The shade can change over time. Here’s what to look out for.

By Sara Coughlin
Updated May 11, 2021 @ 3:00 pm
Advertisement
Labia Color
Credit: Marc Bordons/Stocksy

Change of any kind is scary — but the sort that hits closer to home tends to rattle us a little more than whenever Instagram messes with its algorithm. So, when we notice that something looks a little different down below, you can imagine the frenzied googling and overthinking that ensues. Of course, your first step when you observe a dramatic change in your body should always be to talk to your doctor, but, more often than you might think, some changes in your vulva are normal and natural. Case in point: the color of your labia.

First of all let's start with the basics: Although people commonly refer to the whole female sex organ as the "vagina," that's just the name for the internal segment. The vulva is the proper name for the external parts of the female genitalia, and within that includes the labia, or "vaginal lips." The labia majora are the outer folds of skin and the labia minora are the inner folds.

While many people worry that their genitalia don't look "normal," there really is no "normal" the ob-gyns explain. Everyone's labia are unique in terms of their shape, size, and overall appearance, so there isn't one exact color that your labia should be. For example, some people may have pink or purplish labia, while others may have reddish or brown labia. As a rule, the color of your labia is initially determined by your skin tone, though its exact shade will change with time.

When someone's labia change color, hormones usually have something to do with it, explains Susan Loeb-Zeitlin, M.D., a gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine. The first time that you noticed a difference was likely during puberty, when the labia develop, grow larger, and, in turn, may get darker.

Tara Shirazian, M.D., a gynecologist at NYU Langone Health, adds that pregnancy may also affect the overall color of someone's labia, again, due to the major hormonal changes that accompany it. Other than that, she says that slight shifts in labia color are pretty common — and, unless you have additional symptoms, they're rarely a cause for concern.

"Color itself is not really a major indicator of disease," Dr. Shirazian says. "There would be some other indication, like a lesion or abnormal discharge." (For the record, abnormal vaginal discharge usually smells and looks very different from what you're used to, and often comes with pain and itching.)

When it comes to your labia, there are a few changes that you should look out for, though. (A hand mirror can help you out.) If you notice a specific spot on your labia that's darker or redder than the rest of your surrounding skin, like a mole or swollen bump, get in touch with your doctor. Dr. Loeb-Zeitlin says that any new pigmented lesions should be evaluated for melanoma, which your doctor will do via an in-office biopsy.

So, while you should regularly check in with (and show some love for) your vulva, you probably don't need to fastidiously monitor, let alone feel self-conscious about, every single subtle change in your skin tone down there. "An array of colors is normal," Dr. Shirazian says.