The Distinction Between Cosmetic Surgeons and Plastic Surgeons: Understanding the Difference

As a board-certified plastic surgeon, I have encountered many patients who are confused about the difference between cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons. It is a common misconception that these two terms are interchangeable, but in reality, they refer to two distinct specialties within the field of surgery. Plastic surgery is a broad field that encompasses both cosmetic (aesthetic) procedures and reconstructive procedures. Reconstructive surgery focuses on repairing or reconstructing problems caused by congenital deformities, the removal of tumors such as cancer, trauma, or other reasons. On the other hand, cosmetic surgery focuses solely on aesthetic procedures to enhance one's appearance. According to Dr.

Alan Matarasso, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), cosmetic surgery is a subspecialty of plastic surgery. This means that while all cosmetic surgeons are plastic surgeons, not all plastic surgeons are cosmetic surgeons. In order to become a certified plastic surgeon, one must be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), which is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).The training and experience required to become a board-certified plastic surgeon is rigorous and extensive. After completing medical school, a plastic surgeon must first serve as a surgical resident for at least 3 years, followed by 3 years of specific training in plastic surgery.

This training not only focuses on technical skills but also on developing aesthetic judgment and the ability to visualize final results. On the other hand, a cosmetic surgeon may come from various fields of medicine and may not have completed the same level of training as a plastic surgeon. While they may be board-certified in their respective fields, this does not necessarily mean they have the same level of expertise in cosmetic procedures. It is important for patients to understand the difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon when considering a procedure. Look for a plastic surgeon who specializes in the type of surgery you are interested in and ask to see before and after photos of previous patients. It is also crucial to ask questions and ensure that the surgeon has hospital privileges and operates in properly certified centers. In a survey conducted by the ASPS, 87 percent of people believed that surgeons should have special credentials and training to perform cosmetic procedures.

This highlights the importance of choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic procedure. While both cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons may offer similar procedures, it is important to understand the distinction between the two. A board-certified plastic surgeon has undergone extensive training and has the necessary skills and experience to perform both reconstructive and cosmetic procedures. On the other hand, a cosmetic surgeon may not have the same level of training or expertise in aesthetic techniques.