Cosmetic Surgeon versus Plastic Surgeon – What’s the Difference?

Cosmetic surgery vs plastic surgery

Do you know whether the doctor you are considering having surgery with is appropriately qualified to perform your surgery? Are you getting what you are paying for?

Every day in Australia thousands of women and men are directly or indirectly involved in cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures.  Some do it because it’s a life and death situation, others choose to enhance their appearance for medical, personal or practical reasons.  Each case is different, but regardless of your circumstances it’s a decision you shouldn’t make lightly.

It’s been said that “It’s a jungle out there” within the booming industry of plastic and cosmetic surgery.

Basically, cosmetic surgery procedures are to enhance a persons appearance, whilst plastic surgery is the ‘correction’ or ‘restoration’ or ‘improvement’ of physical defects – form and function.

Most Australian consumers are unaware that anyone with a medical degree can call himself or herself a cosmetic surgeon. This means any medical practitioner can advertise their services as cosmetic surgeons and then perform a variety of procedures. You need to make sure that your doctor is properly qualified to do surgery, and that the surgery is being performed in an accredited hospital. You also want to make sure they are a member of an industry-related body. This in itself can be confusing!

Many Plastic Surgeons perform both cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures.  The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeon describe a Specialist Plastic Surgeon as having a minimum of 12 years medical and surgical education, with at least 5 years of specialist postgraduate training.

We can’t stress the importance of doing your due diligence before you go under the knife.  Try and speak to a minimum of two to three surgeons before you make a decision.  It may take a little longer to research your options, but by getting peace of mind you limit your risks to an absolute minimum.

So before you book an appointment with a potential surgeon make sure he or she is appropriately qualified. And of course, if in doubt, send us an email to [email protected]

Here’s a link to a Page to help you identify the difference between all the initials and qualifications of surgeons and doctors.

So if you’re thinking of cosmetic surgery, check before you go under the knife and ALWAYS choose a Specialist Plastic Surgeon!

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?

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

It is estimated that Australians spend more than $1 billion on cosmetic surgical procedures every year and more per capita than the United States.

The Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) has recently launched an important industry campaign, aimed at informing Australian market, titled Know the Difference.

ASAPS launched this national campaign to help educate consumers on the vital importance of knowing the difference between a registered Specialist Plastic Surgeon and those who portray themselves as Cosmetic Surgeons. A Cosmetic Surgeon is a fabricated title that is not recognised by regulators in either Australia or New Zealand.

The Know the Difference campaign is also calling for greater regulatory industry oversight in Australia to help clarify the difference (which can be confusing) for the general public.

Goals of the Know the Difference campaign

While registered plastic surgeons require eight to 12 years of medical training, in addition to a lifetime of ongoing learning, ASAPS president Rob Sheen said doctors could moonlight as “cosmetic surgeons”, enabling them to tap into the booming and lucrative cosmetic surgery market.

“The result of that is these practitioners don’t have proper training to the level of a specialist- so they are creating a lot of patient harm,” Dr Sheen said.

ASAPS Members Regularly Fixing “botched jobs”

Amid a surge in demand for aesthetic cosmetic surgery, a survey of ASAPS members illustrated that one in 10 plastic surgeons had found themselves having to fix “botched jobs”.

Based on this and other findings, ASAPS has begun important discussions with the corporate watchdog in an attempt to have the title “cosmetic surgeon” banned.’

ASAPS – Surgeon Checker

The Know The Difference campaign also includes a Surgeon Checker where consumers can search for their surgeon in the Royal Australian College of Surgeons (RACS) database to confirm their qualifications.

Research undertaken by ASAPS – Cosmetic Surgery and Non-surgical Complications – undertaken in 2019 also found that up to 60 per cent of cosmetic surgery patients would have chosen differently – had they known their doctor was not a qualified plastic surgeon.

Only doctors registered as specialists in the recognised specialty of ‘plastic surgery’ can call themselves plastic surgeons. Those with no specialist surgical registration portray themselves as surgeons by using the title ‘cosmetic surgeon’, and some of them are putting patients at serious risk.

ASAPS is hoping the Know the Difference campaign will help consumers make informed decisions when choosing a practitioner.

For further information visit ASAPS at:

Do you want to grow old gracefully? Or have you ever considered trying to look a little younger than you actually do with just a little help? Cosmetic surgery is definitely on the rise, it’s part of a global trend and it’s certainly the case for more Australians than ever. It is now estimated that Australians spend more than $1 billion a year on cosmetic procedures, which is 40% more than Americans or Europeans, based on a per capita basis.

Sometimes the definition between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery can become a little blurry.

The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery clears the blurred lines between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery by defining cosmetic surgery as “any procedure that is performed on any or all areas of the head, neck and body that is enhanced for aesthetic appeal”.

On the other hand, plastic surgery is considered 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.

Historically ‘having work done’ was something that ageing Hollywood celebrities did to starve off the ravaging effects of age. Today plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures are a common normality. Quite simply, there is an explosion in what can be done both surgically and non-surgically, from lasers to injectables to minor and major surgery.

The rise in the number of people opting for a little help is up for a number of reasons. The procedures now on offer are far more sophisticated, they are statistically more successful and the costs of cosmetic surgery are at an all time low, particularly with value for money.

Women unsurprisingly make up 92% of all those undertaking cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures in this country. But even this statistic is changing as more men are starting to seek solutions to improve, or at least maintain their looks in an increasingly competitive world.

There are so many reasons why people decide to have cosmetic surgery and it’s vitally important that you ask yourself the hard questions before you commit to any procedure or practitioner. For instance, are you doing it for yourself and are your expectations realistic? While there has never been a better time to consider a cosmetic procedure, it is ultimately something that you should do for yourself – with realistic expectations.

The decision to undergo a cosmetic procedure especially if it is major surgery is always a personal choice. Don’t let anyone else sway you one way or another on what is ultimately your choice. One of the tips is to set realistic expectations. For instance, cosmetic surgery won’t change your life, it can’t solve your personal problems and it won’t make you look like someone else. But choosing the right procedure for you may enhance your self-confidence and add to your sense of wellbeing.

Successful results often depend in part on how well you research and how well you and your surgeon or cosmetic practitioner communicates before undergoing a procedure. Make sure you feel comfortable with whomever you choose and always be open about your goals and questions. That’s why sites like are so important – it’s all about providing you with the most up to date, comprehensive information to help you make the best choice for you.

In Australia, the most popular procedures – regardless of age or sex – are eyelid surgerynose surgerybreast augmentationbreast lifts and liposuction. In total, these procedures account for about 67% of Australia’s total cosmetic surgical procedures.

There’s also an increase in the number of Australians heading overseas to undergo treatments. Obviously, cost is driving cosmetic surgery tourism, but do you really want to risk it? Follow up is a vital part of any surgical procedure, and if something goes wrong it’s going to be hard to have any real degree of satisfaction if your surgeon is in another country (see one of Australia’s leading plastic surgeons advice on overseas cosmetic surgery). Also, perhaps you need to consider having a consultation with another plastic surgeon who may not be as ‘expensive’ as another plastic surgeon – it really pays to shop around.

The cosmetic and medical standards in Australia are recognised as some of the highest in the world – for good reason. The industry in this country is strictly regulated and very well respected and regarded internationally. And when it comes to your face and your body, it’s always your choice, but by choosing quality, this means you’re going to make a change for the better – for you.

If you’re looking for a highly qualified Australian plastic surgeon, check out our directory to find the right surgeon for you. Otherwise, send us an email at [email protected]

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Further Reading Related to Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons