The Difference Between a Cosmetic & Plastic Surgeon

August 23, 2023

In the world of aesthetic procedures, the terms “cosmetic surgeon” and “plastic surgeon” are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion among patients. However, it’s essential to recognise that these two specialties have significant differences, particularly in the Australian context. 

In this article, we’ll explore the difference between a cosmetic and plastic surgeon in Australia, including education, training, scope of practice, and board certification, as well as how to choose the right surgeon for your aesthetic needs.

Education and Training Requirements in Australia

Cosmetic Surgeons

Cosmetic surgeons don’t require any additional training beyond their medical degree. Surprisingly, general practitioners could potentially qualify to perform cosmetic procedures without specialised training. This lack of standardised training poses a risk to patients and underscores the importance of understanding the qualifications of the surgeon performing the procedure.

Plastic Surgeons

Plastic surgeons, on the other hand, undergo comprehensive training in both plastic and reconstructive surgery. This involves completing a plastic surgery residency program accredited by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). The journey to becoming a qualified plastic surgeon spans an additional 10 years or more. This extensive training equips plastic surgeons with expertise in both surgical cosmetic procedures and reconstructive procedures, ensuring they are well-equipped to address a wide range of concerns.

Scope of Practice in Australia

Cosmetic Surgeons

Cosmetic surgeons primarily focus on elective cosmetic procedures designed to enhance appearance. These procedures may include breast augmentation, liposuction, facelifts, and others. Cosmetic surgeons often operate in purpose-built facilities that cater specifically to aesthetic procedures.

Plastic Surgeons

Plastic surgeons, on the other hand, have a broader scope of practice. They perform both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures, addressing functional as well as aesthetic concerns. Reconstructive procedures may include breast reconstruction, cleft palate repair, burn reconstruction, and more. Plastic surgeons often operate in accredited facilities and large hospitals, ensuring the highest standards of safety and patient care.

Board Certification and Accreditation in Australia

Cosmetic Surgeons

Board certification options for cosmetic surgeons in Australia include the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery (ACCS). It’s essential for patients to consider any additional accreditations or memberships in relevant societies when evaluating a cosmetic surgeon’s credentials.

Plastic Surgeons

Plastic surgeons are board-certified by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). This certification involves rigorous training and examinations, assuring patients of the surgeon’s expertise and commitment to safety.

Considerations when Choosing a Surgeon in Australia

Accreditation and Recognition

Before selecting a surgeon, verify their board certification and affiliations with recognised surgical bodies. Additionally, research any additional accreditations or memberships in professional organisations related to plastic and cosmetic surgery.

Experience and Expertise

Evaluate the surgeon’s experience in the specific procedure you’re interested in. Consider the number of procedures they’ve performed and assess patient satisfaction through reviews and testimonials.

Regulation and Safety

Familiarise yourself with the regulations and standards set by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Ensure that the surgeon operates in accredited surgical facilities for added safety and quality assurance.

Personal Consultation

Schedule a consultation with the surgeon to discuss your goals, expectations, and potential risks associated with the procedure. During this meeting, assess the surgeon’s communication style, credentials, and track record to ensure a positive patient-surgeon relationship.

Shape Clinic: Specialist Cosmetic Plastic Surgery

Cosmetic and plastic surgeons play significant roles in enhancing aesthetics and improving the quality of life for patients in Australia. Whether you’re seeking elective cosmetic enhancements or require reconstructive procedures, choosing a qualified and reputable surgeon, and understanding the differences between cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons, ensures the best possible outcomes.

At Shape Clinic, our principal surgeon and medical director, Dr Steven Liew is one of Australia’s leading Plastic Surgeons and a global leader in cosmetic facial enhancement techniques. He is also a consultant Plastic Surgeon at St Vincent’s Private Hospital and St Vincent’s Clinic and performs the full range of plastic and cosmetic surgery procedures.To learn more about Dr Liew or the range of surgical and non-surgical procedures available at Shape Clinic, get in touch today.