The Difference Between Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery

As a plastic surgeon, I often encounter confusion and misconceptions about the difference between cosmetic and plastic surgery. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but they are actually two distinct specialties with different training and objectives. In this article, I will explain the key differences between cosmetic and plastic surgery, and how to choose the right surgeon for your desired procedure.

What is Plastic Surgery?

According to Dr. Alan Matarasso, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), plastic surgery is a broad category of procedures that includes both cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery.

Reconstructive procedures are performed to restore the appearance and function of the body after an injury, illness, or congenital problem. This can include procedures such as breast reconstruction after a mastectomy or repairing a cleft lip. Plastic surgery training is received during a medical residency, which involves a series of mandatory plastic and reconstructive surgeries. The term “plastic” in plastic surgery comes from the Greek word “plastikos”, meaning to mold or shape. This reflects the goal of plastic surgery, which is to reshape or reconstruct a part of the body.

What is Cosmetic Surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is a type of plastic surgery that focuses on enhancing a person’s appearance.

This can include procedures such as breast augmentation, facelifts, and liposuction. Unlike plastic surgery, cosmetic surgeons only perform cosmetic procedures and do not typically deal with reconstructive surgeries. Mikel Lo, from About Faces Cosmetic Surgery, completed two separate fellowships over three years to master the art of cosmetic surgery. All ASPS members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited centers, and follow strict safety and ethical standards.

Training and Certification

One of the key differences between cosmetic and plastic surgery is the training and certification required for each specialty. Plastic surgeons are guaranteed to be trained in cosmetic surgery, general surgery, and reconstructive surgery.

They must complete at least six years of surgical training after medical school and a minimum of three years of residency in plastic surgery. Additionally, they must be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In contrast, cosmetic surgeons are trained in aesthetic principles and facial cosmetic surgeons specialize in cosmetic procedures for the head, face, and neck. They must also have primary certification in another surgical specialty. This means that a cosmetic surgeon may have a background in fields such as dermatology or otolaryngology.

Choosing the Right Surgeon

When considering a cosmetic or plastic surgery procedure, it is important to choose a qualified and experienced surgeon.

Look for a surgeon who is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS). These certifications ensure that the surgeon has completed rigorous training and meets high standards of safety and ethics. It is also important to research the surgeon’s experience and specialization. For example, if you are interested in a facelift, look for a surgeon who specializes in facial cosmetic procedures. You can also ask to see before and after photos of previous patients to get an idea of the surgeon’s results.

The Bottom Line

While cosmetic surgery is a type of plastic surgery, not all plastic surgeons are trained in cosmetic procedures.

It is important to understand the differences between these two specialties when considering a procedure. By choosing a qualified and experienced surgeon, you can ensure a safe and successful outcome for your desired procedure.

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