Vaginal Rejuvenation Is on the Rise, But Do Results Match the Hype? - Allure Magazine

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Allure asked the makers of Goddess and FemTouch for comment on the FDA and ACOG statements. Allen Howes, the president of Lasering USA, the U.S. distributor of Goddess by V-Lase, tells us, "We have not received a letter from the FDA, and our claims are in line with our 510(k) clearance for coagulation of soft tissue in gynecological procedures." He says that the kind of "mild, controlled heating" the device uses "stimulates angiogenesis [formation of new blood vessels], fibroblast activity, and collagen production without ablative or excessive thermal damage." This and a lack of downtime, he adds, differentiate Goddess from other CO2 lasers. The makers of FemTouch declined to comment.

The strong words from the FDA and ACOG have not dimmed the appeal, or the big business, of these treatments. You can still walk into med-spas and doctors' offices (including gynecologists, but also dermatologists and plastic surgeons) across the country to get your vagina "rejuvenated." "My patients hear about these devices from friends and ask me if they should be getting them—it's a question I'm asked a couple of times a week," says Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, who doesn't offer any type of vaginal rejuvenation treatment in her practice. "It's a buyer-beware market," she says. "These manufacturers are marketing their devices vociferously." And they're doing so with a lot more slick brochures than the FDA and the country's preeminent gynecological associations are countering with.

"Patients say what once felt like thunder and lightning is now more of a drizzle."

But let's back up for a second: How did these devices become available in the first place? The answer has nothing to do with multiple orgasms, and everything to do with tattoos and crows-feet. The specific kinds of lasers (carbon dioxide, or CO2, and erbium-YAG) and radio-frequency wands being promoted as vaginal wonders were first cleared by the FDA for reversing skin issues, like regrettable ink, wrinkles, and acne scars. Soon they were FDA-cleared for use further south, too. Not for orgasm improvement, though: "For removing HPV warts[1] and precancerous lesions," says Iglesia. "The problem is now they're being promoted for indications they're not cleared for—the claims that fall under 'vaginal rejuvenation.'"

Theoretically, lasers "rejuvenate" vaginas much the same way that they make skin look younger: By poking teeny holes in the tissue of the vagina and vulva, they're supposed to stimulate the tissue's natural wound-healing process. Radio-frequency devices use heat on deeper tissue to activate fibroblasts. In both cases, collagen production and blood flow to the area increase, making vaginal walls plumper and better lubricated, respectively. "But the lasers work by targeting water in tissue," says Iglesia. "If you use one to treat vaginal dryness and there's no water to target, that could cause a burn."

Iglesia notes that some preliminary small studies have found slight improvements in vaginal dryness and tightness 6 or 12 months after three treatments of laser or radio frequency. In one that she reviewed, researchers found that erbium-YAG lasers may improve dryness slightly more than topical estrogen (a common treatment generally covered by insurance). But Iglesia thinks it's too early to get excited. She also warns: "You need follow-ups over the course of many years to determine how effective and safe the treatments are, especially as women age." Iglesia adds, "Your vagina naturally tightens with menopause, so I worry about patients in their 30s. If you've had your vagina tightened after kids but before menopause, what happens later? What if you can't have sex because your vagina is so tight that it becomes painful, or what if the device caused scarring?"

These questions need to be answered. But no one is saying we should write off these technologies completely: In accordance with FDA regulations, some manufacturers are beginning to conduct clinical trials on their claims, and there have been a few promising, slightly larger placebo-controlled studies so far. "I think ultimately we'll find that the science is good," says Krychman, who was a leading researcher on a placebo-controlled study that investigated the link between an energy-based device (a radio-frequency therapy called Viveve-1) and sexual satisfaction.

References

  1. ^HPV warts (www.allure.com)

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