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
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
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
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
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
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
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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