Ever wondered what the difference is between a cosmetic and a plastic surgeon?

I have and it’s something that confuses a lot of people. It is also something very important to understand when going in for a plastic surgery procedure. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery explains the purpose of each of the practices;

Cosmetic Surgery – is a unique discipline of medicine focused on enhancing appearance through surgical and medical techniques. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on all areas of the head, neck and body. Because treated areas function properly but lack aesthetic appeal, cosmetic surgery is elective.

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 dysfunctional areas of the body and is reconstructive in nature.

When looking into certain surgical procedures there are a number of questions to consider when choosing your surgeon to complete your procedure. One of the most important things to consider is –

Do I choose a plastic surgeon or cosmetic surgeon?

Dr. Scott Turner, one of the best renowned specialist plastic surgeons in Australia, explains that there are four extremely sound reasons to choose a plastic surgeon when going in for a plastic surgery procedure.

  1. Only plastic surgeons have dedicated long years in study and training to acquire their specialist qualifications.
  2. Plastic surgeons have a more comprehensive knowledge and view of the human body.
  3. Plastic surgeons have a far broader and extensive range of surgical techniques and innovative solutions at their fingertips, for difficult reconstructive and aesthetic problems.
  4. Plastic surgeons are the pioneers and leaders in both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.

The term ‘plastic surgeon’ applies to a recognised specialist surgeon who has successfully completed the intensive training program of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) in plastic surgery.

At the completion of his or her RACS training – a minimum of 8 years on top of their medical training – the doctor achieves the qualification award, Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS).

Only then can the qualified plastic surgeon become a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the Australian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS).

So what does one have to do exactly to make it as a plastic surgeon in Australia?

Generally it is the amount of study and specialist study that a plastic surgeon has to endure before they become a plastic surgeon. A plastic surgeon will complete an average of 6 years at medical school, then complete 2-3 years as a junior doctor, learning the skills of managing patients with medical problems, learning basic surgical skills. From here a surgeon with then move onto 5 years advanced training – honing skills across a broad range of plastic surgery procedures with rigorous examination. From here this surgeon will then spend 1-2 years abroad training to round off experience and gain perspective on the international field.

Throughout their studies these training plastic surgeons are tested and examined competitively and selected only on their potential to become the best surgical leaders in the plastic surgery field.

One thing you must consider when choosing a surgeon is whether or not this practitioner has the correct credentials. In some states in Australia almost anyone can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon. Most credentials will be hanging on a surgeon’s office wall but ignore these unless you see credentials from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeon (FRACS or RACS).

Also remember that only Plastic and Reconstructive surgeons are allowed to call themselves “Specialist Plastic Surgeons.” Remember the regulation of the plastic surgery industry is much more regulated than the cosmetic surgery industry. To find out whether your surgeon is a specialist surgeon you can check the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons website at http://www.plasticsurgery.org.au/

We will be back with more tips on how to find the best plastic surgeon for you.


Trish is a plastic surgery blogger. She is passionate about wellbeing, health and beauty, and doesn't mind a little bit of 'help' from the amazing cosmetic and beauty procedures that are available today. Trish spends her days talking to women and men who are looking for suggestions and advice on procedures that are available to them. Cutting through the sales pitch and hype, a down-to-earth response on general information is what you will get.

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