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Since plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are often used interchangeably to describe procedures like breast augmentation, tummy tuck, facelift, and rhinoplasty, many individuals believe that plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons are the same. Recent studies have shown that over half of the women in the United States are unaware of the difference between a plastic and cosmetic surgeon. 

While it may not seem as though there is much of a difference initially, you will discover that there is more to choosing a qualified surgeon than meets the eye. 

Aren’t All Surgeons Qualified?

Plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery; cosmetic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. While both of these titles qualify a professional as being a board-certified surgeon, only The American Board of Plastic Surgery is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialists. 

The difference between a plastic and cosmetic surgeon is not the procedures they offer; instead, the difference is the surgeon’s qualifications for performing those procedures. More often than not, bad plastic surgery results or “plastic surgery fails” are due in part to an unskilled professional that was chosen to perform an operation they were not adequately trained for.

Simply put, plastic surgeons are better trained and more qualified than cosmetic surgeons.

How Do the Qualifications Differ?

To become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a surgeon must undergo at least six years of residency training, with at least half of that training in plastic and reconstructive procedures. Along with this residency training, surgeons must complete a surgical residency program and undergo at least one year of a fellowship program specializing in cosmetic surgery.

Plastic surgeons are guaranteed to be trained in cosmetic surgery, general surgery, and reconstructive surgery. Cosmetic surgeons do not come with this guarantee. Medical professionals are not required to be board-certified plastic surgeons to perform complex cosmetic surgery. Less than five percent of certified cosmetic surgeons are certified in plastic surgery. 

What Should You Look for In a Plastic Surgeon?

It is estimated that one in four women is interested in, or seriously considering, a cosmetic procedure. Since this amount is so significant, women should know what to look for in a surgeon. In considering the difference of training between plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons, a woman should initially see whether or not their prospective surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This can be verified on the Board’s website

Prospective patients should also consider the surgeon’s schooling, training, fellowships, accomplishments, and awards. Patient reviews and before and after photos are also essential when choosing a plastic surgeon that you can trust and feel comfortable with.

Meet Dr. Cohn

Dr. Cohn is a board-certified plastic surgeon, a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the former president of the Alabama Society of Plastic Surgeons, and an assistant clinical professor of surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Cohn specializes in cosmetic procedures of the face, breast, and body, and reconstructive procedures like post-mastectomy breast reconstruction

If you are interested in learning more about plastic surgery near you, contact Dr. Cohn by calling 205.930.1600 or by filling in our online contact form