What is the Difference Between a Cosmetic Surgeon and Plastic Surgeon?

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difference between cosmetic surgeon and plastic surgeon

Come as you are and leave as you wish! Cosmetic surgeons are the magical genies of our time who can help keep breasts perkier, faces younger and tummies tighter long past their prime. Meanwhile, plastic surgeons are the magicians who can make scars, burns and the results of horrible accidents seem to disappear.

Unfortunately, like most genies, wishes granted by cosmetic surgeons can be amazingly beautiful or horribly traumatizing. You’ll find both outcomes on online within seconds by doing a simple plastic or cosmetic plastic surgery search.

But wait. What exactly is the difference between the two?

We often use the titles cosmetic surgeon and plastic surgeon interchangeably. If you type in“ Plastic Surgery Fails” in any search engine I guarantee there will be several disturbing pictures and articles on celebrity facelifts. But don’t those technically qualify as cosmetic surgeries?

Well, let’s take a closer look at five major differences between plastic and cosmetic surgeons.

1. Difference in Their Core Purpose

Cosmetic Surgeon:

According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, one of the primary missions of their profession is to help clients enhance their appearance in order to make them more aesthetically pleasing. As opposed to any actual medical reason.

This means they are trained to focus on making any part of your body more visually appealing. Perceived imperfections or simply wanting to look a little more handsome to get that dream girl are what they are specialized to help with. Bottom line, they make you more attractive.

Plastic Surgeon:

The bottom line for the American Board of Plastic Surgery is a bit more serious. They help rebuild and bring body parts back to their normal functioning order and appearance. This can be the result of birth disorders, war wounds, car accidents, fires, etc.

In fact, the very first recorded plastic surgery procedure was a nose job dating back to 2500 to 3000 BC in ancient Egypt. In addition, several major gains in the profession were made in order to help war veterans as early as world war one look as they did before being wounded.

Here is an interesting clip on Harold Def Gilles one of the contributing fathers to modern plastic surgery and the improvements he began making during the first world war.

 2. Difference in Their Procedures

Cosmetic Surgeon:

The services provided by cosmetic surgeons are immensely popular and have been for some time. Especially, with payment plans, more options and sometimes even cheaper prices.

A few popular cosmetic procedures include rhinoplasty, breast augmentation and several minimally invasive options such as spider vein treatment.

Plastic Surgeon:

Plastic surgeons, like Landon Plastic Surgery who specializes in plastic surgery in Tampa, also offer quite a few services. These include, but are not limited to, post-mastectomy breast reconstruction, cleft lip repair, and hand surgery. 

3. Difference in Their Training & Education

Since the two distinct surgical specialties differ in the type of procedures they offer, the certification requirements contrast as well.

Cosmetic Surgeon:

Training begins the same exact way for them as it does for every other doctor in America. Medical School, followed by the required residency. Unfortunately, since there are no residencies primarily centered on cosmetic surgery, there is a large amount of additional training in this field.

Here is a snapshot of further requirements written by The California Academy of Cosmetic Surgery who reported:

  • A full year of training exclusively and comprehensively in cosmetic surgery
  • Perform a minimum of 300 individual cosmetic surgery procedures of the face, breast and body (recommended minimum requirement for plastic surgery residencies is only 55 cases)
  • Receive additional in-depth training in non-surgical cosmetic procedures, including Botox & fillers, laser resurfacing, and skin care (plastic surgery residencies currently have no training requirements for these treatments)
  • Perform and document an additional minimum set of cosmetic procedures following completion of 1-year fellowship
  • Pass a comprehensive, rigorous 2-day oral and written exam covering all aspects of cosmetic surgery

Plastic Surgeon:

Fortunately, after medical school they can attend a residency in plastic surgery. Once complete, joining the American Board of Plastic Surgery or pursuing further training as a cosmetic surgeon are optional.

4. Difference in Their Accountability

 Once finished with all of their required certifications, both professions are accountable to their own boards. However, there are organizations that include both, like the international society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

For many of these boards, membership is optional and have different requirements for the specialized certifications they may offer.

5. Difference in Their Clientele

Literally anyone may be in need of plastic surgery within their lifetime. Both plastic and cosmetic can be pricey, however, insurance only covers procedures deemed medically necessary. This means that brazilian butt lift is definitely gonna be paid out of pocket.

With all that being said, it’s not surprising that a large number of those seeking cosmetic surgery tend to come from or have access to those with higher income brackets.

Like many other closely related career paths, there are a lot of similarities and differences between cosmetic and plastic surgeons.However, in light of their pros and cons, both have very important places in today’s society.

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