Cosmetic Surgery vs Plastic Surgery: Know the Difference

Considering getting cosmetic or plastic surgery? That’s great! But before anything else, did you know that there are a good deal of differences between the two? Whether you’re a potential candidate or you’re simply curious to know, we’ve got you covered.
The digital world has certainly been successful in introducing a variety of new concepts, reviving decades-old trends, and even mainstreaming long-existing but underrated ideas - all with its ability to transmit information creatively in a millisecond, no matter the time, no matter the place. A very good example of that is the increasing popularity of cosmetic and plastic surgery over the last decade. Both terms are actually everywhere these days - advertisements on social media, commercials on television and radios, and even face filters or presets on our favorite photo enhancing applications.

Cosmetic Surgery vs. Plastic Surgery

Typically, people talk about ’getting work done’ to look good or look like a certain celebrity they admire when cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are brought up in a conversation; but in fact, those terms are essentially different and are only similar in a few respects. Both cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery works on and improves a patient’s physical body, but digging further, there are distinctions in training, research, and goals.

Essential Functions and Purposes of Cosmetic Surgery vs. Plastic Surgery

What is Cosmetic Surgery?

Cosmetic Surgery is a highly specialized field that is entirely focused on enhancing a person’s physical appearance, which includes achieving aesthetic balance, proportion, and overall all visual appeal and attractiveness. Simply put, cosmetic surgeons perform cosmetic surgery to help patients look good or look better. Surgical and medical procedures and techniques as well as the style of doctors in this field is entirely focused on these key goals.
Aesthetic surgeries, as they are also commonly called, can be performed on practically all parts of the body, even the neck and the head, that are working and functioning fine and do not have some serious deformity or defect. In effect, this makes cosmetic surgery elective. Still, more than achieving beauty, cosmetic surgery does wonders in helping its patients to achieve, regain, improve, and even heal self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth.

What is Plastic Surgery?

Plastic Surgery is a surgical specialty that includes a wide variety of practices and procedures for restoring, reconstructing, or altering human body parts. It is broader in nature as it involves two main categories: cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery. The latter essentially brings back the appearance, but also the functioning of the body or certain body parts that have been deformed or have developed defects from injury like trauma and burns, disease, or congenital problems. Thus, most plastic or reconstructive surgeries are covered by medical insurance, unlike cosmetic surgery.
It must be emphasized, still, that plastic surgery also has an aesthetic approach to it, as the surgeon operates with consideration on balance and proportion, or how the restoration or alteration will fit right into the rest of the body. Additionally, successful plastic or reconstructive surgeries also significantly help in regaining self-confidence and also alleviates psychological anxiety and trauma of patients.

Types of Surgeries under Cosmetic Surgery vs. Plastic Surgery

We’ve already established that in effect, cosmetic surgery is a highly specialized form of plastic surgery, and thus there will be certain types of procedures that fall in both categories and surgeries that fall exclusively in one type. Both fields also cater to men and women of all different ages and will take individual circumstances into consideration.

Popular Cosmetic Surgeries include:

Liposuction: Removes unwanted fat deposits from specific areas of the body such the abdomen, hips, thighs, arms, and neck.
Tummy tuck: Eliminates excess fat and loose skin along the stomach to reshape, improve, flatten, and tone the abdominal profile.
Rhinoplasty: Also known as a nose job, reconstructing the bone or cartilage to reshape the nose and enhance facial balance.
Penile Enlargement/Lengthening: Improves “thickness and length” of the penis either through fat transplant or filler injections.

Popular Plastic Surgeries include:

Breast Reconstruction: Restores the near normal shape of the breast after mastectomy or lumpectomy (part of breast cancer treatment) or from birth disorders.
Burn repair surgery: Restores appearance and functions of body parts with burn and burn scars.
Congenital Defect Repair: Corrects deformities from birth such cleft lift and cleft palate.
Hand Surgery: Restores and improves strength, flexibility, function, in the hand and fixes conditions such as webbed fingers, arthritis, and even trauma.

Surgeons working in Cosmetic Surgery vs. Plastic Surgery

One of the most important distinctions to make between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery involves the medical professionals who perform them. As physicians, both cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons go to medical school but since they work on relatively different cases and have different key goals, it follows that their training and certification also have deviations. Formal Training
Cosmetic surgery does not require a specific residency program after medical school, at least in the Philippines and also the United States. Instead, cosmetic surgeons undergo a residency and/or fellowship program in a surgical institution that has a board certification in the field of cosmetic surgery. Upon completion, they must proceed and acquire a post-residency fellowship training program in the specialty for their formal training. Cosmetic surgeons can also undergo accredited lectures, workships, and seminars.
Plastic/Reconstructive Surgeons must also complete a graduate residency program after finishing medical school. Either they combine the residency training for general surgery and plastic surgery or opt for independent programs. This usually depends on each country’s pertinent laws. Either way. pursuing a post-residency program on cosmetic surgery is only an option, in case the surgeon decides to specialize as well in the field. Board Certification
Both cosmetics and plastic surgeons obtain board certification to determine and vet their qualifications and competence in the field. Certifying boards in the Philippines and abroad for plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons differ and set rigorous criteria to ensure that these medical professionals have undergone formal education and sufficient training to perform their job which essentially deals not only with human conditions but with human lives. Any licensed physician can perform cosmetic surgery, for instance, which only underlines the importance of certifications. So remember to always look into these factors when choosing the right surgeon for your needs.

The Bottomline

We’ve pretty much covered all the basics you need to know about Cosmetic Surgery vs. Plastic Surgery. While essentially different, both procedures pursue healing, must be conducted by trained and board-certified physicians, and should be carried out in a well-maintained surgical facility with up to date equipment. So whichever will apply to you, you must make sure to look for all these things.
If you’re looking for the best cosmetic surgery experience, Alonzo Cosmetic Surgery is a definite check on all the aspects we’ve covered - expert doctors with the aesthetic vision to guide you and professional facilities and equipment plus competitive staff and a calm clinic ambiance. BOOK A VISIT WITH ALONZO COSMETIC SURGERY TODAY!

Works Cited

1. “Frequently Asked Questions About Cosmetic Surgery.” American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery,

2. “Cosmetic vs. Plastic Surgery.” American Board of Facial Cosmetic Surgery,

3. Chundru, Deepu. “Cosmetic Surgery Vs Plastic Surgery. Explore the Differences Here.” Thenewyou, 29 November 2019,

4. “Cosmetic Surgery vs Plastic Surgery | Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgeons.” American Board of Cosmetic Surgery,

5. Chundru, Deepu. “Cosmetic Surgery Vs Plastic Surgery. Explore the Differences Here.” Thenewyou, 29 November 2019,

6. “Cosmetic Surgery vs Plastic Surgery | Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgeons.” American Board of Cosmetic Surgery,

7. “Cosmetic vs. Plastic Surgery.” American Board of Facial Cosmetic Surgery,

8. “Frequently Asked Questions About Cosmetic Surgery.” American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery,