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  • Getting to know your labia

Getting to know your labia

Labia are incredibly diverse and vary significantly between individuals. How your labia look will change throughout your life and largely depends on your genetics, hormone levels and whether you have made any specific alterations (such as through surgery or hair removal). For information about the diversity of labia, how they may change and what they do for you, read through the topics below.

Labial diversity

Labia come in all different shapes, sizes, colours and textures. 

Labia size

There is a lot of variation in the size of the labia minora between individuals. About half of all people with labia have labia minora that are longer than the labia majora. This is normal and not at all unusual. Some people simply have ‘innies’ and others have ’outies’. Our gallery shows a range of labia in different shapes and sizes. All of these variations are typical and healthy.

Labia symmetry

Exact symmetry is rare in nature. Most people have one foot that’s bigger than the other, and most don’t have symmetrical labia. 

Labia colour

Some people have brown labia and others have pink, reddish or purplish labia. Sometimes the labia are the same colour as the rest of a person’s skin, but often they are lighter or darker, just like the lips on your face. 

Labia texture

The texture of the labia minora is not the same for everyone. Some people’s labia minora are smooth, and some are wrinkled, have raised bumps or a rougher outer texture. If you are worried about bumps that you notice, or develop a new mole, cyst, lump or ulcer, you should see your doctor to have these checked out. 

What your labia do for you

Labia aren’t just there for show. They perform important functions for you and your body. Labia play a big role in protecting your vagina and urethra from infections, irritation and dryness. 

During sex, the labia minora help to provide lubrication, which protects your underlying tissues, and makes touching in this area, as well as intercourse, more comfortable and pleasurable for you. Labia also contain many nerve endings that provide you sensation and make sexual experiences more enjoyable.

Next time you’re thinking about your labia, it may be helpful to remember that they have a purpose and to focus on what they do for you.

Changes in the way your labia look

Your labia minora and majora will change throughout your life as a result of hormonal changes and age. Changes that typically occur at different stages of life are outlined below.

It’s important to note that sex and masturbation do not have any permanent impacts on the appearance of your labia, including their size and shape. You may notice some changes during sexual arousal (that is, when you’re ‘turned on’), such as swelling and darkening of the labia minora and majora. However, these changes are only temporary. 


During puberty, the labia minora often become larger, thicker and more prominent in appearance. This is completely normal, like all the other changes that occur at this time. Pubic hair will also usually begin to grow on the labia majora. 


During pregnancy, the labia majora and minora may increase in size and appear swollen and darker in colour. You may also notice that veins in your labia become visible, particularly in the third trimester. This is because of hormones that cause increased blood flow to the area. 

Post-vaginal birth

After vaginal childbirth, the colour and shape of the labia often return to how they were before pregnancy. Sometimes, certain changes are permanent. For example, the labia minora may appear longer than they were before. If you experienced injuries to the labia during vaginal birth, such as tearing, one side of the labia may appear scarred or smaller in size when compared with the other. Injuries and interventions are common during vaginal childbirth, and associated changes to the appearance of the labia are normal. If you have concerns or ongoing pain, you should see your doctor.


After menopause, the labia undergo a number of changes as a result of reduced hormone levels (specifically oestrogen and progesterone). Many people notice loss of pubic hair on their vulva and labia majora. The labia minora often shrink in size, and become thinner, smoother and paler. The skin of the labia also tends to become drier and less elastic. 

These changes are all normal, but you should see your doctor if you are concerned.

How should it smell?

It’s very normal for your vulva to smell a little bit musty, like sweat, a bit sour, or even a bit metallic around your period. Your vulva’s smell comes from the vulva itself, as well as the vagina, and will change throughout your menstrual cycle, during pregnancy and menopause. Everyone’s scent is different.

It’s important to wash your vulva regularly with warm water or mild soap, but you should never scrub or use a douche or antibacterial wash. This disturbs the pH balance that keeps your vulva and vagina healthy and it makes you more susceptible to infection. 

If your vulva smells very strongly or you are concerned about it, you should see a doctor or gynaecologist to have this checked out.

Hair removal

Pubic hair is perfectly natural and is there to protect the labia and vulva. Some people choose to remove it, or remove part of it, and others prefer to leave it as it is. Choices about pubic hair can be influenced by a number of factors, such as fashion, peer group, culture, comfort, or personal preference about the look or feel. There are no sanitary reasons for removing pubic hair; while removing it may feel ‘cleaner’ to you, it’s not more hygienic than keeping it. Whether or not you remove your pubic hair should be entirely up to you.

There are a couple of different methods when it comes to removing your pubic hair, including trimming, shaving, waxing, laser and depilatory creams. Some of these methods you can do yourself and some of them are done by professionals. 

If you do remove your pubic hair, you may notice that things look very different down there and that you can see a lot more of your vulva. You might realise that your labia minora look different to how you thought, or maybe you won’t be able to see them at all. Images in the gallery show you how different labia look with and without pubic hair.


Testosterone therapy

Gender-affirming medical care for transmasculine and gender diverse individuals with vulvas can include testosterone therapy (also known as ‘T’). This suppresses circulating oestrogen and can lead to changes in the appearance of the vulva. While taking testosterone, the clitoris may become enlarged, and the labia and vulva may also grow – this is often referred to as ‘bottom growth’. Some people notice that the labia majora gets bigger, longer or darker. The degree to which these changes occur and the time it takes for them to appear varies between individuals depending on their genetics and the dose of testosterone they are taking. 

The labia photo gallery includes vulvas of people who have been taking testosterone for more than 6 months.

For further information and resources, visit Transhub.

Genital reconfiguration surgery (vaginoplasty)

Among transfeminine people, gender-affirming medical care can include vaginoplasty. Vaginoplasty is a surgical procedure to create a vulva and vagina, commonly using skin from the penis and scrotum. Different techniques exist for performing this surgery, including inversion penile techniques (which are most common) and colovaginoplasty. 

Regardless of the technique, however, these procedures will not necessarily produce a specific type of vulva, or vulvas that all look the same. As with people born with vulvas, the genitalia of individuals who have undergone vaginoplasty vary greatly. The appearance of the vulva and labia post-surgery will largely depend on who the surgeon is. Variation may occur in the shape and size of the labia minora and majora, which for some may be more asymmetrical. The labia majora may have the appearance of wrinkles or folds. Lines from surgical stitching running along the labia majora may be visible to varying degrees, and postoperative healing may result in differences in the spacing of the labia majora (which may be further apart). The size of the labia minora and clitoral hood will also differ, with some more prominent or alternatively very small.

Labia come in many shapes and sizes, and there is no ‘standard’ version or specific way that they should look. Images that show the diversity of labia, including labia after vaginoplasty, can be found in our online gallery. 

For further information and resources, visit Transhub.

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