Plastic surgery is the reconstruction or repair of body parts through the transfer of tissue from another part of the body due to reasons, which could involve an injury, trauma, birth disorder or cosmetic enhancement. Plastic surgery can be directed to improve, restore function as well as appearance. Plastic surgery can be done on any part of the body except the central nervous system. Some common plastic surgeries include:

  • Skin – for scars, burns, cancer, birthmarks, tattoo removal, etc.
  • Facial skeleton
  • Congenital issues such as deformed ears, cleft palate, cleft lip, webbed fingers, etc.

That said, plastic surgery can be used for both cosmetic and reconstructive reasons. Hence, the terms are often used interchangeably but the two are different specialities.

Types of Plastic Surgery

There are two types of plastic surgeries including:

Reconstructive plastic surgery: This stream is focussed on treating patients that have been affected aesthetically or functionally by problems such as infections, diseases, injuries, trauma, congenital and developmental abnormalities.

Cosmetic plastic surgery: This stream is focussed on treating the patients to enhance, improve or reshape their natural and otherwise perfect body parts. Cosmetic surgery can be performed anywhere on the head, neck and body. This is an elective surgery since the concerned area is functioning properly but lacks preferable aesthetic appeal.

Both surgeries can include minimally invasive, surgical or non-surgical procedures.

Difference between Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery

On broader terms, cosmetic surgery is a sub-speciality of plastic surgery. However, both aim at improving the body, yet the guiding philosophies, training, research, and goals differ from another.

What is cosmetic surgery?

This cosmetic surgery is a branch of plastic surgery that is completely directed at enhancing the outward appearance of the patient. The principles, techniques, and procedures of cosmetic surgery are entirely aimed to improve the physical and aesthetic appeal of the person, as well as create symmetry and proportion. As mentioned, cosmetic surgery can be performed at any body part and is completely dependent on the choice of the person since the body part concerned is functioning properly.

Cosmetic surgery can be performed by specialities from this field as well as plastic surgeons.

Some common types of cosmetic surgeries include:

  • Breast Surgery: Cosmetic breast surgeries include breast augmentation, breast reduction and breast lift.
  • Liposuction: A surgical procedure that involves a suction technique to remove fat from some areas of the body such as arms, abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs, calves, chest, back, and neck. Liposuction also shapes these body areas, enhancing their appearance.
  • Vulvovaginal Surgery: Vulvovaginal surgery or more popularly known as a vaginoplasty, aims to tighten a vagina that has started to slack or has become loose because of vaginal childbirth and increasing age.
  • Abdominoplasty:  Abdominoplasty or more commonly known as the tummy tuck surgery, is a method to reduce the excess skin and fat from the abdomen to make it thinner and more firm.
  • Buttock Augmentation: This surgery is undertaken to enhance the size of the buttocks and making them look bigger.
  • Buttock Lift/Lower Body Lift: This surgery involves removing excess fat from the buttocks, hips and thighs to make them tight and fit, while simultaneously lifting them. Blepharoplasty or Eyelid Surgery: The surgery reshapes the eyelids that have started to droop, with ageing skin and bags on the lower eyelids. It can tighten the skin and also change the shape of the face.
  • Rhinoplasty: Often known as the nose job, the surgery aims to reshape or improve the appearance of the nose by either reshaping the tip, minimizing bony hump, reducing the size, etc.
  • Otoplasty: Commonly known as the ear surgery, it aims to treat misshapen ears by suturing them closer to the head and reshaping the cartilage.
  • Rhytidectomy: This type of cosmetic surgery is done to remove wrinkles and fine lines from the face, giving the face a more youthful appeal.
  • Browplasty: Often done in combination with other cosmetic procedures, a browplasty aims to reduce the drooping eyebrows and remove the wrinkles and fine lines from the forehead.
  • Other procedures: Several other less invasive procedures include chemical peeling, fillers, grafting and laser treatment. Chemical peels help to reduce acne, treat pores, reduce acne marks, remove wrinkles, etc. Fillers are used to creating a fuller and smoother appearance of the face.

What is plastic surgery?

Plastic surgery is a broader speciality that includes cosmetic surgery. Overall, plastic surgery is aimed to repair defects and reconstruct a body part to improve functionality or appearance. That said, plastic surgery is by default and definition reconstructive in nature and hence, cosmetic surgery is treated a stand-alone speciality in some cases. In the general sense, plastic surgery refers to reconstructive surgery that is aimed to repair facial and body defects caused by:

  • Birth
  • Trauma
  • Burns
  • Injury
  • Disease

A plastic surgeon can be trained to perform cosmetic surgery too but the essential foundation of the practice remains reconstructive surgery.

Some of the common types of plastic surgeries include:

Brachial Plexus Repair: The brachial plexus is a complex network of nerves that monitors the movement and sensation of the arms and hands. The surgery aims to restore control of the nerves lost due to trauma, age, weakness, injury, disease, cancer, etc.

Breast Reconstruction: A surgery that involves reshaping or rebuilding the breasts that have been deformed or removed due to breast cancer or any other problem.

Breast Augmentation and Reduction: A breast augmentation or reduction surgery is undertaken to increase or reduce the size of the breasts that are deformed genetically or due to certain disease or problem. The surgery can also change the shape of the breasts.

Palatoplasty: This surgery is specialised to reconstruct the palate in a person with a cleft lip.

Hand Surgery: Hand surgery comprises of various sub-surgeries all of which mainly aim to restore the functionality of the hand and fingers, which could have been impacted due to injuries, trauma and rheumatic diseases – that change and damage the structure of the hand.

Scar Revision: A type of surgery which is undertaken to improve the condition and appearance of the scars on any body part. This surgery also aims to restore any lost function, correct skin disfigurement which can be a result of a wound, trauma, injury, accident, poor healing or an old surgery.

Overall, even though plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are used interchangeably, these differ in the overall objective, techniques and basic guidelines.