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wasperformed FacialSurgery.com
Steven M. Denenberg, M.D.
Dr. Denenberg's articles on Medium.com.


What is the difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery?

The terms plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery don't have hard and fast definitions, but here's how many people use them:

Plastic surgery can be divided into two main categories: cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery.  During cosmetic surgery, you take a body part that is within a range of normal appearance, and you try to improve it.  For example, a 60 year old man may have a face that is normal for a 60-year-old.  When he gets a face lift, he is trying to improve the appearance of something that was basically normal to begin with.  That's cosmetic surgery.  (This analysis, of course, hangs on the assumption that he has indeed improved his appearance by trying to look like he's 50 instead of 60.)

During reconstructive surgery, you take a body part that is not within a range of normal appearance, and you try to make it look more normal.  The repair of a cleft lip or the straightening of a nose that has been broken is usually considered reconstructive surgery, not cosmetic surgery, because the body part that is being improved didn't start out in a range of normal appearance; rather, it's being brought back to a normal appearance.

So cosmetic surgery is a subset of plastic surgery.  It still makes sense to use the terms almost interchangeably, though.  If you have a rhinoplasty, you can say that you had cosmetic surgery, or you can accurately say that you had plastic surgery.

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