The Irresponsible Vagina "Tightening" Ads That Are All Over Instagram

Embroidery by Sophie King
Vaginal rejuvenation procedures are being promoted on social media through competitions, giveaways and money-off deals. Private cosmetic clinics in the UK and around the world are using Instagram to promote the nonsurgical procedure, which they claim 'reshapes' and 'tightens' the vagina, and addresses a host of varied 'symptoms', using a heated device.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against such treatments and devices (for use in clinics or at home), citing cases of women suffering from vaginal burns, scarring, pain during intercourse, and recurring or chronic pain after undergoing the procedure. "The full extent of the risks is unknown," the government body concluded. Meanwhile the UK's advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), recently ordered one clinic to remove its "misleading" and "irresponsible" online marketing of the procedure following a complaint lodged by Refinery29.
The proliferation of giveaways and money-off deals on social media for nonsurgical facial treatments like fillers and Botox is a cause for concern among health professionals and qualified surgeons, who are being left to carry out corrective procedures. Now, Refinery29 has found that vaginal rejuvenation procedures are beginning to be marketed to women in a similar way.
Instagram's advertising policies clearly state that ads "must not imply or attempt to generate negative self-perception in order to promote... health-related products". However, some beauty businesses, clinics and salons are using the social media platform to offer women free vaginal rejuvenation procedures with posts that could be seen to trivialise the procedure and encourage women to feel dissatisfied with their vaginas.
Photo via @nycgyno.
One post by the New York-based gynaecologist, Dr Amir Marashi, of the New York Center for Aesthetic Rejuvenation, from his personal Instagram account (@nycgyno) (above), offers the chance to win vaginal rejuvenation and vaginoplasty or labiaplasty, and shows a woman inspecting her vulva with a magnifying glass.
Dr Marashi, whom Mail Online dubbed the "Vagina Whisperer", told us the competition generated "a lot of interest and people called, DMed, sent emails. I lost count." He added that "interest in cosmetic gynaecological procedures has grown dramatically in the past three years" including among women who want to undergo treatment but cannot afford it, "so it is definitely helpful for them when they see a deal."
Photo via @healthshieldmedical.
Instagram also has a rule preventing the use of inaccurate or misleading tagging on promotions posted to its platform. A post by the UAE-based Health Shield Medical Center (@healthshieldmedical) from September 2018, which purports to be "celebrating women" by offering them the chance to have their vagina rejuvenated, was followed by the hashtags #fitness, #uaeinstagram and #yoga in its caption.
A post (screengrabbed below) announcing the competition winner of a ThermiVi vaginal rejuvenation treatment by the Arizona-based Tula Wellness centre took a similar approach, with the hashtags #selfcare, #love and #balance.
Photo via @tulawellnessandaesthetics.
As vaginal rejuvenation becomes more well-known in the UK, similar posts from clinics here are starting to appear on Instagram – including posts offering discounts and promotions. ASA guidelines state that "advertisers must not mislead, must be able to substantiate their claims and must target their ads appropriately," and they "must be careful not to make claims that might encourage women to be dissatisfied with their bodies or... trivialise the serious nature of cosmetic surgery."
The ASA is also clear that advertisers offering time-limited promotions or offers "must ensure that the limited amount of time for which the offer is available does not pressurise consumers to take up the offer. Also, when it comes to cosmetic procedures, people shouldn’t be encouraged to choose a product based on price."
Redmayne Lodge in York, which has performed vaginal rejuvenation on approximately 170 women since it introduced the procedure in 2017, posted a money-off deal in April 2018 (screengrabbed below) offering "HIFU feminine intimate rejuvenation" for £299 rather than the usual price of £799. The ad was followed by hashtags including #thismorning, #hollywilloughby, #daniellelloyd and #yorkshire.
Photo via @Redmayne_Lodge
Darron Callender, owner and director of Redmayne Lodge, told us the impact of such offers was fruitful for his business. "Naturally, discounts will always help make a calculated spend," he said, but added that the clinic was driven to offer them by the belief that vaginal rejuvenation should be more widely accessible: "Most people should be able to afford a treatment and not just the few who can afford it."
Photo via @thewomenshealthclinic
Another advert for "Nu-V vaginal rejuvenation" from the London-based Women's Health Clinic offered the procedure at "10% off" for a two-day period after its post in June 2018. "Valid on triple pack only until 24th June."

Advertisers marketing procedures like these must be careful not to make claims that might encourage women to be dissatisfied with their bodies.

Advertising Standards Authority
Instagram says adverts that contravene its advertising policies will be taken down, while the ASA told Refinery29 it doesn't have any rules that prohibit companies from advertising money-off deals for cosmetic procedures in and of themselves, but that advertisers of cosmetic procedures must adhere to its guidelines if they're to be deemed acceptable, and that it assesses ads on a case-by-case basis. "If a service is legally available then there is nothing stopping advertisers promoting it in a responsible way – the rules apply equally on social media, including Instagram."
Refinery29 has contacted the Health Shield Medical Center, Tula Wellness and the Women's Health Clinic for comment.

More from Wellness

R29 Original Series