Vaginal rejuvenation is a nonsurgical procedure that involves inserting a heated "wand" device into the vagina in a bid to "reshape" and "tighten" it, or treat symptoms as varied as pain and dryness, incontinence and bladder control.
It's available at private clinics across the UK, after spreading from the US, but there's an alarming lack of evidence to support its efficacy or safety.
Last summer, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the government body responsible for protecting public health in America, issued a warning against such devices (for use in clinics or at home) and treatments, citing cases it found of women with vaginal burns, scarring, pain during intercourse, and recurring or chronic pain. Its conclusion? "The full extent of the risks is unknown."
Because vaginal rejuvenation is nonsurgical, in the UK there's virtually no regulation over how it's carried out, and private clinics' marketing of it often touts the procedure's pain-free nature, the ease with which it can be carried out (in a matter of minutes), and the supposed "benefits" (a "tighter" and/or "more youthful" looking vagina), despite the lack of high quality studies to support their claims.
Following a complaint by Refinery29 UK to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), one company has this month been forced to change its ways.
Vivo Clinic, a private cosmetic clinic with branches across the UK, said on its website that its "FemiWand" treatment (which we learned about during an undercover visit in August), "improves the health and vitality of vaginal tissue" and had a plethora of benefits, from "improved muscle strength, tone, and elasticity" to "increased sensation during intercourse, improved control over urinary incontinence".
Refinery29 complained that the company trivialised and made light of a potentially dangerous procedure by claiming it "can be performed on your lunch break" and by using a clip from a reality TV show to appeal to women. The page featured a short video from The Real Housewives of Cheshire, in which one of the stars of the show prepares for the 'rejuvenation' procedure, accompanied by two friends drinking prosecco.
The ad was irresponsible because it trivialised the procedure.
The Advertising Standards Authority
This month, the ASA ruled that Vivo Clinic's ad was "misleading" because it couldn't find any evidence to support the clinic's claims that the procedure was effective at treating the conditions it highlighted. The ASA also said the ad was "irresponsible because it trivialised the procedure".
The ASA's ruling continued: "We acknowledged that the Femiwand procedure, which involved the insertion of a probe into the vagina, was non-surgical but was nonetheless not without risks and was not something which should be undertaken lightly."
Vivo Clinic said its patients had reported "improved vaginal and mental health" and that the ad was not irresponsible. But the advertising body wasn't convinced. The ASA banned Vivo Clinic's ad, ruling that it "must not appear again in its current form" and told the company "to ensure that their service was advertised in a socially responsible way".
For more news and reporting on cosmetic and non-cosmetic procedures targeted at women's vaginas, visit our #YourVaginasFine microsite.