The Difference Between a Plastic Surgeon and Cosmetic Surgeon

By April 26, 2022 General No Comments

While the terms “plastic surgeon” and “cosmetic surgeon” often get used interchangeably, they’re not the same. In fact, there are significant differences between plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons. If you’re in the market for an aesthetic procedure, it’s important to familiarize yourself with how these two types of professionals differ. Keep reading to find out.

Qualifications for Plastic Surgeons and Cosmetic Surgeons

Plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, one of the 24 medical specialty boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Cosmetic surgeons, on the other hand, have not earned certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery. They may advertise as “Board Certified” but often they are board certified in the medical specialty in which they did their core training. Some will advertise certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, however, this is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Plastic surgeons are required to complete a residency training program accredited by the American Board of Plastic Surgery that is dedicated to both cosmetic and reconstructive. The training programs are either three years following a General Surgery, ENT Surgery or Orthopedic Surgery residency, or a 6 year Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency. To obtain board certification in Plastic Surgery,  a surgeon has to be in practice for 1 year and pass rigorous written and oral examinations administered  by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. During that first year in practice, they are required to keep meticulous records, including before and after pictures, of every procedure they perform. Specific surgical cases are then selected by the board examiners to be reviewed at the time of their oral examination. This examination process is designed to demonstrate their clinical acumen and commitment to safety and ethics within the specialty of Plastic Surgery

In comparison, gaining certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, requires only one year of training in cosmetic surgery with a much smaller requirement in the number of cases to be completed in that year (300).

Goals of Cosmetic vs Reconstructive Surgery

Plastic surgeons are trained in both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures.

Cosmetic or aesthetic surgery strives to enhance a patient’s appearance. These procedures are  performed on all areas of the body and are voluntary choices by patients. Several examples of aesthetic procedures include body contouring like liposuction or a tummy tuck, breast lift and augmentation, facial rejuvenation, such as a face lift or brow lift, and skin rejuvenation like laser resurfacing.

Reconstructive surgery is designed to restore normal appearance and function following injury of a specific body part. Scar revision surgery, burn repair surgery, and breast reconstruction after a mastectomy are all considered reconstructive procedures. Plastic Surgeons are well trained in both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery during their residencies.

Importance of Board Certification

We believe it’s in your best interest to choose a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. You can rest assured that a board-certified Plastic Surgeon has been well trained and is committed to performing your procedure in a safe and ethical manner. All members of the Dallas Society of Plastic Surgeons are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Contact One of Our Certified Plastic Surgeons Today