Cosmetic Surgeon vs. Plastic Surgeon: What’s the Difference? By Michael A. Devlin, MD on August 10, 2015

Cosmetic surgery is a unique discipline of medicine focused on enhancing a patient’s appearance. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the head, neck and body; its an elective procedure because treated areas function properly but a person is wanting to enhance their overall beauty.

Plastic surgery is defined as a surgical specialty dedicated to reconstruction of facial and body defects due to birth disorders, trauma, burns, and disease. Plastic surgery is intended to correct areas of the body that are not working properly and is reconstructive in nature.

The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS) is a professional medical society for cosmetic surgeons whose members are dedicated to patient safety and physician education.

The AACS has designed a special patient education website explaining the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery. This website clears up a number of misconceptions in the media about the multi-disciplinary nature of cosmetic surgery.

The following information is from the AACS:

What is the difference between plastic and cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is entirely elective and meant to enhance one's appearance. Plastic surgery is medically indicated and reconstructive in nature.

What is the difference between how a cosmetic surgeon is trained versus a plastic surgeon?

A cosmetic surgeon is a doctor who has completed his training in a particular area such as general surgery, otolaryngology, maxillofacial surgery and has gone on to receive continuing medical education through a one or two-year fellowship training program in the specialty of cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgeons, on average, complete more than 700 cosmetic surgery procedures by the end of their training.

A plastic surgeon is a doctor who has completed his residency in plastic surgery, specializing in such topics as facial and body defects, burns, birth disorders and disease. Plastic surgeons learn little about cosmetic procedures in their residency training programs.


It is important to note that board certification in Plastic Surgery does not ensure adequate training in cosmetic surgery. A plastic surgery resident/fellow is only required to perform 55 cosmetic surgery cases in his or her training. And, according to a November 2008 article in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal titled "A Survey of Cosmetic Surgery Training in Plastic Surgery Programs in the Unites States," more than 36% of graduating plastic surgeons felt that they needed additional cosmetic surgery training. Cosmetic Surgeons develop their cosmetic surgical skills through post residency training and experience.


What are the benefits of having a cosmetic surgeon perform cosmetic procedures?

Cosmetic surgeons are dedicated to the art of cosmetic surgery. Their strong knowledge base, high level of training and practical experience make them among the most qualified to perform safe and proper cosmetic procedures. Cosmetic surgeons also offer a unique, multidisciplinary approach to patient care that brings breadth and depth of expertise to the field.

View Dr. Michael Devlin's CV here

We hope that this has cleared up some misconceptions about Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery.  As always, at Devlin Cosmetic Surgery we are happy to answer any questions you may have.



Related to This

Plastic surgeon Michael Devlin, M.D.

Devlin Cosmetic Surgery: Michael Devlin, M.D.

Dr. Devlin is a cosmetic surgeon who provides each of his patients with personalized care and a compassionate approach. He offers a range of procedures in an environment where patients feel safe, comfortable, and heard. He is affiliated with organizations such as the:

  • American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (Fellow)
  • American Society of Cosmetic Breast Surgery
  • American Medical Association
  • Arkansas Medical Society
  • Pulaski County Medical Society

To get started on your plastic surgery journey, fill out our form or call (501) 227-8811.


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