What’s the Difference Between a Cosmetic and Plastic Surgeon?

Many patients believe that the terms “plastic surgeon” and “cosmetic surgeon” are interchangeable. Knowing the difference is crucial when choosing a surgeon for your aesthetic needs. Here is a look into the clinical differences between cosmetic and plastic surgeons, and who is best suited for specific procedures.

Why is plastic surgery called “plastic” surgery if there isn’t any plastic involved?

Many terms in the medical field are derived from Greek, Roman and Latin words. The Greek word, “plastikos” means “to shape or to mold.” Since plastic surgery mainly involves reshaping, “plastic” surgery is an appropriate term. Plastic surgery is an umbrella term, under it are many different types of specializations including reconstructive and aesthetic surgery. Aesthetic, which is another word for cosmetic surgery is generally performed to improve upon existing features. Alternately, reconstructive plastic surgery is performed to restore parts of the body that are compromised or defective as a result of cancer, trauma, or birth defect.

Do plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons receive the same training?

No. After completing medical school, in order to be a plastic surgeon subjects continue their education in a surgical residency for at least 3 years where they are trained on all aspects of surgery. After that, subjects continue residency and are trained specifically in plastic surgery. This process can take anywhere from 6 to 8 years to complete, and many plastic surgeons choose to continue their education after that in a plastic surgery fellowship specializing in pediatrics, craniofacial, microvascular, among others. This is the key difference between plastic and cosmetic surgeons. A doctor referring to his or herself as a cosmetic surgeon can be any general surgeon who has decided to perform cosmetic procedures that has completed a one year cosmetic surgery fellowship, or a few weekend courses on specific procedures such as liposuction, breast augmentation, or injectables. Cosmetic surgeons are surgeons, but they are not trained as rigorously as plastic surgeons.

What does board-certified mean?

Board-certified ensures that a doctor has met specific standards set by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Top plastic surgeons are diplomates of the the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) which is the only board recognized by ABMS for the specialty of plastic surgery. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is not recognized by the ABMS. A surgeon who is a board-certified cosmetic surgeon can be a general surgeon who is trained in a different specialty (which is how they are claiming to be board-certified).

Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon in Okatie

For more information on the differences between cosmetic and plastic surgeons, or how to select the correct plastic surgeon for you, contact Dr. Smith today at 843.705.8940. Our offices are located in South Carolina, serving the communities of Hilton Head, Bluffton, Beaufort and Okatie. We look forward to hearing from you!



Ready to Schedule Your Appointment?

* All indicated fields must be completed.
Please include non-medical questions and correspondence only. No solicitations please.

Smith Plastic Surgery

Mon-Thurs 8:30 am - 5 pm
Fri 8:30 am - 2 pm
Sat & Sun Closed

Accessibility Toolbar

Scroll to Top