Cracking Open the Difference between Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery


A cosmetic surgery is an elective surgery that helps in improving appearance or the aesthetic appeal of any part of the body. It is a surgery that focuses on the enhancement of a body part that is otherwise functioning normally. Plastic surgery on the other hand, broadly refers to a surgery that involves reconstructing a part of the body that is deformed from birth or due to an illness or because of trauma. It is a reconstructive surgery that helps in fixing the functioning of a body part. Let us take a look at the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery in detail.


Cosmetic Surgery

 Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery procedures are a subset of the procedures that are taught when one is undergoing a Plastic Surgery course. So if you are contemplating a cosmetic surgery, then you need to look for a surgeon who is certified by the Board or Association of Plastic surgeons in your country. A person performing a cosmetic surgery to enhance your features needs to be a medical doctor with a specialization in cosmetic surgery.

Most cosmetic surgeries involve reducing the signs of aging from one’s skin, changing the tone and texture of the skin or changing the way you look by removing excess fat from your body or by shaping your figure. Common procedures include breast augmentation, abdominoplasty, lip enhancement, reshaping the nose, chemical peels and liposuction. Compared to Plastic surgeries, since these surgeries are less complicated, the recovery time associated with them is lesser. However, very complex fat removal surgeries may take around 6 months to heal completely.

Since these surgeries are elective, they are not covered under your health insurance.


Plastic Surgery

burn plastic surgery

The cosmetic surgeries that we talked about come under plastic surgery. However, the term “Plastic Surgery” is mostly used for reconstructive surgeries rather than those done to enhance appearance. These surgeries may include reworking skin structure after burns or injuries, removal of tumors, coverage of scars left from an accident and breast reconstruction post mastectomy.

These surgeries normally help you overcome the effect of a trauma or work towards fixing an anomaly in the functioning of any body part.  Repairing of facial structure that has been disfigured as a result of an accident, despite the patient being able to see, speak and move facial muscles properly is considered to be a reconstructive surgery rather than an elective cosmetic surgery. This is because, the facial structure was distorted in the first place, as a result of the trauma.

Since plastic surgeries are associated with correction of trauma or birth defects, they are most times more complex than cosmetic procedures, with a recovery time also that is longer than the time associated with cosmetic surgeries.

Most reconstructive surgeries are covered by your health insurance. However, the level of coverage for the procedures vary.

Who to approach for Surgery? 

Both Cosmetic surgery and Plastic surgery need to be performed by qualified surgeon. Your surgeon needs to be a qualified doctor,  certified by the American Board of Plastic surgery and should have six years of training in surgery, of which three years of training are in plastic surgery.

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About the author

Aparna Anand

After a stint in an MNC in Bangalore, Aparna has now started doing what she loves the most- writing. Travelling and cooking come a close second and third. She lives in Mumbai with her husband.