Cosmetic Surgery vs Plastic Surgery: What Is the Difference?

September 1, 2020

Cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, it is technically incorrect to do so. While they are similar, they are not exactly the same disciplines. Learning the differences can be beneficial to understanding who and where to turn to when it comes to altering your own body.

What Is Cosmetic Surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is defined by its focus on improving aesthetic appearance. The treatments, procedures, and techniques used in this field are not designed to improve function. Therefore, cosmetic surgery is purely elective. The procedures are performed on the head, neck, and body by doctors who are trained in the cosmetic surgery field.

Types of cosmetic procedures include:

  • Face and Skin Rejuvenation (face lift, brow lift, laser resurfacing, or fillers)
  • Breast Enhancement (augmentation or lift)
  • Face and Body Contouring (tummy tuck, or liposuction)

What Is Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgery focuses on reconstruction of the body. These procedures are used to correct dysfunctional areas of the body that stem from a range of defects. Before they were known as plastic surgeons, these doctors were commonly referred to as reconstructive surgeons. Overall, these reconstructive surgeries help to alter and restore parts of the body.

Types of plastic surgeries include:

  • Breast Reduction
  • Gender Affirming Surgeries
  • Medical necessities, such as for eyelid or nose surgery

How Are Cosmetic Surgeons Trained?

After medical school, doctors are required to complete residency training. For cosmetic surgeons, there are currently no exclusive residency programs in their field offered in the United States. Instead, experience in this area will be completed after residency training through the form of a fellowship program in cosmetic surgery.

To become a board-certified cosmetic surgeon, the doctor must display an advanced understanding and specialization of the field. After completing a year long, American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery certified fellowship program, a surgeon is eligible for board certification. During their training, surgeons will be exposed to all cosmetic procedures, surgeries, and treatments. Any licensed physician can conduct cosmetic procedures, so it’s best to do some research before choosing your cosmetic surgeon. 

How Are Plastic Surgeons Trained?

For plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgery is only one aspect of the training process. In addition to a generalized training in cosmetic procedure, plastic surgeons also require education and experience in a range of other specialties. After completing medical school, they will move on to a 6 to 8 year long residency program.

In order to become board-certified, a plastic surgeon can either choose an integrated residency training or an independent program. Integrated residency combines three years of general surgery training and three years of plastic surgery training. An independent program may include five years of general surgery followed by three years of a plastic surgery residency program. 

Schedule a Consultation

It’s important to seek treatment from a qualified and experienced professional. If you have any questions or are interested in any cosmetic or reconstructive procedures, schedule a  consultation with Dr. DiFrancesco by calling (404) 531-2478 or request an appointment online.

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