Cosmetic Surgeon vs Plastic Surgeon: Key Differences


Not all Surgeons who offer Cosmetic Surgery are alike. In fact, in Australia as of the publishing of this post, nearly any type of doctor can call themselves a Cosmetic Surgeon. This has led to Health Authorities and Consumer Education Groups wanting to crackdown on doctors who call themselves a Cosmetic Surgeon but who haven’t had proper training or qualifications. A recent special report on ABC’s FOUR CORNERS, into the Cosmetic Surgery industry, revealed many patients remained inadequately aware of the differences between the so-called “Cosmetic Surgeons” and the bonafide FRACS Specialist Plastic Surgeon qualifications and skills.

Surgeons who perform Plastic Surgery or Cosmetic Surgery can differ tremendously in their medical training, surgical qualifications, professional memberships and areas of technical expertise.

So before you choose a Surgeon for a cosmetic procedure, make sure you understand the key differences between a Cosmetic Surgeon vs Plastic Surgeon. 

It can help to understand the value of choosing a Genuine Specialist Plastic Surgeon who belongs to FRACS, rather than a GP level doctor or skin disease doctor who didn’t formally undertake extensive training in Plastic, Cosmetic & Reconstructive surgery.

Read more on Crackdowns on Cosmetic Surgeons in the news.

ABC’s Four Corners Special Report on Cosmetic Surgery – Worth Watching

Cosmetic Surgeon vs Plastic Surgeon – key differences you want to be aware of.

We know it can be confusing to understand differences between types of surgeons who perform breast surgery, body contouring or liposuction.

So you’re welcome to phone us on (03) 8849 1444 if you would like to find out how to check if the Cosmetic Surgeon YOU have in mind is actually a bonafide, genuine FRACS Specialist Plastic Surgeon – rather than a GP level doctor or skin disease doctor.

cosmetic surgeon vs plastic surgeon

If you’re NOT yet familiar with the key differences between Cosmetic Surgeons vs Plastic Surgeons, don’t be surprised.

  • Many people mistake a Cosmetic Surgeon as being the same thing as a Plastic Surgeon.
  • They are NOT the same thing.
  • They are often very different in terms of how long they studied, what they studied, and what exams and monitoring they took during their medical and surgical training.

In this segment of our highly-ranked best Plastic Surgery blog, we attempt to clear up common misunderstandings about TYPES of SURGEONS who offer cosmetic surgery. This includes breast augmentation, tummy tuck surgery, body contouring, rhinoplasty, face lifts and more.

Recommended Reading (Latest Cosmetic Surgery News):

ABC and other news outlets are reporting on the Parliamentary Inquiry into a Sydney cosmetic surgery clinic that once offered “cheap breast implants”.

Related TWEET by the President of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.

Botched Overseas Breast Surgery – another warning to consumers seen in recent news updates.

Latest Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery news, online and on social media – Overseas Medical Tourism for breast surgery gets another consumer warning.

Many people are confused about differences, if any, between a Cosmetic Surgeon vs Plastic Surgeon.

In fact, if you’re like most people examining cosmetic surgery research before choosing a Surgeon, you might be SHOCKED to learn the cosmetic surgeon vs plastic surgeon key differences.

  • Firstly, nearly ANYONE can call themselves a “cosmetic surgeon” – but that is NOT THE CASE with the protected title of “Specialist Plastic Surgeon.”
  • Example: a General Practitioner (GP), skin doctor or even a dentist can essentially describe themselves as ‘a cosmetic surgeon’ – and many consumers would remain unaware they didn’t have a recognised speciality in Cosmetic, Plastic or Reconstructive Surgery.

Does your Surgeon have FRACS and ISAPS, ASPS or ASPS? Are they genuinely a Specialist Plastic, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgeon – or just a GP?

IF not FRACS and ISAPS/ASAPS or ASPS, they are unlikely to be a Genuine Specialist Plastic, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgeon.

These organisations do NOT accept membership from non-specialists such as cosmetic surgeons who are not also Plastic Surgeons and who lack AHPRA and FRACS recognition in the field of Cosmetic, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.


Sure, a doctor calling themselves a ‘cosmetic surgeon’ might have taken a few weekend courses or even a year long course and a minor exam, but NOT the rigorous training and examinations that Specialist Plastic, Surgeons (Plastic, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgeons) need to undertake to become qualified.

Check to be sure YOUR SURGEON is formally recognised as Specialist Plastic Surgeons by AHPRA and Australian or American Medical Boards. 

  • In fact, most Cosmetic Surgeons can’t even attain operating rights in genuine public or private hospitals (they can only use their back room clinics, some of which are not regularly monitored
  • And – as seen in Sydney – where things can sometimes go horrifically wrong, such as when under-qualified or less-trained Surgeons perform cosmetic operations).

Most so-called “Cosmetic Surgeons” are unable to attain hospital operating rights. There’s a reason some rights are restricted to Specialists, and it can involve the level of training insurance eligibility and how much risk a hospital will take in who they allow to perform operations.

Only Plastic Surgeons usually are eligible to perform some surgeries that attract a Medicare rebate, such as breast reduction or abdominal repair after pregnancy.  But DO check the criteria for rebates, as cosmetic surgery is never covered by health insurance or Medicare.

Only a FEW select reconstructive or corrective plastic surgery procedures currently attract Medicare and/or Private Health Insurance rebates from genuine Specialists.

  • Many “cosmetic surgeons” who operate also negate any patient eligibility for medicare or health fund rebates for surgery that is necessary (Plastic Surgery vs purely Cosmetic Plastic Surgery).
  • Some Hospital/Surgery Insurance Companies have indicated they do NOT consider “cosmetic surgeons” to have the right level of qualifications to perform those types of plastic, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery procedures (but most Healthcare/Hospital Insurance Companies currently DO consider Specialist Plastic Surgeons, e.g. those with FRACS/AHPRA recognition, eligible to perform necessary plastic surgery procedures that may attract a Medicare rebate or Healthfund rebate).
  • Insurance is, however, constantly changing and purely cosmetic procedures are not covered by Medicare nor by most Health Funds.
  • Some Plastic Surgery procedures, however, are covered for partial rebates (such as Breast Reduction, Skin Excision after significant Weight Loss, Breast Lift after pregnancy if ptosis is severe, and eyelid surgery if vision is being impacted).

Cosmetic Surgeons vs Plastic Surgeons: Spot the Differences – watch this informative VIDEO before you choose your Surgeon.

The video link above explains the Difference Between Plastic Surgeons v’s Cosmetic Surgeons, as not all Surgeons have the same experience or intensive training and testing qualifications. It also features one of our Specialist Plastic Surgeons, Dr Rebecca Wyten, part of our team of leading Melbourne Surgeons.

Plastic Surgeons are highly experienced and extensively trained. They are some of Australia’s most respected and sought after Surgeons who prioritise proven, best practice surgical planning and cosmetic surgery techniques.

Don’t mistakenly assume ADVERTISING is accurate when a doctor implies they are similar or better than a Plastic Surgeon (a protected title) when they are a “Cosmetic Surgeon” (unprotected title) with far less training.

Many so-called “Cosmetic Surgeons” studied an entirely different area of medicine for much of their careers, and some are just General Practitioners with no significant surgical expertise.



Cosmetic, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeons – not all Surgeons who offer Cosmetic Surgery in Melbourne (or other locations across the globe) are alike.

  • Plastic Surgeons are Specialist Plastic Surgeons, many with decades of elite training qualifications.
  • The title “Specialist Plastic Surgeon” itself is a PROTECTED medical title by the Australian Medical Board and AHPRA and other regulatory bodies.
  • Nearly ANY type of doctor can call themselves a “cosmetic surgeon”.
  • If you research cosmetic surgery, you’ll find some surgeons who claim to be a Plastic Cosmetic Surgeon are actually a skin disease doctor or a general G.P. who’s had basic training in cosmetic procedures – sometimes less than a year or two – compared to nearly 14 intensive training years that Plastic Surgeons undertake as part of becoming an expert in their field.

Top level Specialist Plastic Surgeons undergo rigorous training and high-level surgical and technical examinations and monitoring.  As seen in the sample timeline above, this extensive career training means that most Specialist Plastic Surgeons do not begin their private practices until they are in their 40s.


To gain mastery in Cosmetic, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery takes decades.

A Specialist Plastic Surgeon has made it his or her LIFE’s JOURNEY and dedicated career path.

With this underpinning of 12 or more years of advanced training, Plastic Surgeons have extensive experience before they are granted their formal qualifications.


Plastic, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgeons have extensive experience before being granted membership in the top Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery organisations such as FRACS.

Does your surgeon ONLY operate in a clinic back room? Chances are, they are NOT a Specialist Plastic Surgeon. It’s worth checking before you proceed.

Plastic Surgeons often have genuine hospital operating rights. Other types of Surgeons (such as those with comparatively little training experience – a year or two versus 14 years that a Plastic Surgeon usually takes before becoming a qualified Specialist Plastic Surgeon) tend to lack Australian hospital operating privileges.

Cosmetic doctors without proper Plastic Surgery qualifications often only operate in back rooms of clinics, or overseas facilities, and are not typically allowed to operate in Australian hospitals. They lack hospital theatre operating rights.

This is why so many discount cosmetic surgery practices (as you read about in the news) provide operations in non-accredited facilities or back-rooms in clinics – because they don’t have the qualifications necessary to gain hospital operating rights.

  • But our Specialist Plastic Surgeons believe that being able to operate in a fully accredited Australian hospital, where high standards of sterilisation are required, helps to optimise patient safety during cosmetic procedures.
  • They also know that achieving the highest training, qualifications and surgical memberships possible ends up benefiting the well-informed cosmetic surgery patient who insists on a Plastic Surgeon who’s had extensive training and passed rigorous exams, rather than a doctor or skin disease doctor who pursued a quicker, year long course or several weekend workshops in Cosmetic Surgery, and who was trained in an entirely different area of medicine (a doctor who bypassed making Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery their lifelong pursuit and instead studied something else entirely).

Cosmetic Surgeons can be nearly any type of doctor; they have very different training levels; whereas genuine FRACS Specialist Plastic Surgeons have decades of expertise in a specific are of medicine – Cosmetic, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.

  • We are dedicated to patient care excellence and optimal surgical outcomes including patient operating safety, proper general Anaesthetic by seasoned Anaesthetists, and post-surgical recovery aids to facilitate healing.

If you’re not clear on the differences between different types of surgeons, read the articles on our blog, or simply google “differences between Plastic Surgeons and Cosmetic Surgeons.”

For more information about Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery options and research in Australia, download one of our helpful GUIDES.

Read more about the Cosmetic Surgery for Men & Women Advantage or phone us on (03) 8849 1444 to find out which of our team of leading Melbourne experts is a good choice for YOUR Plastic Surgery consultation.

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Read more in our most-popular TOP 10 PLASTIC SURGERY BLOGS including Cosmetic Surgery industry reports and statistics. 


Visit our Downloadable Guides page for more information about Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery options and research in Australia.

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