Cosmetic Surgery, Plastic Surgery—What’s the Difference?
If you’ve always thought cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery were one in the same, you’re not alone. A significant number of plastic surgeons choose to focus their practice on cosmetic surgery, and as such, the terms are often used interchangeably. But this is not technically correct. Cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are closely related specialties, but they are not the same.
1. Cosmetic Surgery & Plastic Surgery Have Different Goals
While both cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery deal with the plastic or cosmetic surgeon improving a patient’s body, the overarching philosophies guiding the training, research, and goals for patient outcomes are different.
Cosmetic Surgery: Focused on Enhancing Appearance
The procedures, techniques, and principles of cosmetic surgery are entirely focused on enhancing a patient’s appearance. Improving aesthetic appeal, symmetry, and proportion are the key goals. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the head, neck, and body. Because the treated areas function properly, cosmetic surgery is elective. Cosmetic surgery is practiced by doctors from a variety of medical fields, including plastic surgeons.
The scope of cosmetic surgery procedures includes:
- Breast Enhancement: Augmentation, Lift, Reduction
- Facial Contouring: Rhinoplasty, Chin, or Cheek Enhancement
- Facial Rejuvenation: Facelift, Eyelid Lift, Neck Lift, Brow Lift
- Body Contouring: Tummy Tuck, Liposuction, Gynecomastia Treatment
- Skin Rejuvenation: Laser Resurfacing, Botox®, Filler Treatments
Plastic Surgery: Focused on Repairing Defects to Reconstruct a Normal Function & Appearance
Plastic surgery is defined as a surgical specialty dedicated to reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, trauma, burns, and disease. Plastic surgery is intended to correct dysfunctional areas of the body and is reconstructive in nature. While many plastic surgeons choose to complete additional training and perform cosmetic surgery as well, the basis of their surgical training remains reconstructive plastic surgery. In fact, in 1999, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons changed its name to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to more strongly communicate the message that “plastic and reconstructive surgeons are one in the same.”¹
Examples of plastic surgery procedures:
- Breast Reconstruction
- Burn Repair Surgery
- Congenital Defect Repair: Cleft Palate, Extremity Defect Repair
- Lower Extremity Reconstruction
- Hand Surgery
- Scar Revision Surgery