Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgery: Differences Explained

There are many people out there who think that cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are the same thing.And many plastic surgeons focus on cosmetic surgery, so it is understandable why these two are equal to you in meaning.Cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are related – it’s true- but they’re not the same thing.You need to understand the marketing behind plastic surgery to understand the difference.

Here’s why these two are so different:

There are two different goals

It’s true, both of them are about improving the body of the patient, but the research, training, and goals are quite different.

With cosmetic, it’s all about enhancing the appearance

Cosmetic surgery focuses on enhancing the appearance. The procedures are focused on improving the patient’s appearance – the aesthetic appeal, the proportions and the symmetry are the goals. It can be performed everywhere – head, neck and body. The cosmetic surgery is elective, due to the fact that the treated areas function as they’re supposed to. The doctors differ and come from varying medical fields (even plastic surgeons).

When talking about the cosmetic surgery, we’re talking about reduction, lift, augmentation (breast), cheek enhancement, rhinoplasty (facial contouring), liposuction,gynecomastia treatment (body contouring), botox, laser resurfacing (skin rejuvenation).

With plastic, it’s all about reconstructing the features

Plastic surgery is a surgical specialty that’s about there construction of facial and body defects, that happened because of some birth disorders, burns, trauma or other diseases. Most of the plastic surgeons want to do some more training and even perform some cosmetic surgeries, but the basis of their training remains reconstructive plastic surgery.

When talking about plastic surgery, we’re talking about burn repair surgery, lower extremity reconstruction, breast reconstruction, hand surgery, scar revision surgery.

Cosmetic surgery training is different than the plastic surgery training

As said above, plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery have different goals that are often built around a certain procedure set. The training and certification process for a certified cosmetic surgeon is quite different than the training and certification process for a board certified plastic surgeon.

For plastic surgeries, you need to do one of two pieces of training

Those who get to be board certified in plastic surgery have to complete only one of the two trainings: a residency training worth of 3 years of general surgery and three years of plastic surgery or a five-year residency program in general surgery and then another residency worth of 3 years of plastic surgery.

However, residency programs for plastic surgery may sometimes also include cosmetic surgery as apart of the training, but it does not cover every cosmetic procedure.

So the title “board certified plastic surgeon” shows a specific level of training and experience in plastic surgery, but it’s not the same as the one in cosmetic surgery, because the residency training that you need to do to become board certified in plastic surgery will not include training of common cosmetic procedures. It does not even tell you if the person has cosmetic surgery training, if we are to compare it to another physician board certified from another specialty.

Is there any residency program in the US?

At the moment, there’s not one single residency program in the US, meant exactly for cosmetic surgery. This is one of the many reasons why surgeons get their training and experience after they complete the residency training.It can be done by also doing a post-residency fellowship.

Why is it harder to become a cosmetic surgeon?

It’s harder to become a certified cosmetic surgeon, than to become a certified surgeon in other related disciplines, such as plastic surgery – and it’s all about the training, experience and the knowledge that’s required for a surgeon to become certified. Each surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery must have one year fellowship training complete, exclusively in cosmetic surgery. During the fellowship, a surgeon will receive throughout the training all cosmetic surgery procedures on breast, face, and body. Also, in addition,the surgeon will receive non-surgical cosmetic treatments, time in which it will perform about 300 individual cosmetic surgery procedures. This fellowship comes in addition to complete a 3 to 5-year residency program that’s related to the specific discipline.

Be careful when you choose your doctor

Any licensed doctor can legally perform cosmetic surgery – and it doesn’t really matter the cosmetic surgery training (if), so it’s very important to be careful and do some digging before you choose your cosmetic surgeon. To find the best one on the field, you need to compare the doctor’s overall training (that includes residency and post-residency), plus experience and the proven competence when it comes to that specific cosmetic procedure that you’d like to opt for.