If you are confused about the distinctions between plastic surgery vs cosmetic surgery, then you are not alone in your confusion. Given the numerous procedures and treatments that have appeared in hospitals, as well as shopping malls, in recent years, it is often difficult to be certain of which is which. The differences come down to the training the clinician has received and the branch of surgery to which the procedure belongs.

The Two Branches of Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgeons are trained in both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.  Plastic surgeons created cosmetic surgery, and their specialty is uniquely suited to treat aspects of cosmetic surgery.  Reconstructive surgery is very diverse and includes the treatment of birth deformities, burns, trauma, and hand injuries.  Plastic surgeons are considered experts in cosmetic surgery.

  • Reconstructive Plastic Surgery

The primary purpose of reconstructive surgery is to restore and/or improve the function of body parts. Reconstructive surgery is extensive.  Other surgeons contact plastic surgeons to close complex wounds and to treat deformities.  Children born with severe defects, such as cleft lip and palate, are repaired by plastic surgeons.  Burns, accidents, and cancer reconstruction are repaired by plastic surgeons.

  • Cosmetic Surgery

Procedures that fall under the category known as cosmetic surgery are generally considered non-essential. This does not reflect on the patient’s view of a procedure’s importance. However, most cosmetic procedures try to enhance, rather than repair, a body part. This category can be further divided into smaller categories according to whether the procedure involves surgery or not.

Types of Cosmetic Surgery

Many surgical cosmetic procedures are familiar to the general public. They include breast augmentation and reduction, liposuction, and blepharoplasty. The latter operation is also known as eyelid surgery.

Non-surgical cosmetic procedures have increased in number in recent years. They include procedures such as Botox injections, microdermabrasion, and laser skin resurfacing. Some of these only address surface issues, while others, like Botox injections, do involve minimally invasive techniques.

There is another significant difference between these types of cosmetic surgery. Most of the latter procedures do not require the presence of a trained physician or surgeon. People frequent shopping malls and other public areas in order to get injections of Botox and receive laser treatments on their wrinkles. The technicians performing these procedures have minimal training and are often not licensed by any regulatory body.

Sometimes, physicians participate or oversee these procedures. However, that does not really qualify them as cosmetic or plastic surgeons. This is where a major difference in plastic surgery vs cosmetic surgery comes in. Qualified plastic surgeons, which perform surgical procedures for either reconstructive or cosmetic reasons, have been through high-level training and operate under carefully prescribed conditions. This is a far cry from someone giving Botox injections in a storefront.

A board-certified plastic surgeon is trained to perform a wide variety of reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries. These procedures are enumerated below. If you are considering any of these procedures for yourself, make sure that you review the background of the surgeon and verify that he or she is qualified and competent to operate on you.

  • Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck) – This operation involves the removal of sagging skin on the abdominal wall, as well as tightening of the abdominal wall muscle. Requests for this surgery most frequently come from women who have had children and do not intend to have any more.
  • Blepharoplasty (Eyelid Surgery) – As a person ages, his or her eyelid skin may begin to droop to such an extent that they even interfere with sight. In some cases, patients request this procedure for the cosmetic advantage of having eyes that appear younger and less tired.
  • Mammoplasty – This term includes all cosmetic operations made on the breast of men or women.  “Mammoplasty” literally means to ‘fix or repair’ the breast. It can include both augmentation and reduction.
  • Rhinoplasty – Also known as nose surgery, this operation reduces the size and breadth of a patient’s nose.

So What Do I Need? Plastic Surgery vs Cosmetic Surgery

Understanding the differences between plastic surgery vs cosmetic surgery is the first step to finding the right clinician. Take the time to research a doctor’s background, education, and work history. A qualified doctor should have no hesitation providing you with insight into the education and training he or she received to become a plastic surgeon.