There is a common misconception that cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are the same thing. In fact, the two are distinctly different. Although cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons can perform many of the same procedures, their backgrounds and training are very different due to their area of study. This difference is important to understand when choosing the best surgeon for your needs.
What Is Plastic Surgery?
Plastic surgery is an umbrella term that refers to a range of surgical specialties. The majority of plastic surgery is focused on restoring natural function and form to the face or body.
Plastic surgery training includes six different categories:
- Hand surgery
- Skin disorders
- Reconstructive surgery
- Trauma surgery
- Congenital defect repair
- Cosmetic surgery
What Is Cosmetic Surgery?
Although cosmetic surgery emphasizes aesthetics, procedures can have medical benefits as well. For instance, liposuction may reduce triglyceride levels as well as encourage a stronger commitment to exercise. Eyelid surgery can also have medical benefits, like resolving watery eyes or dry eye syndrome.
The Difference between a Plastic Surgeon and a Cosmetic Surgeon
Choosing the best surgeon for your needs is arguably the most important step in achieving your goal results. That’s why understanding the difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon can guide you toward making the right decision.
Plastic Surgery Training
Plastic surgeons are required to complete medical school followed by a residency. During this time, surgeons train in the six plastic surgery subspecialties, with cosmetic surgery being one of them. Upon completion of their training, they can then decide to earn their certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Common Plastic Surgery Procedures
Plastic surgeons commonly perform procedures such as breast reconstruction, scar repair and burn treatment. However, all plastic surgeons may also choose to offer cosmetic procedures, such as breast enhancement or body contouring, regardless of whether cosmetic surgery was a significant part of their training.
Cosmetic Surgery Training
Cosmetic surgeons start similarly by completing medical school and a surgical residency. They then typically complete a fellowship training program specifically in aesthetic procedures.
Cosmetic surgeons may then earn their certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery after completion of a 1-year fellowship program exclusively on cosmetic surgery, during which surgeons are required to perform a minimum of 300 cosmetic procedures. By contrast, plastic surgeons are only required to perform a minimum of 55 cosmetic procedures to complete their training.
Choosing the Right Surgeon
When it comes to choosing the best surgeon for your needs, it’s important to consider your goals for surgery. If you’re interested in improving a part of your face or body that has been adversely affected by injury, trauma, disease or congenital defect, a plastic surgeon may be the right choice for you. However, if your goals are cosmetic in nature, you may wish to consider a cosmetic surgeon who has chosen to specialize in strictly aesthetic procedures.
While both plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons are highly trained medical professionals, it’s still important to schedule a consultation with multiple surgeons before making your final choice. Consider background, training and certification, as well as your surgeon’s attentiveness, experience and bedside manner. Searching for someone who helps you feel comfortable and confident about moving forward is one of the best ways to have a positive experience from consultation through recovery.