Cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery are options for people seeking to enhance their appearance, but they differ in several ways.

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Both fields offer a variety of procedures that can help achieve the desired results, but they differ in approach, expertise, and outcome.

Cosmetic dermatology primarily focuses on nonsurgical treatments that improve the skin’s texture, tone, and complexion.

In contrast, plastic surgery involves surgical procedures that alter the body’s physical structure. This article discusses the similarities and differences between the two disciplines.

Overall, both cosmetic dermatology and plastic surgery aim to improve a person’s appearance, but they differ in various ways, as the table below shows:

Cosmetic dermatologyPlastic surgery
Expertiseskin and facial anatomybody structure and anatomy
Common proceduresBotox, fillers, chemical peels, laser therapy, microdermabrasionliposuction, breast augmentation, facelift, rhinoplasty, tummy tuck
Anestheticgenerally local or topical anestheticusually general anesthetic
Downtime/ recoveryminimal to noneweeks to months
Resultssubtle, natural-looking improvementssignificant, visible changes
Costless expensive per proceduremore expensive per procedure
Risks/ complicationsminimal and usually temporarypotential for serious complications
Ideal candidatespeople with minor aesthetic concernspeople with significant aesthetic concerns
Certifications/ trainingdermatologist or cosmetic surgeon who do not require board certificationboard-certified plastic surgeon

Plastic surgeons specialize in a wide range of cosmetic procedures that aim to enhance the appearance of various areas of the body.

Some of the most common cosmetic procedures that plastic surgeons perform are:

  • Breast augmentation: This procedure involves the insertion of implants to enhance the size and shape of the breasts.
  • Liposuction: This removes excess fat from various body areas, such as the abdomen, thighs, and arms.
  • Facelift: A procedure that involves the removal of excess skin and tightening facial muscles to reduce the signs of aging.
  • Rhinoplasty: Also known as a “nose job,” this procedure alters the shape and size of the nose.
  • Tummy tuck: This procedure removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen and tightens abdominal muscles.
  • Eyelid surgery: Also known as blepharoplasty, it removes excess skin and fat from the eyelids, giving a more youthful and refreshed appearance.
  • Brow lift: This procedure lifts and tightens the skin and muscles of the forehead and brow area, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and lines.

Learn more about cosmetic surgery here.

Cosmetic dermatologists specialize in nonsurgical cosmetic procedures that aim to enhance the skin’s appearance and texture and treat various skin conditions.

Some of the most common cosmetic procedures that cosmetic dermatologists perform are:

  • Botox and dermal fillers: These injectable treatments can smooth out wrinkles, restore volume to the face, and enhance facial contours.
  • Chemical peels: This treatment involves applying a chemical solution to the skin, which removes the top layer of damaged skin cells and reveals smoother, more youthful-looking skin.
  • Laser therapy: A treatment that uses concentrated light beams to treat a variety of skin conditions, such as acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines.
  • Microdermabrasion: This treatment uses a special device to exfoliate the top layer of the skin, revealing smoother, brighter skin.
  • Nonsurgical body contouring: Includes treatments, such as CoolSculpting, that use controlled cooling to reduce fat in specific body areas.
  • Hair removal: Cosmetic dermatologists may specialize in laser hair removal, a long-term solution to unwanted hair growth.
  • Skin rejuvenation: This includes treatments such as microneedling, which uses tiny needles to stimulate collagen production and improve skin texture, and PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy, which uses the person’s blood to stimulate cell regeneration.

Cosmetic dermatologists also diagnose and treat various skin conditions, such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. They may also offer medical-grade skin care products and advice to help patients maintain healthy, youthful-looking skin.

Choosing a doctor is an important decision that requires careful consideration. When choosing a doctor, it is advisable to check their credentials, such as board certification and a valid medical license, and to consider their experience in the specific treatment or procedure that the person needs.

Reviews and testimonials from other patients can provide valuable insights into the doctor’s quality of care and bedside manner. Seeking referrals from friends, family members, or primary care physicians and considering location and availability are also important factors.

People should schedule a consultation to discuss their concerns and understand the doctor’s approach and communication style.

What does ‘board certified’ mean?

“Board certified” refers to a professional certification granted to doctors and other healthcare professionals who have completed advanced training in a particular specialty or field.

To become board-certified, a doctor must pass a comprehensive exam that tests their knowledge and skills in their specialty. Board certification is also a sign that they are committed to ongoing education and professional development in order to stay current with their field’s latest advances and best practices.

Cosmetic dermatology focuses primarily on nonsurgical treatments that improve the skin’s texture, tone, and complexion.

Plastic surgery involves surgical procedures that aim to alter the physical structure of part of the body.

The recovery time and cost are generally lower with cosmetic dermatology, while plastic surgery procedures tend to provide more significant and visible changes.

Ideal candidates for cosmetic dermatology are those with small aesthetic concerns. People with more significant aesthetic concerns may benefit from plastic surgery.