"There is also a huge difference in a patient choosing a cosmetic surgeon or a plastic surgeon to perform a procedure."

The Difference Between Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery

Some people use the terms plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery interchangeably, when in fact these terms have very different meanings.  If you’re interested in having any surgical procedure, it is important to understand the difference.

Posted: 10 September 11

By Louisa McKay

Plastic surgery, sometimes known as reconstructive surgery, involves correcting an abnormality resulting from a birth defect, health condition or accident. Abnormalities can be aesthetic or functional or both. For instance, an accident victim may still be able to see, eat, breathe, hear and do everything he or she could do before the accident, but has been left with a disfigured face. Someone else may have lost part of an ear and has impaired hearing. Plastic surgery can repair the disfigurement and reconstruct the ear.

Cosmetic surgery, by contrast, is performed on normal, healthy body parts to improve their appearance. People have cosmetic surgery to improve the way they look, based on their own ideals of beauty. For instance, a 65-year-old woman may have a normal face for her age, but she may want to tighten the skin and muscles by having a facelift.

Plastic surgeons can fix things such as cleft pallets, broken noses or scarring from skin cancer, however, they also perform cosmetic surgery. Some procedures, such as rhinoplasty and breast reconstruction, can be both reconstructive and cosmetic. Plastic surgery might be used to correct a structural imperfection, such as a deviated septum, which impedes breathing, and, at the same time, improve the appearance of the patient’s nose. Breast reconstruction might be used after a single mastectomy, and the surgeon might lift or augment the other breast at the same time.

There is also a difference in a patient choosing a cosmetic surgeon or a plastic surgeon to perform a procedure. The primary difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon or physician is the training that they have undergone.

It is important to understand the reason you are having the surgery, firstly so that you end up with what you want, and additionally, to optimise your potential for a rebate from your private health insurer, if applicable.

Join the Conversation

  • shnow says:

    What training or degree would i need to undertake to become a cosmetic surgeon?

    • Costhetics says:

      To become a cosmetic surgeon you need to have received a medical degree (in Australia it is usually an MBBS or sometimes BMed).

      You are also required to become a member of an association such as the ACCS (Australasian College Of Cosmetic Surgery) to ensure ongoing training in your chosen procedure.

  • Santosh Kumar Singh says:

    Sir i m 24 year old, i have a problem when i was a 8 years old my face burnt, i m not looking good ,i feel uncomfortable to go some where because of that there are three burnt spot on my face, please suggest me what to do, what is percentage to removed from my face. i m waiting for ur response, reply as soon as possible.

    • Costhetics says:

      Dear Santosh,

      No one can really give an accurate answer to your question, and only a qualified medical doctor should even attempt to do so.

      So the first thing you should do is visiting a qualified plastic surgeon, cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist who has experience in scar removal treatments.

      Here are some points that may be of help when you as you search for a solution:

      No one can guarantee that your scars may be removed 100 percent. But old burn scars can be treated with both non-surgical methods and surgical techniques which may significantly reduce their visibility.

      Non-surgical treatments for scars include silicone gel treatments, skin peels, dermabrasion and laser resurfacing. These treatments may be performed by cosmetic physicians, dermatologists as well as plastic surgeons. They may also be available with medi-spas and other cosmetic treatment outlets, but we urge you to get it done under the supervision of a medically qualified service provider.

      If your scar is not responding well to these, or if a plastic surgeons determines it is best to use a surgical method to remove your scars, either skin grafting or flap surgery may be used. Make sure though that only a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon performs these procedures on your face.

      Just to be safe, please get a second opinion after your consultation with one medical professional.

      Good luck and Happy New Year!