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The labia majora are two large, fatty folds of skin which extend down from a woman’s mons pubis to her perineum. This Latin word translates to "main lips." The tissue that forms the labia majora is the same as that which forms the male scrotum.
The labia majora are the most visible parts of a woman’s vulva. Along with the labia minora, the labia majora works to surround and protect a woman’s clitoris, vagina, and urethra. The outsides of the labia majora become covered with strong hairs after the onset of puberty, while the insides are smooth, hairless, and covered with a mucous membrane.
The singular form of labia majora is labium majus. The labia majora are commonly called the outer labia or outer lips.
The appearance of the labia majora can vary significantly from woman to woman. Despite its name, the labia majora are only longer than the labia minora in roughly 50 percent of cases. Most are not symmetrical.
The appearance of the labia majora also changes throughout a woman’s life due to natural hormone fluctuations. At birth, the labia majora is generally the same color as the skin that surrounds it and is plump due to the maternal hormones it’s received while in the womb. During early childhood, decreasing levels of these hormones and body fat may lead the labia majora to look flatter. During puberty, a girl’s labia majora regains its plump appearance and begins to grow pubic hair. This hair is initially sparse and straight, but will become coarser and curlier towards the end of puberty. By adulthood, the labia majora’s outer surface tends to become darker than the skin which surrounds it. It may also have a wrinkled appearance similar to a man’s scrotum. In old age the labia majora once again loses its fat and becomes more wrinkled. The hair which covers the labia majora also becomes sparser and turns gray, just like the hair on a woman’s head.
The labia majora has fewer superficial nerve endings than the rest of the parts of a woman’s vulva, so it is not generally considered an erogenous zone. However, the labia majora does experience changes during sexual arousal. As blood flow increases to the genital region, the labia majora become two to three times larger and darken in color. The changes are most pronounced in women who’ve had children. The labia majora returns to its normal state around an hour after orgasm or sexual arousal.
The labia majora can be altered surgically through labiaplasty or with cosmetic piercing.