Plastic vs Cosmetic Surgery

Nov 10, 2023

Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are terms that most may think mean the same. But there are some significant differences between plastic vs cosmetic surgery. 

So, it is crucial to understand those precisely if you seek a surgical procedure. Knowing what procedures each field covers helps you choose the best surgeon. 

Let’s discover more about them!

Plastic vs Cosmetic Surgery

These names are often used interchangeably, but they have some differences. A cosmetic procedure is an elective surgery. This means it’s not deemed medically necessary and only serves aesthetic purposes.

In other words, those seeking cosmetic surgery are otherwise in good health. In contrast, plastic surgery involves reconstructive procedures deemed necessary.

Reconstructive plastic surgery is usually covered by medical insurance. But for cosmetic surgery, the patient pays out of pocket. So, even if they sound similar, plastic and cosmetic surgeries differ. 

For instance, if you are looking for Lexington cosmetic surgery, choosing a surgeon specializing in your procedure is vital. Ask your surgeon all about their credentials and certifications. This helps you confirm they are right for you.

Plastic vs Cosmetic Surgery

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Plastic surgery: Types of reconstructive procedures 

Plastic surgery is a field dedicated to reconstructing facial and body imperfections. These include birth disorders, abnormalities, burns, trauma, and illnesses. The types of reconstructive plastic procedures include the following:

  • Congenital defect repair (Cleft palate, extremity defect)
  • Burn repair 
  • Breast reconstruction
  • Scar tissue surgery
  • Hand surgery
  • Lower extremity reconstruction

Cosmetic surgery: Types of cosmetic procedures 

Unlike reconstructive surgery, cosmetic surgery focuses on improving a person’s appearance. The cosmetic procedures, principles, and techniques potentially aim to enhance the patient’s:

  • Aesthetic appeal
  • Symmetry
  • Proportion

Cosmetic procedures are optional since they are not medically essential but may improve one’s appearance. The types of cosmetic procedures include the following:

  • Facial rejuvenation (Facelift, brow lift, eyelid lift, neck lift)
  • Facial contouring (Rhinoplasty, chin reduction, cheek implants)
  • Breast enhancement (Breast augmentation, breast reduction, gynecomastia)
  • Body contouring (Liposuction, abdominoplasty, butt lift)
  • Skin rejuvenation (Filler treatments, laser resurfacing, botox) 

Difference Between Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeons

The differences between plastic and cosmetic surgery don’t stop only at the procedures. There are also different training and certification processes. 

According to research, 87% of the surveyed participants confused plastic and cosmetic surgeons. To select the best surgeon for the surgery you desire, you need to understand the precise meaning of each term.

Difference Between Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon

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Plastic surgeon training 

Physicians who become board-certified in plastic surgery must complete a general surgery residency. After that, they need to complete another two years of plastic surgery. Plastic surgery residency programs may include cosmetic surgery as part of the training.

However, the training does not include every cosmetic procedure. The title “board-certified plastic surgeon” indicates the level of training and experience in plastic surgery. But it does not indicate cosmetic surgery. So, the plastic surgery board certification requires the following steps: 

  • Medical school
  • Residency training in plastic and reconstructive surgery

Cosmetic surgeon training

Cosmetic surgeons get training and experience after completing their residency training. They do it by getting a post-residency fellowship. Physicians who want to become board-certified cosmetic surgeons may achieve this by:

  • Medical school
  • Residency
  • Primary board certification in their residency area
  • Cosmetic surgery fellowship training
  • Passing the board certification exam

Aesthetic vs Reconstructive Procedures

Board-certified cosmetic surgeons specialize in aesthetic surgical procedures. To sit for the board exam, surgeons must perform the required number of cosmetic surgeries. This shows that the surgeons are specialists in the procedures.

In contrast, plastic surgeons may study a broader range of surgeries. The plastic surgery training during medical residency includes surgeries to improve function after:

  • Injury
  • Illness
  • Congenital disorder

Aesthetic procedure training is one of the categories of procedures in plastic surgery training but not the sole focus. Plastic surgeons who want to specialize in cosmetic surgeries may pursue post-residency fellowships.

Aesthetic vs Reconstructive Procedures

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery the same?

Even though they are often confused with one another, they are not the same. Cosmetic surgery encompasses aesthetic procedures that may improve appearances. But they are not medically necessary. Plastic surgery provides reconstructive procedures intending to improve function. 

Does medical insurance cover plastic vs cosmetic surgery?

Medical insurance covers plastic surgery as it improves medical function. In contrast, cosmetic surgery is not covered by insurance. This is because it does not serve a functional purpose. But there are some exceptions. 

For example, if a woman has medical issues due to breast size, she may qualify for a breast reduction covered by insurance. Another case is eyelid surgery if the excess skin is causing the patient vision issues.