It is a minefield out there! Confusion is all around, and the media and popular press only exacerbate the problem…what IS the difference between a Plastic Surgeon and a “cosmetic surgeon”?
There needs to be clarity about this – a Plastic Surgeon is a truly certified and accredited surgeon, who is on the GMC specialist register (as a Plastic Surgeon) in the UK, and has had the proper training and qualifications to be able to call themselves a Plastic Surgeon.
Not all Plastic Surgeons do cosmetic surgery though – only the Plastic Surgeons who have had further accredited specialist training in aesthetic surgery go on to specialise in cosmetic or aesthetic surgery. This training can still vary in intensity and length, but a cosmetic or aesthetic fellowship is important to have under your belt if you are a Plastic Surgeon practicing cosmetic surgery.
So what about “cosmetic surgeons”? Not many people realise that in actual fact, there is NO official specialty or recognition of “cosmetic surgery” – anyone can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon – even if they are not surgeons! This has lead to all sorts of problems, as you can imagine. For example, a GP or even a dentist could give themselves the title of “cosmetic surgeon”…and perform surgical procedures! Even though they may not have had any training in surgery at all. Confused? Worried?
This makes it very confusing to understand who you might be seeing at a consultation, with respect to their background and qualifications. This is not helped by the media’s use of the terms, as more often than not, they get it wrong too! Frequently “cosmetic doctors” (who are doctors that come from a wide range of backgrounds from general practice to straight out of medical school) are labelled “cosmetic surgeons” in the press. Further compounding the problem is the media’s reference to non-surgical treatments, such as Botox® as “cosmetic surgery”.
Plastic surgery training is long and arduous. For example, my training from medical school to becoming a Consultant, was almost 18-years! Within that time, I learnt about the breadth of plastic surgery and had experience with a wide range of reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries, including breast and facial plastic surgery, trauma and burns, hand surgery, children’s developmental surgery, skin cancer reconstruction and much more.
Plastic Surgery is a unique speciality, in that it is one based on principles and techniques, rather than being confined to a specific area of the body. So, for example, the principles of reconstructing a cheek or lower eyelid are similar to performing cosmetic surgery on the cheek (a facelift) or lower eyelid (a lower eyelid lift). This intense study and grounding is crucial to enable us to be good surgeons, and able to deal with problems, complications and challenging cases.
So next time you consider seeing someone about cosmetic surgery – ask about their background, training and qualifications – be safe, and do your homework!