There is a lot of confusion regarding “cosmetic surgery” and if it’s the same, or different from “plastic surgery”. Common questions include:
The best definition of cosmetic surgery is any surgery that is principally done to improve your appearance and impact how you feel about yourself. This would be in contrast to surgery which is done for functional reasons. Everyone understands that getting a breast augmentation is considered “cosmetic surgery”, whereas getting knee surgery or shoulder surgery, would be considered “reconstructive surgery.”
It is not hard to imagine that there are many surgeries that would fall into a grey area. For example, a woman who has a C cup breast on one side and an A cup breast size on the other and cannot find clothes or bathing suits that fit properly could suffer a lot of psychological discomfort because she realizes that although it is rare for women’s breasts to be identical, they are usually much closer than this degree of difference. What about a young person, who has a large scar across their abdomen or chest due to surgery in infancy and they are very self-conscious about it? What about someone who had a skin cancer removed and now has scarring that affects their nasal breathing or eyelid position? They are both functionally impacted and they are self-conscious about the scarring on their face. There are clearly endless examples of surgeries that could fall into this grey zone.
The best working definition of cosmetic surgery is based on the principal reason for the surgery itself. If it is for the purpose of improved appearance and is a “self-pay” procedure as opposed to being covered by insurance it is most likely defined as cosmetic surgery.
Anyone can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon provided they have a medical degree and have taken a weekend-long course. Even a doctor in an unrelated specialty (i.e. emergency medicine, internal medicine or facial plastics), may go way outside of their area of training and expertise, to do plastic surgery. ENT (ears, nose and throat) surgeons may choose to do a breast augmentation, tummy tuck or liposuction below the neck.
A board-certified “plastic surgeon” however, is a medical professional who has completed an approved plastic surgery residency (this takes at least 5+ years post-medical school), providing a much higher degree of safety, expertise, and experience.
Tip: Before booking with a surgeon, ask to see their certification or call the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, to find out if they are a member in good standing.
Since cosmetic surgery, by its very definition, is surgery that is not necessary for life, it makes sense that you want to have a high safety margin and individuals as young as 18 (without parental consent), as well as people in their 80’s, may choose to receive some form of cosmetic surgery. For all patients, it’s critical that they are in good health. Many cosmetic procedures, such as eyelids (blepharoplasty) and laser-lipo (smartlipo), and mini-facelifts can be performed under local anesthesia with just oral sedation. This can decrease risks and generally will make for a faster recovery. No surgery is risk-free, so it is important you have a good understanding of the risks and benefits of surgery.
The true benefit of any cosmetic procedure is to assist you in feeling better about yourself. A transformative factor, when we feel better about ourselves, our interactions with our significant others, our children, parents, co-workers and the world in general, will be better. If we feel better about ourselves, we are going to have more energy and feel more empowered to make positive changes in our lives. This then circles back and gives us more confidence to allow us to go further in our lives.
The cost of surgery depends on the procedure you are having done. Some procedures require a formal operating room with an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthesiologist circulating nurse and a recovery room etc. This is generally more expensive than a procedure that is done under local anesthesia with oral sedation in the doctor’s office. Sometimes there are additional costs. For example, silicone implants are moderately expensive which may be required for breast augmentation.
It is obvious that the location of the office will play a role in the cost of a procedure. Rents and staffing costs are going to be vastly higher in New York City than in a smaller city in Alabama. Experience and reputation will add to cost but is an excellent investment. It makes sense that you will pay more for a plastic surgeon with 25 years of experience, than someone who has only been working for a couple of
Tip: Be cautious about using a plastic surgeon that uses Groupon or other discount service platforms. If a professional is reputable, they need not make use of these types of services.
Almost all plastic surgeons in the USA will offer Care Credit, Alpheon, or other financing options. The interest rates and payment options vary and you should discuss them with the individual finance company you are considering using. All reputable plastic surgeons will be paid before the procedure without an independent finance company
Dr. David E. Berman is Fellowship trained and a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon in both Canada and The United States. He completed 9 years of surgical training after medical school. Dr. Berman achieved international fame in the 1990s when he reattached John Wayne Bobbitt’s famous missing genital. Dr. Berman completed his Plastic Surgery Training and a fellowship at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. From 1990-1992 he was in private practice in Toronto Canada and has been practicing cosmetic plastic surgery in Northern Virginia for over 29 years.