of growing numbers of people seeking labia surgery, specifically a higher proportion of younger people, is concerning.

Labiaplasty is a procedure that ultimately carries significant risks, including numbness, pain and scarring — particularly when performed on children younger than 18 years old, who are more likely to experience complications through ongoing puberty. 

Dr Golez said, "General surgical risks include bleeding, infection and wound dehiscence, damage to nerves and vessels, scar or keloid formation, dissatisfaction of wound appearance, etc. Overcorrection or excessive removal of the skin might cause pain port-partum."

"Overcorrection could easily happen where the skin on the area will be overstretched. In this instance, it is possible that sexual intercourse could be painful. Furthermore, a young woman who had not finished their family size, could get pregnant in the future. While a previous labiaplasty may not affect a vaginal birth, a vaginal birth may affect your labiaplasty results and might require a revision labiaplasty to restore appearance post-partum."


Further to the associated risks, labiaplasty is not proven to improve self esteem, body image or sexual satisfaction. 

"You don’t have to be an adult to have these worries, yet the voices of young women aren't in any of the research literature, possibly because it is a difficult thing to talk about," Barnard said.

"If we have a better idea of how girls experience genital appearance concerns, then we can potentially improve clinical practice, and reduce or eliminate unnecessary surgeries."

The key? Education, communication and celebrating positive conversations around the diversity of labia online and through social media. 

As Ellie told Mamamia, "I've worked so hard to have the relationship I have now with my vulva. I am a living example that you can change the way you feel without changing it under the knife."

What are your thoughts on the labiaplasty trend? Share them with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Canva.

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