Corrections or additions?

This article by Jamie Saxon was prepared for the January 11, 2006

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Victoria’s Secret: Nip and Tuck’s Last Frontier

On New Year’s Day as I lay under the covers in the semi-dark of

morning, nursing not a hangover but a nasty respiratory infection, my

husband rushes into the room and plunks down the Sunday New York

Times. He yanks out the magazine and stabs the cover with his index

finger. There, you gotta read that, he says, pointing to the article

touted on the cover, "Our Vaginas, Ourselves."

Needless to say, my, um, area, was the last thing on my mind; I was

thinking more along the lines of a nice morning shot of cough syrup

with codeine. But I was reminded of our friend, Elaine, a crazy

redheaded makeup stylist from L.A., who used to regale us a good 10

years ago with stories of a couple of her friends who were "kept

women" and what they did all day. Vulva plumping was high up there on

their to-do list.

The New York Times piece, written by Daphne Merkin, wasn’t so much

about vulva plumping, which really needs no explanation, as about the

rather remarkable trend of "sagging groin skin and limp labia…going

the way of crooked noses and post-nursing breasts." She writes that

the "high priest" of vaginal plastic surgery, Dr. David Matlock in Los

Angeles, "claims that he has a five-month waiting list for women eager

to get that Playboy look." Well you and I know that that Playboy look

is achieved more with molding wax and PhotoShop than Mother Nature.

But apparently an increasing number of women don’t know that – and

that includes more than a few women in Princeton.

My inquiring mind had to know – who around here was Tivo’ing "Dr.

90210," the reality show about Beverly Hills plastic surgeons on the

E! channel (Matlock has discussed his "laser vaginal rejuvenation" on

the show), and getting work done underneath their Tahari pinstripes

and Natori thongs? And who was doing the work?

A round of calls to 14 Princeton area plastic surgeons yielded some

interesting results. Most do not do the procedure but occasionally get

inquiries (some only do facial plastic surgery). Two who made the yes

category are Marc Alan Drimmer of Princeton Plastic Surgery Associates

and Arthur Perry of Perry Plastic Surgery Center in Franklin Park and

Branchburg.

Both doctors agree that the increased interest in a procedure called

labial reduction began with the boom in Brazilian waxes. What’s a

Brazilian wax? If you don’t know what going commando means, then you

certainly won’t know what a Brazilian wax is – go to the back of the

class. A Brazilian is a bikini wax that doesn’t stop till it’s all

gone. "The Queen of Brazilians is right upstairs in Mon Visage, the

spa I own," says Drimmer during an interview in his office at 842

State Road. "Her name is Veni, and chances are, if you know someone

who got a Brazilian, Veni did it."

Veni, it turns out, learned how to do the technique in her native

Bulgaria (she says they don’t teach it properly in this country) and

now does forestry work on 15 to 20 women aged 14 to 76 a week; in

fact, 80 percent of her bikini wax clients get a Brazilian. She told

me her clients claim it increases sexual sensitivity; one said

blatantly, "I can’t wait to get this gorilla out of my pants!" She has

mothers and daughters who come in and mothers who have bought

Brazilians for their daughters for an engagement present. You can even

get Swarovski crystals glued on.

Drimmer has coined his own term – vaginal esthetics – for procedures

such as cosmetic labial reduction and correction of the mons pubis.

"It’s the last frontier of plastic surgery," says the doctor, who is

regularly quoted in magazines like "Mid-Atlantic Riviera." Brazilian

waxes have "opened up the area," says Drimmer, not unaware of the pun

he has just made. He has been performing labial reduction for the 26

years he has had his practice in Princeton. "Baby boomers are aging.

It starts with their first wrinkle. Divorce is up and women are back

on the market in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. I’m doing so much Botox my

thumb hurts." He is doing 20 to 30 tummy tucks a year. In many cases

he is making incisions to pull the abdominal skin down and at the same

time he pulls the mons skin up. He is also doing thigh lifts. "The

final area is the genitalia – it’s now in view," says Drimmer,

although he only performs two to three labial reductions a year. (Most

labial reduction is done to correct a congenital abnormality such as

excess skin.)

Drimmer chalks up all this attention on the female pubic area not only

to thongs and ever skimpier bathing suits but also to the fact, he

says, that we’re becoming "more Europeanized." He should know. He’s

been vacationing in St. Barts for 25 years, where it’s completely

commonplace to see women sitting topless at the hotel pool. His

patients should also know. Drimmer once saw three of his patients on

the puddle jumper from St. Martin and St. Barts, and he has run into

patients on the Amalfi coast.

A prettier pubic area doesn’t come cheap. Drimmer charges $6,975 for

labial reduction plus the fee for a gynecologist, who is present

during the procedure, says Drimmer, for medical and legal reasons.

Arthur W. Perry charges $4,000 for labial reduction and also performs

the procedure with a gynecologist, Robert Rathauser of Kendall Park,

with whom he splits the fee.

"When I started doing laser hair removal eight years ago, women were

contouring the genital area, and now they’re nearly removing all the

hair," Perry says. "At that point women started asking about making

the labia less protrusive, less visible in a bathing suit, and less

visible when they’re naked. It was a non-issue 10 years ago because

women didn’t see their labia. One procedure is just leading to

another."

He only started doing cosmetic labial reduction in 2005 and has done

two procedures. His patients were a 19-year-old college student and a

40-something woman who owns a large company; both are return

customers, having had previous plastic surgery on other parts of their

bodies. "Labial reduction is just a type of skin reduction surgery,

not that much different than a tummy tuck," Perry says.

Perry, who hosts his own radio show, "Plastic Surgery on the Air," on

WOR radio in New York, is the author of "Are You Considering Plastic

Surgery" (Avon, 1997), written with Princeton writer Robin Levinson.

His second book, "Getting Under Your Skin: The No Nonsense Guide to

Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Care," forthcoming in November from Yale

University Press, includes a whole chapter on genital plastic surgery.

In it he mentions the work of Boca Raton plastic surgeon Pam Loftus,

who does labiaplasty (reshaping), labial reduction, labial adhesion

removal (I dared not ask what that was), vagina reduction, and mons

pubis liposuction. (Perry also performs the latter procedure, he says,

"because a lot of women get a fat pad on their mons pubis.") Loftus’

web site, www.pamloftus.com, states: "Women request this surgery for

many reasons including cosmetic improvement, hygeine, relief of

discomfort, to feel more comfortable and less self-conscious during

sex, etc."

Sandra Gatt is a plastic surgeon in Monmouth Junction who does not do

cosmetic labial reduction, although she does do reconstructive labial

reduction. She says that she started getting calls about a year ago

inquiring about cosmetic labial reduction and another controversial

procedure, hymen reattachment – what the Wall Street Journal called

"revirgination" in a December 15 article, a procedure called "totally

bogus" by Thomas G. Stovall, a recent president of the Society of

Gynecologic Surgeons.

Gatt agrees: "With the case of hymen reattachment, how does a woman

know if it was done properly or if it was a success? When I read about

this procedure, I don’t really know what they’re doing. I would ask

them to define the operation and measure the success." Many of her

callers identified themselves as Muslim or Latin American and more

commonly asked about hymen reattachment.

Warns Gatt: "A non-board-certified doctor could be doing these

procedures. The downside is legally, any doctor can hang out a

shingle, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re board-certified. If

you want to tell your readers one thing, tell them to make sure the

doctor is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery."

She agrees with Drimmer and Perry that our perception of what lies

beneath is changing. "It’s a cultural thing as to what it should look

like," says Gatt. "Models are talking in the media about their

Brazilian waxes. Women get a sense that they should look like that

Playboy model."

If you just want to dip your toe in the water, you better get to Mon

Visage quick. On February 1 the spa’s rates are increasing, and a

Brazilian wax, which lasts four to six weeks, will set you back $60.

Don’t worry. "It’s not that painful," says Veni, the aforementioned

Queen of Brazilians. "People are surprised."

– Jamie Saxon


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