Plastic Surgery Vs. Cosmetic Surgery


Though the two terms are often used interchangeably in standard conversation, plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are actually not the same. They’re similar in many ways, but there are also a few important distinctions.

At the offices of Dr. Steven Warnock, we provide services in both these areas. Let’s look at the basics of these similarities and differences, and what to know when you’re in a position of choosing between them.


In general, “plastic surgery” is a broad umbrella term that can include a various range of specialties taken on by the plastic surgeon, each of which is meant to restore form or function to some part of the body. Cosmetic surgery is one of six such categories; the others are hand surgery, skin disorders, reconstructive surgery, trauma surgery and congenital defect surgery.

Cosmetic surgeons generally focus specifically on improvements to the appearance, though there can be other benefits as well. Cosmetic surgeons receive training in body contouring, breast enhancement (including breast lifts), dermatologic and facial cosmetic surgery.


There are a few notable differences between plastic and cosmetic surgery to keep in mind:

  • Plastic surgeons must complete medical school and residency, during which time they can choose to focus on cosmetic surgery or other subspecialties.
  • Cosmetic surgeons also start off with medical school and a residency, but then they move on to different training focused specifically on aesthetic areas.
  • Cosmetic surgeons must complete 300 cosmetic procedures during training to become board-certified, while plastic surgeons must complete only 55.


The most appropriate choice for you here will often depend on your needs. If you’re looking to correct things like a congenital defect or an injury, a board-certified plastic surgeon is the way to go. However, for most aesthetic improvements, a cosmetic surgeon might be the preferable route. Make sure your surgeon is board-certified no matter which specialty you choose.

To learn more about plastic and cosmetic surgery or any of our related services, speak to the experts at the offices of Dr. Steven Warnock.