You’ve probably heard the terms “cosmetic surgery” and “plastic surgery” used interchangeably. It’s understandable because the two are closely related. A true plastic surgery definition notes this specialty focuses on reconstructing physical defects present at birth or the result of disease or accident. It improves or restores physical function and can bring dormant ones to life. Plastic surgery often uses cosmetic surgery techniques as well to correct disfigurements.

So what is cosmetic surgery? Like plastic surgery, it’s a surgical specialty that focuses primarily on enhancing a person’s appearance. Cosmetic surgery also includes minimally invasive and nonsurgical procedures and is sometimes called aesthetic surgery. 

It’s important to temper judgmental values when discussing cosmetic surgery vs plastic surgery. Keep in mind that cosmetic surgery can enhance a person’s sense of self-worth – essential to maintain a healthy mental outlook, which in turn greatly influences overall health. 

For example:

  • A prominent birthmark or nose, or protruding ears can be psychologically painful for some people to live with. Cosmetic surgery can be performed to provide a more conventional appearance without drastically altering the person’s appearance. 
  • Insurance will cover some or all costs of plastic surgery if there is also a medical reason for the procedure. For example, insurance will cover surgery to remove birthmarks that bleed, and some will pay for removing any that are prominent on the face or neck. 
  • Repairing a cleft palate fixes a significant, life-altering birth defect. In these cases, plastic surgeons use techniques to create a conventional appearance that was missing at birth.
  • Many men and women opt for facelift surgery or nonsurgical methods to smooth out wrinkles and lines. Satisfaction rates for facelift procedures are sky-high, but not covered by insurance because they are considered strictly cosmetic. Are they worth it? Sure they are! Many people have skin dama

Let’s dive deeper into this discussion.

Plastic Surgery is Reconstructive and Cosmetic

What is plastic surgery? It’s a specialty that encompasses reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery to round out, so to speak, the procedure of repairing damaged tissue. 

Let’s say a patient has a sarcoma that must be removed. A plastic surgeon will do this and can provide surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures to fill in the hole left behind. Since removing the sarcoma uncovered a new situation (a sunken area where the tumor grew), the cosmetic side of the surgery will usually be considered medically necessary – meaning insurance will cover it.

Plastic Surgery is Reconstructive and Cosmetic

Plastic surgeons adapt surgical techniques used in other surgeries for the cosmetic side of the practice. For example, microvascular surgery involves reattaching body parts such as a finger by reconnecting blood vessels and restoring circulation. Microvascular reconstructive surgery borrows from this technique by moving tissue from one part of the body to another to rebuild or reconstruct a damaged part. 

Skin grafts follow the same basic procedure: taking skin from one part of the body, usually hidden, to transplant to another area. Both are usually considered medically necessary since they are used in conjunction with repairing or restoring functionality.

Cosmetic Surgery is a Broad Term

There are many types of cosmetic surgery, including some that are performed in conjunction with plastic or reconstructive surgery. Others are nonsurgical but invasive, such as micro-needling. There are also noninvasive procedures like peels. Laser treatments have become quite popular to remove varicose veins, remove scars, and remove unwanted hair.

Noninvasive and minimally invasive types of cosmetic surgery are the most popular, particularly among men and younger people who want to address an imperfection sooner than later. Here are the ones Newsweek found were most popular in 2018:

  • Almost 7.5 million people had Botox treatments to reduce fine lines and wrinkles on the face. Botox’s popularity has led to clinical applications of the drug first noticed by cosmetic patients who reported fewer headaches. (It’s now approved to treat several medical conditions.)
  • Injectable tissue fillers were the second-most popular procedure. Dr. Rochlin specializes in hyaluronic acid fillers to treat facial lines and wrinkles and fill in folds and creases where the skin has lost collagen and elasticity. 
  • Chemical facial peels were the third-most-popular of the noninvasive cosmetic procedures. Dr. Rochlin’s staff performs several kinds of chemical peels to treat different problems, ranging from those to reduce hyperpigmentation and rejuvenate skin to those that address severe acne and scars.

Breast Augmentation – the Most Popular Type of Invasive Cosmetic Procedure

There are many ways to train for plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery. Both specialties have their own boards that certify specialized training. In addition, surgical certification boards include plastic surgery tracks.

Dr. Rochlin is a Fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons (ACOS), which attests to her mastering the highest level of osteopathic surgery. To be an ACOS Fellow, a surgeon must be an ACOS member with one or more surgical certifications and have a history of professional and volunteer work in support of advancing osteopathic surgery. 

ACOS certification requires training and mastery in several types of surgery including:

  • General surgery
  • General vascular surgery
  • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • Neurological surgery
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery
  • Urological surgery

Dr. Rochlin earned her DO from the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Des Moines, Iowa in 1998. Her training includes:

  • Cosmetic Surgery Fellowship in Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Burn and Reconstructive Surgery Fellowship at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, NY
  • Traditional internship at John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona
  • General and Trauma Surgery Fellowship at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in San Bernardino, California

For more information, contact one of Dr. Rochlin’s offices in Arizona and San Bernardino County, California.