Illustrations by Ruth Basagoitia
Vaginas — or more accurately, vulvas, and all their components — come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. They even have different smells.
Many women worry that their genitalia don’t look “normal,” but there really is no normal. The only “normal” out there is what’s normal for you. And unless your normal involves pain or discomfort, everything is likely fine.
Still unsure? Take a look at these pictures of real labia to get a sense of how varied they can really be, and read on to learn more about their overall appearance.
When people mention vaginal appearance (lopsided or otherwise), they’re usually talking about the labia, or “vaginal lips.”
The fleshy outer lips of your vulva are known as the labia majora. The inner lips — which usually lead the way to your vaginal opening — are called the labia minora.
Even if your labia take after a common “type,” they probably have variations that set them apart from the next person’s. Some labia have characteristics associated with multiple types and can’t be boxed into one specific category.
Wanna get a closer look? Grab a handheld mirror and go somewhere private. Use this time to explore your unique anatomy and learn more about your body.
Asymmetrical inner lips
If one inner lip is longer, thicker, or larger than the other, it’s considered asymmetrical. It’s actually quite common for vulvas to have labia minora that aren’t even.
Curved outer lips
Think of your outer lips like a horseshoe flipped upside down — a round curve that meets evenly at the end. When this happens, it usually leaves the inner lips exposed. They may or may not protrude below your labia majora.
Prominent inner lips
More often than not, the inner lips are longer than and stick out from the outer lips. This difference in length may be more subtle, with the inner lips just barely peeking out, or more pronounced.
Prominent outer lips
Prominent outer lips sit much lower on your vulva. The skin may be thick and puffy or thin and a bit loose — or somewhere in between.
Long, dangling inner lips
These are a form of prominent inner lips. They can dangle up to an inch (or more!) past your outer lips. They may even hang outside of your underwear. You may notice a bit of extra skin or additional folds.
Long, dangling outer lips
These are a form of prominent outer lips. They’re usually on the larger side, often leaving the skin thin and loose. As with dangling inner lips, it’s possible for the folds to hang outside of your underwear. This may give your inner lips a little more exposure.
Small, open lips
Your outer lips are flat and rest up against your public bone, but are separated slightly, showing your labia minora.
Small, closed lips
The outer lips, in this case, aren’t set apart, so they conceal and contain your inner lips completely. Although this type of vulva is commonly seen in adult entertainment, it’s actually the least common type of vulva overall.
Visible inner lips
With this type, your inner and outer lips are usually the same size. Your inner lips aren’t visible because they’re hanging outside of the outer folds; they’re visible because the outer folds naturally sit or pull toward either side. They can usually be seen from the top to the bottom of your outer lips.
Their results suggest the following for average labia:
- The left or right labia majora is up to 12 centimeters (cm) long — or about 5 inches (in).
- The left labia minora is up to 10 cm (about 4 in) long and up to 6.4 cm (2.5 in) wide.
- The right labia minora is up to 10 cm (about 4 in) long and up to 7 cm (about 3 in) wide.
Note that these figures represent a range of observed measurements.
Although they’re a great starting point, these studies do have limitations. For example, neither study:
- differentiates between left and right labia majora length or width
- explores the average ratio of labia majora to labia minora in terms of length or width
- fully addresses whether age factors into the average size
But they do help establish that each labia may be longer or shorter, or thicker or thinner, than its counterpart.
Regardless of what the average size may be, if your labia minora or majora are especially sensitive or prone to pain and discomfort, you may be experiencing symptoms of labial hypertrophy. This is the medical term for enlarged labia.
Labial hypertrophy can make cleansing difficult or uncomfortable, and may ultimately lead to infection. If this sounds familiar, see your doctor. They can assess your symptoms and advise you on next steps.
It’s common for both sets of labia to be darker than the surrounding skin. But there’s no average labia color. Some people may have pink or purplish labia, while others may have reddish or brown labia.
It’s also normal for your clitoris and inner lips to become darker when you’re aroused. This is because of increased blood flow to the area. It’ll return to its usual color after you climax or the feeling otherwise subsides.
Despite what you may have heard, hair removal doesn’t really affect the color of your labia (just like it doesn’t affect the color of your legs). Sure, your skin may appear lighter, but that’s because it’s no longer hidden under a mop of hair.
A change in color typically isn’t cause for concern unless you’re experiencing additional symptoms. See your doctor if:
- the color doesn’t fade after a day or two
- your labia are swollen or itchy
- your discharge is green or yellow
- you have an unusual odor
- there are small spots of color change
These could be a sign of yeast infection or other irritation.
Your clitoris is a pearl-sized organ that’s usually covered by a hood. It’s located where the two inner lips meet at the top of your vulva. But not all clitorises are created equal: There isn’t an average clitoris size, and some may have a larger or smaller clitoral hood.
But how public hair grows depends on the person and their hormones.
You can have thick hair, thin hair, a lot of hair, a little hair, hair just on your public bone or all over your vulva, and, yes, the carpets may not match the drapes. All of this is absolutely normal.
Some vaginal discharge is normal. It’s usually caused by:
- natural vaginal lubrication (often milky and white)
- sexual arousal (think clear and watery)
- the start of your period (a blushed deep pink)
- irregular menstruation (usually a dried red or brown)
Sometimes, changes in color and texture are a sign of an underlying condition. See your doctor if your discharge:
- is cloudy or gray
- has a foul odor
- is “frothy” or has a cottage cheese-like texture
Unusual discharge is usually accompanied by symptoms like:
All vaginas have a slight odor. Your smell will depend on a variety of factors, including your diet and hormones.
Although it’s normal for things to get a little funky during your period or after the gym, your scent should return to normal after you wash. See your doctor if the odor lingers or if you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as itching or burning.
Bumps and lumps
See your doctor if the bump persists or is accompanied by itching, burning, or other unusual symptoms. It could be caused by a sexually transmitted infection or other underlying condition.
Labia have dozens of natural variations. They can be small or large, visible or hidden, lopsided or symmetrical. All are normal and are what make your vulva uniquely yours.
The only thing that isn’t normal is pain or discomfort. If you’re experiencing unusual tenderness, itching, or other symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor. They can identify the cause and help you find relief.