Plastic Surgeon v. Cosmetic Surgeon: What’s the Difference?

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close up of a woman's jawline

There are actually more differences than you might think. Though both titles sound similar and seem like they can do the same things, they are quite different. With the popularity of cosmetic surgery on the rise, the legitimacy of your surgeon is an important factor to consider, especially when booking an appearance-altering procedure. If someone is injecting dermal fillers into your face, or putting implants into your breasts, you want to be sure that they are experienced, have had proper training, and know what they are doing.

To become a plastic surgeon, physicians must go through many extra years of training following medical school. This molds the young doctor’s hands into the hands of not only a surgeon but the hands of an artist. It is important for plastic surgeons to have an eye for detail and a delicate touch when they are changing somebody’s appearance. Following training, plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery which is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), ensuring their ethical and effective practice to prospective patients.

To achieve this certification, plastic surgeons undergo “peer-developed, externally validated programs which serve as important markers for a higher standard of care. They reflect the critical core physician values of compassion, patient-centeredness, and a passion for education.” Obtaining a medical license is the minimum standard for doctors, whereas certification by the ABMS is specialty specific, and delves deeper into the physician’s practice.

A physician claiming to be a cosmetic surgeon only, without the board certification of a plastic surgeon, is a physician to avoid. While many “cosmetic” surgeons may believe they are as qualified or more so to perform appearance-altering procedures, most have had far less specialty specific training than a plastic surgeon without a set standard of quality in training. In reality, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery go hand in hand. The most talented cosmetic plastic surgeons often perform a great deal of reconstructive surgery, because if you can build a part of the body then you truly understand it’s aesthetic. Many cosmetics surgeons will claim board certification through The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery which was founded by several cosmetic surgeons and requires physicians to just complete a residency followed by only one year of training in a non accredited cosmetic fellowship. However, this board is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties which claims all major surgical specialty boards.

When choosing your surgeon, transparency and effectiveness is important. You should always know the exact credentials your surgeon possesses, and they should always be certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties. This will help ensure a positive experience, whether you are getting a skin tightening procedure, a tummy tuck or a breast augmentation.

Dr. Rukmini “Vinaya” Rednam is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who is also recognized as a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. To consult with Dr. Rednam for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, call (713) 791-0700 or email.