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Understanding the Difference: Cosmetic Surgeons vs. Plastic Surgeons

Curious young woman in Orlando looking at informational brochures about the differences between cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons.

In the world of aesthetic and reconstructive surgery, the terms "cosmetic surgeon" and "plastic surgeon" are often leading to confusion about the qualifications, expertise, and types of procedures each type of surgeon performs. For individuals considering any form of cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, it is crucial to understand the distinction between these two specialties to make informed decisions. This blog aims to clarify the differences and highlight the unique qualifications and procedures associated with cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons.

Defining the Specialties

What is a Cosmetic Surgeon?

Cosmetic surgeons specialize in enhancing the appearance of the body, face, and skin. Their primary focus is on aesthetic improvement, offering procedures that aim to enhance, modify, or rejuvenate the physical appearance. Cosmetic surgeons typically perform elective surgeries that are not medically necessary but are desired for aesthetic reasons. These professionals come from various medical backgrounds and after completing their initial medical training, they undergo additional specialized training in cosmetic procedures.

Key Procedures Performed by Cosmetic Surgeons:

  • Breast Enhancement: Augmentation, Lift, Reduction

  • Facial Contouring: Rhinoplasty, Chin, or Cheek Enhancement

  • Facial Rejuvenation: Facelift, Eyelid Lift, Neck Lift, Brow Lift

  • Body Contouring: Tummy Tuck, Liposuction, Gynecomastia Treatment

  • Skin Rejuvenation: Laser Resurfacing, Botox, Filler Treatments

What is a Plastic Surgeon?

The difference with the plastic surgeons is that they are trained to perform both reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries. Their training includes a wide range of surgical procedures aimed at correcting dysfunctions, repairing injuries, and improving the body's function and appearance. Plastic surgery is rooted in the principle of reconstructing the form and function of the body, which includes not only aesthetic enhancements but also the reconstruction of defects due to illness, trauma, or congenital anomalies.

Key Procedures Performed by Plastic Surgeons:

  • Reconstructive Surgery: Breast Reconstruction, Burn Repair Surgery, Congenital Defect Repair like Cleft Palate

  • Hand Surgery: Repair of Congenital Defects and Injuries

  • Scar Revision Surgery

  • Cosmetic Surgery: Breast Enhancement, Body Contouring, Facial Rejuvenation

Training and Certification

The educational pathways and certifications for cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons differ significantly, reflecting the distinct focus of each specialty.

  • Cosmetic Surgeons: After completing medical school, doctors may pursue various postgraduate training paths that lead to careers in cosmetic surgery. They might come from dermatology, general surgery, or other medical fields and later specialize in cosmetic procedures through fellowships, workshops, and additional training.

  • Plastic Surgeons: Plastic surgeons undergo extensive training that includes medical school, a residency program in general surgery, followed by a residency in plastic surgery. They are trained in both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures during their education. Board certification for plastic surgeons is granted by organizations like the American Board of Plastic Surgery, indicating that they have met the rigorous standards and examinations required in this field.

Type of procedures 

Cosmetic and plastic surgeons both aim to improve a patient's appearance, but they focus on different aspects of surgery and have distinct specializations. Here's a more detailed look at the procedures typically performed by each and examples that illustrate these differences:

Cosmetic Surgeons

Close-up headshot of a woman at Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery in Orlando, with a doctor marking surgical lines on her face in preparation for cosmetic surgery.

Cosmetic surgeons primarily focus on enhancing appearance through elective procedures. These surgeries are usually not covered by insurance as they are considered not medically necessary and are performed on normal body structures to improve or enhance their appearance. Here are some examples:

  • Breast Augmentation: This is a classic cosmetic surgery procedure aimed at increasing the size, shape, or fullness of the breast using implants or fat transfer. It's purely aesthetic and intended for patients who wish to enhance their figure.

  • Liposuction: This procedure involves the removal of fat from specific areas of the body, such as the abdomen, hips, thighs, or buttocks, to contour the body and enhance its shape. Liposuction is about cosmetic enhancement rather than weight loss.

  • Rhinoplasty (Nose Job): A cosmetic procedure aimed at reshaping the nose to improve its appearance and proportion in relation to the rest of the face. It can also correct impaired breathing caused by structural defects in the nose, blurring the line between cosmetic and functional surgery.

  • Facelift (Rhytidectomy): Aimed at reducing the appearance of facial wrinkles and other telltale signs of aging, thereby improving the overall appearance of the face and jaw. Facelift surgery is purely cosmetic and intended to rejuvenate the facial appearance.

Plastic Surgeons

Close-up headshot of a woman looking down as a plastic surgeon marks surgical guidelines on her face, illustrating the precision involved in plastic surgery at Rejuv.

Plastic surgeons are trained to perform both reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries. Reconstructive surgeries are typically medically necessary and often covered by insurance, focusing on repairing or reconstructing abnormal structures of the body caused by congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infection, tumors, or disease.

  • Breast Reconstruction: Performed after mastectomy due to breast cancer, this reconstructive procedure aims to restore the breast to near normal shape, appearance, and size. This can involve the use of implants or the patient's own tissue.

  • Cleft Lip and Palate Repair: A set of congenital deformities that affect the upper lip and the roof of the mouth, requiring complex reconstructive surgery to repair. This is a classic example of reconstructive surgery aimed at restoring normal function and appearance.

  • Hand Surgery: Encompasses a wide range of procedures that treat diseases that cause pain and impair the strength, function, and flexibility of the wrist and fingers. It includes repairing tendons, nerves, and bones as well as reconstructing limbs to improve functionality and appearance after injury.

  • Scar Revision: This reconstructive procedure aims to minimize a scar so that it is more consistent with the surrounding skin tone and texture. Although it can have a cosmetic aspect, its primary aim is functional improvement and normalization of appearance following trauma or surgery.

It's important to note that there is some overlap between the fields, especially in procedures like rhinoplasty, which can be performed for both cosmetic and functional reasons. Some plastic surgeons also perform purely cosmetic procedures. However, the key difference lies in the extensive training and the scope of procedures they are trained to perform, with plastic surgeons capable of addressing more medically necessary reconstructive surgeries in addition to cosmetic enhancements.

Choosing the Right Surgeon for Your Needs

Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery nurse in Orlando explaining patient charts, highlighting the differences between cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons.

Understanding the differences between cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons, as well as the procedures they specialize in, can provide clarity and assist in making informed decisions. Here's a suggestion guide to help distinguish between the two and determine which might be best for your needs:

Identifying Your Needs

Patient receiving a rejuvenating facial treatment from a skilled nurse at Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery Institute and Med Spa, enhancing patient care and beauty.
  • Aesthetic Enhancements: If your primary goal is to enhance or beautify your appearance without any underlying medical concerns (e.g., breast augmentation, liposuction, facelifts, or tummy tucks), a cosmetic surgeon specializing in these procedures might be the right choice. They are adept at procedures aimed at improving physical appearance and self-esteem​.

Surgeon at Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery in Orlando, Florida, meticulously preparing her surgical equipment and tools for an upcoming cosmetic procedure.
  • Reconstructive Needs: For individuals requiring surgery to correct abnormalities, restore function, or reconstruct areas affected by trauma, congenital disabilities, or medical conditions (e.g., breast reconstruction post-mastectomy, cleft lip and palate repair, or hand surgery), consulting with a plastic surgeon is advisable. Plastic surgeons are extensively trained in both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures, making them well-equipped to handle complex cases​.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Surgeon

Evaluating Surgeon Qualifications

  • Board Certification: Look for surgeons who are board-certified in their respective fields. For plastic surgeons, this would be certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or an equivalent body in your country. Cosmetic surgeons should have certification from a recognized board that oversees cosmetic surgery.

  • Specialization and Experience: Consider the surgeon's specialization and experience in the specific procedure you're interested in. Review before-and-after photos of their work, patient testimonials, and any available case studies or publications.

Aesthetic Sense

Choose a surgeon whose aesthetic sense aligns with your desired outcomes. Carefully review before-and-after photos of their previous patients, particularly those with similar physical attributes to yours. This will help you gauge whether the surgeon's work meets your aesthetic goals​.(American Board of Cosmetic Surgery)

Surgeon and Staff Rapport

Your comfort and trust in the surgeon and their team are paramount. During consultations, assess how well the surgeon listens to your concerns, explains procedures, and discusses risks. The rapport you have with the surgeon can significantly impact your overall experience and satisfaction​ (American Board of Cosmetic Surgery)​.

Operating Facility

Safety during surgery is crucial. Inquire about where the surgery will be performed and ensure the facility is accredited by reputable organizations like AAAASF, AAAHC, JCAHO, or IMQ. The facility should have key life support systems and adhere to stringent safety standards​ (American Board of Cosmetic Surgery)​.

Follow-Up Care

Understand the surgeon's policy on follow-up care and post-operative support. Reliable and accessible post-operative care is essential for a smooth recovery and addressing any concerns that may arise after the surgery.

By carefully evaluating these factors and asking the right questions during your consultations, you can make a well-informed decision when choosing the right surgeon for your cosmetic or plastic surgery needs. Remember, this decision will impact you for years to come, so it's worth investing the time and effort to select a surgeon who meets the highest standards of expertise, safety, and ethical practice.

Why Choose Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery

Choosing Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery for your aesthetic procedures offers a combination of unique advantages that can significantly enhance your experience and outcomes. Here's why considering Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery could be the best decision for addressing your cosmetic surgery needs:

  • Expert Surgical Team on Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery are highly skilled, with board-certified surgeons with specialized training in both cosmetic and plastic surgery. Their surgeons have extensive experience in a wide range of procedures, ensuring that you receive expert care tailored to your specific aesthetic goals. The surgical team's commitment to continuous education means they are always at the forefront of the latest techniques and innovations in the field.

  • Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities designed to provide you with the safest and most comfortable experience. Their operating rooms are accredited and meet stringent standards for safety, sanitation, and preparedness, ensuring that you receive the highest level of care in a setting equipped with the latest medical technologies.

  • Personalized Care and Consultation: Rejuv places a strong emphasis on personalized care, beginning with a comprehensive consultation process. During your consultation, the surgeons take the time to understand your unique needs, goals, and concerns. This individualized approach ensures that the proposed treatment plan is perfectly aligned with your expectations and desired outcomes.

  • Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery offers a comprehensive range of cosmetic procedures, from minimally invasive treatments like Botox and fillers to major surgical interventions such as facelifts, breast augmentations, and body contouring. This wide array of services means you can find the exact treatment that suits your needs under one roof.

  • At Rejuv our beliefs are empowering patients through education. Their team provides detailed information about procedures, risks, recovery expectations, and aftercare, ensuring that you are fully informed and comfortable with every aspect of your treatment plan.

  • Exceptional Aftercare and Support Post-operative care is a critical component of your surgical journey. Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery offers exceptional aftercare and support, with readily accessible staff to address any post-surgery questions or concerns. Their commitment to your well-being extends beyond the operating room, ensuring a smooth and comfortable recovery process.

  • At Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery, the ultimate goal is your satisfaction with the aesthetic results. The combination of technical excellence, artistic vision, and a deep understanding of aesthetic proportions allows Rejuv's surgeons to deliver results that enhance your natural beauty and boost your confidence.

  • Ethical Practice and Integrity, Rejuv operates on principles of ethical practice and integrity, ensuring that your health and safety are always the top priorities. The surgeons provide honest assessments and recommendations, focusing on what's best for you rather than pushing unnecessary procedures.

Smiling woman happily showcasing the results of her procedure at Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery, expressing satisfaction with her enhanced appearance.

By choosing Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery, you're not just selecting a surgical provider; you're choosing a partner dedicated to helping you achieve your aesthetic dreams in the safest, most professional, and caring environment possible.


Understanding the differences between cosmetic and plastic surgeons is crucial when considering any aesthetic or reconstructive procedure. With this knowledge, you're better equipped to choose a professional who aligns with your specific needs and goals. If you're on the journey to enhance your appearance and are looking for skilled, experienced care, consider setting up a consultation to discuss your options and envision the possibilities for your transformation

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Take action today and discover how Rejuv Cosmetic Surgery can help you embrace a more confident, rejuvenated version of yourself. It's time to let your inner beauty shine through with the support of a team that's as invested in your transformation as you are.

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