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Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgery – The Difference?

Feb 24, 2022

If you are human, more than likely, there is some physical characteristic about your body that you don’t particularly care for. The good news, it’s 2022 and you can do something about it! There are numerous cosmetic and plastic surgeons all competing for your business. Which is right for you? Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgery? More often than not, individuals do not understand the differences between cosmetic vs plastic surgery.

Elective cosmetic enhancements has significantly increased in popularity over the past few decades. Just two decades ago, Cosmetic Surgery was often considered to be “taboo”! Today, cosmetic surgery has become much more acceptable. Men and women of all ages openly admit to having undergone some sort of enhancement. In fact, in 2020, males alone underwent 15 million cosmetic procedures! (www.plasticsurgery.org)

The newfound societal acceptance of cosmetic surgery has led to many advancements in the industry. Every year, the number of patients who undergo cosmetic surgery increase. It is safe to say the stigma of “feeling vain” to care about one’s physical appearance has diminished. Less people feel guilty about turning to a professional in order to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Before the cosmetic industry exploded, most people would turn to plastic surgeons. However, due to the increased demand for cosmetic enhancement procedures, large numbers of cosmetic surgeries are now being performed by non-plastic surgeons.

Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgeons. Same thing, right? Not quite.

Cosmetic vs Plastic specialties are very closely related, but not the same. Feeling confused now? You are not alone!  Even fellow physicians use these terms interchangeably, which only makes the subject more confusing to consumers!

Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgery Training Requirements

plastic vs cosmetic

As the chart indicates, while cosmetic surgery makes up only a portion of a Plastic Surgeon’s job, a Cosmetic Surgeon’s training is ONLY pertaining to Cosmetic enhancements.

 

Cosmetic Surgery plays a role in the training and practice of Plastic surgery, but is not the main objective.

The American Board of Plastic Surgery, or ABPS’, ‘About Us’ page describes Plastic Surgery as “primarily deals with reconstruction, or creating something new, as a result of a primary abnormality.”

In contrast to a Cosmetic Surgeon who does not recreate, but rather enhances an otherwise normal subject. The American Board for Cosmetic Surgery, or ABCS, outlines the reasons to choose a Cosmetic Surgeon on their website.

The simple explanation of cosmetic vs plastic surgery

  • Plastic Surgery:
      • Attempts to return a subject back to the normal appearance through the “reconstruction” or “repair” of body parts that are damaged by injury or diseases,
        • Examples include, breast reconstruction after breast cancer, repair of congenital defects such as cleft palate, skin grafts for burn injuries, tendon repair. etc.
        • Board Certified Plastic Surgeons are required to complete one of two routes of training:

         

        • • 1. An integrated residency training that combines three years of general surgery and three years of plastic surgery or
          • 2. An independent, five-year residency program in general surgery followed by the three-year plastic surgery residency program.
          • 150 procedures are required in order to qualify for Plastic surgery certification.

There are currently no residency programs in the United States devoted exclusively to cosmetic surgery. Upon completion of their chosen specialty, a surgeon begins taking courses which specialize on strictly Cosmetic procedures.  This advanced training is also known as a post-residency Fellowship training program.

  • Cosmetic Surgery:
      • • All Board-Certified Cosmetic Surgeons are also Board Certified in another related surgical specialty such as General surgery, Gynecology, ENT, Facial plastic surgery., etc.
        • Then, they advance onto a Fellowship in Cosmetic Surgery. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery must approve the program and usually takes about 1-2 years. All Cosmetic procedures will be studied individually. This includes surgeries of the face, breast, and body, plus non-surgical cosmetic treatments,
      • A surgeon must complete a minimum of 300 individual cosmetic surgery procedures in order to qualify.
 
 
It is not fair to say either a Plastic or Cosmetic Surgeon is considered more qualified than another.  There are superb examples of both Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgeons.

 

Research is extremely important when choosing a cosmetic surgeon. Any licensed physician can legally perform cosmetic surgery. This is okay, just be sure that they have received adequate training on the type of procedure you are looking to have done. You must compare doctorsoverall training, experience, and proven competence with respect to that specific cosmetic procedure. Ask to view before and after photos of recent cases.

 

 

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