What is the difference between plastic and cosmetic surgery?

People often use the terms “plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” interchangeably. However, there is a clear difference between them. 

A 2017 survey published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal (the official journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons) showed that more than 85% of the 5000 people interviewed were confused about the differences between plastic and cosmetic surgery. In a nutshell, the difference lies in the fact that plastic surgery is essential surgery while cosmetic surgery is non-essential.

There are two types of plastic surgery: reconstructive and cosmetic. Let’s break down what the differences are and what each term means. 

What is plastic surgery?

Reconstructive plastic surgery is aimed at treating parts of the body affected aesthetically or functionally by infection, tumours, disease, congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, or trauma. Plastic surgery can have huge benefits for the overall health of the individual. From a physical health perspective, plastic surgery heals the body and facilitates the return to a normal and functional state. Further, from a mental health perspective, reconstructive plastic surgery can immensely boost someone’s self-esteem and self-confidence. In most cases, plastic surgery is covered by the national health service because it is considered essential.

Some examples of plastic surgery procedures are:

  • Skin grafts for injuries sustained in accidents caused by fire or acid
  • Breast reconstruction to replace breast tissue lost after a mastectomy for breast cancer
  • Birthmark removal to eliminate birthmarks that may impact the patient’s quality of life

What is cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is what most people think about when they hear the term plastic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is aimed at enhancing or reshaping part of the body only for aesthetic purposes. The part concerned is functionally normal. Cosmetic surgery is a type of plastic surgery, but a cosmetic surgeon can only perform cosmetic procedures. Cosmetic surgeries are procedures that patients voluntarily undergo. For this reason, they are usually not covered by national health services or medical insurance. However, despite being considered “non-essential”, this type of surgery can still lead to great emotional and physical benefits. Anybody can choose to have cosmetic surgery as long as they are in a reasonable state of health and the surgeon is willing to operate. 

Some examples of cosmetic surgery procedure are: 

  • Breast augmentation, a procedure that involves increasing breast size by placing breast implants under the breast tissue or chest muscles.
  • Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) to improve the shape of the abdominal area. It might involve removing excess loose skin, fat and stretch marks and tightening the abdominal muscles
  • Rhinoplasty (nose surgery) – the aim of this procedure can be to improve the appearance of the nose, improve breathing or both.
  • Skin rejuvenation to overcome the effects of ageing, sun damage or stress and restore skin’s vitality. 

If you are looking for cosmetic surgery in Chelmsford (Essex), Phoenix Hospital Group provides you with access to the very best plastic and cosmetic surgeons and medical care in a state-of-the-art facility.