Skip to main navigation

Patient lying on surgical table while surgeon standing by her side with surgical toolThe American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) released statistics that 14.6 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed in the United States in 2012. Since both cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons commonly perform cosmetic surgery, many people wonder what the difference is between these two medical specialties.

What is plastic surgery?

Plastic surgery is a specialty of medicine that focuses on the correction of form and function and includes both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.

Reconstructive Surgery

Reconstructive surgery is performed with the goal of restoring form and improving functional impairment. These impairments may be caused by burns, trauma, wounds, infection, disease, birth defects, or tumors. In addition, reconstructive surgery includes:

  • Craniofacial surgery (e.g., cleft lip and/or cleft palate)
  • Micro/hand surgery
  • Scar revision surgery
  • Pediatric surgery

Cosmetic Surgery

Also called “aesthetic plastic surgery,” cosmetic surgery focuses on improving the person’s appearance through medical and surgical techniques. Cosmetic surgery may be performed on any part of a person’s head, neck, or body. Some common cosmetic surgery procedures include:

  • Facelift
  • Brow lift
  • Eyelid lift
  • Rhinoplasty
  • Breast augmentation
  • Breast lift
  • Breast reduction
  • Buttock augmentation
  • Liposuction

What is the difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon?

Many people mistakenly believe a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon are the same. However, there are marked distinctions between the two.

Cosmetic Surgeons

Interestingly, any licensed physician may perform cosmetic surgery. Therefore, a cosmetic surgeon may be a family practitioner, general surgeon, ophthalmologist, gynecologist, dermatologist, internist, etc. There are no residency programs that are specifically focused on cosmetic surgery, so a cosmetic surgeon’s training and experience in performing cosmetic surgery procedures are obtained after he/she completes his/her residency program in another field of medicine. In addition, the American Board of Medical Specialties does not recognize cosmetic surgery as a specialty or subspecialty of medicine for the purposes of certification; there is no such thing as being board certified in cosmetic surgery.

Plastic Surgeons

The educational and training requirements for a physician to become a plastic surgeon are extensive and require the physician to complete a residency program in plastic and reconstructive surgery. In order to become board certified in plastic surgery, The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) requires the physician to graduate from an accredited medical school, complete a five year residency in general surgery (including two years devoted entirely to plastic surgery), and successfully pass both written and oral examinations. In addition, the ABPS requires that the majority of the physician’s medical practice be limited to the field of plastic surgery rather than other specialties.

Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon to perform your cosmetic surgery procedure will ensure that your surgeon has had extensive training and experience in performing plastic surgery procedures. Many plastic surgeons specialize in cosmetic surgery and have much more training and experience in performing these procedures than cosmetic surgeons. Therefore, when choosing a surgeon to perform your cosmetic surgery procedure, it is highly recommended that you choose a board-certified plastic surgeon in order to have the safest and most effective procedure.

If you are interested in any cosmetic surgery procedure, we encourage you to contact Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Renato Calabria. Dr. Calabria is certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), and he has years of training and experience performing many different cosmetic surgery procedures. To schedule your consultation with Dr. Calabria, please call (310) 777-0069 or fill out our online contact form today. We look forward to helping you achieve the aesthetic results you desire.