The differences between cosmetic and plastic surgery

by mera

By Naveen Somia, Immediate Past President of ASAPS (Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons)

Dr Naveen Somia is a plastic surgeon and the immediate past president of the Australian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS). Having witnessed the impacts of Zoom and access to disposable incomes during various lockdowns, Dr Somia has witnessed a spike in demand for aesthetic procedures. But when it comes to cosmetic ‘tweakments’ such as botox and fillers and full ‘plastic’ surgery – what’s the difference?

Dr Naveen Somia says, “First and foremost, it’s important to note the difference between plastic surgery and a cosmetic procedure,” says Dr Naveen. “Plastic surgery is invasive and can reverse the effects of ageing, correct scarring, reconstruct an injury and can help to correct disfigurements or cancers, while a cosmetic procedure is non-surgical, either minimally invasive or non-invasive, and requires regular top-ups.”

There is a difference, too, between the title plastic surgeon and cosmetic surgeon – in fact, the title of cosmetic surgeon is not officially recognised by New Zealand’s health authorities. In light of this, there are growing concerns that practitioners operating under this title are purposely masking their true qualifications, to portray themselves as specialists in additional fields.

Dr Somia adds, “Are the two titles one and the same? No, and knowing the difference is essential to helping consumers to make an informed choice.”

“Plastic surgeons have undergone accredited surgical training, maintain a lifelong commitment to Excellence in Cosmetic Surgery and are registered as specialists in plastic surgery by the Medical Council of New Zealand. Cosmetic surgeons are essentially doctors who could be without accredited surgical training, and without the required levels of training to perform certain procedures.”

“I urge all patients to educate themselves and learn the difference,” he continues.

Unsplash @diana_pole

When it comes to specific trends in procedures, Dr Naveen has not only noticed an increase in the number of people wanting plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, but also the types of procedures they’re having.

He says ,“Rapid advances in science and technology mean these procedures are now safer and can deliver good results with low risk and minimal downtime. There’s also been an increased societal acceptance of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, with celebrity endorsements, the social media boom, and regular reporting in the media.

“Plus, increasing levels of prosperity and discretionary spending means more people are willing to pay, while medical tourism has made surgery both more affordable and more aspirational.”

“The current most popular plastic surgery procedures are breast augmentations, liposuction, BBL’s (Brazilian butt lifts) and eyelid surgery; while anti-wrinkle injections, dermal fillers and hair removal are the leading non-surgical cosmetic procedures.”

“The main reason my patients pursue plastic surgery is to look good and feel good by restoring a more youthful appearance, or reverse changes brought on by aging, childbirth or massive weight loss,” says Dr Naveen.

So, where should we be starting if we are considering cosmetic or plastic surgery? Dr Somia says that research is key, and should be the first thing anyone considering a procedure should do. Thankfully, there is more information out there than ever before, but it is advisable that consumers look to official sites and get multiple opinions from multiple practitioners, rather than using social media as their research source.

Unsplash @atikah_akhtar

“Consumers are increasingly making decisions based on the aesthetic results they see on others without researching the surgeon’s qualifications ahead of time. It never hurts to do more research about both the procedure and the practitioner.”

“The overexposure and trivialisation of plastic surgery could lead many to see it as risk-free and a quick and easy lunchtime fix. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Plastic surgery is real, invasive surgery that should only be performed in a hospital licensed to provide it, with all the necessary safeguards to ensure patient safety and good results. Unfortunately, when patient safety is compromised things can go horribly wrong.”

“While there is usually plenty of information about the procedure, there may not be enough information about the practitioner. If you are unsure as to whether your practitioner is registered or not, you can check using the ASAPS ‘Find a surgeon’ portal here: or visiting the AHPRA website.

Only by being fully informed about the risks, rewards and realities of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures can you make the right decisions.

Header image by Unsplash

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