Plastic Surgeon vs Cosmetic Surgeon and other Doctors – Who should do your surgery?

Plastic Surgeon vs Cosmetic Surgeon and other types of Doctors

Key Differences You Need To Know

Are you confused about key differences between the different doctors that offer cosmetic surgery?  Do you think they’re generally the same? Find out more about plastic vs cosmetic surgeons and others before its too late.


Plastic vs Cosmetic Surgeon

There is a big difference between a Cosmetic Surgeon and a Specialist Plastic Surgeon

If so, this brief overview will help you with cosmetic surgery research so you can understand key differences between Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgeons.

Reviewing this blog will help you understand how to recognise an experienced Specialist Plastic, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgeon versus a general doctor or skin disease doctor who offers cosmetic surgery but isn’t authorised by RACS nor by AHPRA to call themselves a Plastic Surgeon.

  • Not all Surgeons who offer Cosmetic Surgery are alike in their:
    • medical training
    • surgical qualifications and recognition by medical boards
    • surgery specialities (surgical study, skills and expertise)
    • technical expertise (ongoing education and advanced surgical technique conferences with leading Plastic Surgery experts across the globe)
    • number of surgeries performed
  • A so-called Cosmetic Surgeon differs greatly from a Specialist Plastic Surgeon (they may also call themselves a cosmetic surgeon but a cosmetic surgeon without FRACS (Plas) cannot call themselves a Plastic Surgeon – it’s a protected medical title).
  • Find out more in the Plastic Surgeon vs Cosmetic Doctor video shown below.

The difference between a Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon

Why some surgeons are good choices for cosmetic surgery

Please avoid choosing a less trained doctor or non-specialist who has less experience and no formal Specialist surgery qualifications nor recognition by Australian Medical Boards.

  • Although government health departments and health groups are lobbying to change the rules, currently it’s not illegal for anyone in Australia – with a basic medical degree – to operate despite having minimal to no surgical training and no formal qualifications and despite not having recognition by AHPRA for a specific surgical ability including RACS testing and extensive examinations
  • A Specialist Plastic Surgeon, on the other hand, has FRACS (Plas) training, qualifications, and recognition by RACS and the Medical Board / AHPRA (Australia).

TIP: A Specialist Plastic Surgeon also has current membership status in peer societies such as ASAPS, ISAPS, ASPS and more.

  • These medical memberships are only available to genuine Plastic Surgeons
  • Cosmetic doctors who operate cannot join them nor participate in training; NOR can they call themselves a Plastic Surgeon – because they didn’t do the extensive training required to become a Specialist Plastic Surgeon.

Many different Doctors do cosmetic surgery – Who should you choose for your Cosmetic Surgery?

There are many different types of doctors who offer to perform cosmetic surgery and do cosmetic treatments – make sure you pick an experienced specialist

  • Specialist Plastic Surgeon
  • ENT Surgeon (Ear Nose and Throat) or “Facial Plastic Surgeon” – mostly for nose surgery
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon – mostly for lower face and jaw/chin surgery
  • Cardiothoracic Surgeon
  • Bariatric Surgeon or Obesity Surgeon or Gastro Intestinal GI Surgeon
  • Breast Surgeon or “OncoPlastic Surgeon” – mostly for Breast Cancer Surgery & Reconstruction
  • Gynaecologist
  • General Surgeon – Trained as a RACS surgeon but did not do a recognised 5-year speciality program
  • Oculoplastic Surgeon or Ophthalmologist
  • Dermatologist – a skin specialist
  • Cosmetic Physician or so-called “Cosmetic Surgeon” – could just be a GP that did a short course in Breast Augmentation

Plastic Surgeon vs Cosmetic Surgeon

plastic vs cosmetic surgeon

Definitions and Distinctions

A so-called “cosmetic surgeon” could be a general doctor, a GP or even a skin disease doctor – in other words, a medical professional who has a medical degree but who is NOT recognised or qualified as a Specialist Plastic Surgeon per RACS.

What you need to recognise when you research your choice of Surgeon

Key differences between Plastic Surgeons vs Cosmetic Surgeons include, but are not limited to:

  • Genuine Specialist Plastic Surgeons have up to 12 more years of additional surgical training in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery procedures.
  • They have Australia Medical board recognition AS a Specialist (this elite medical qualification takes over a decade of difficult training and numerous examinations)
  • In addition to using FRACS (Plas) by their names or in their BIOs, they’ll also have ASPS, ISAPS, ASAPS or similar memberships ONLY available to bonafide Plastic Surgeons.
  • Most Specialists have studied at top Universities in Australia AND have worked alongside international leaders in Plastic Surgery during internships or volunteer work overseas
  • They will have Hospital operating room privileges and admitting rights – vs only being able to operate in a back room and NOT being able to admit patients.
  • They tend to work alongside very experienced general Anaesthetists AND use fully-asleep forms of Anesthesia vs twilight only (most back-room clinics are restricted to using what’s known as ‘awake’ surgery).

Only accredited Surgeons are allowed to operate in bigger Hospitals

Many cosmetic surgeons or cosmetic doctors – are forced to operate in their own backroom clinics and day surgery centres because they do NOT meet the qualifications to be accredited to work in a proper larger hospital. This means that they may be poorly supervised and that they have very little support or admitting rights to a bigger hospital if things go wrong.

One of the best ways to find out if your surgeon is competent is to find out where they operate.

All of our specialist plastic surgeons operate in fully accredited hospitals run by larger hospital groups with a proper accreditation process, oversight and committee.

Want to know more about key differences between a Cosmetic Surgeon vs a Plastic Surgeon?

ABC’s 4 Corners recently aired a program on dangers of patients not understanding differences between general Doctors and actual Specialists. This media story warned patients about the risks of cheap surgery offers and botched Australia cosmetic surgery results including:

  • breast augmentation, breast reduction or breast lift procedures (small Sydney clinics)
  • eyelid surgery and facelift surgery
  • cosmetic injections performed by less-trained or unqualified practitioners

Watch the ABC FOUR CORNERS video expose on the cosmetic surgery industry which highlight post-surgery problems and disfigurement.

  • These patient stories occurred in patients who did NOT understand key differences between a FRACS Plastic Surgeon and GPs and other doctors calling themselves a “cosmetic surgeon”.
  • They thought these types of doctors were alike (but these Surgeons were very different in training).

A cosmetic surgeon could be just about anyone with a basic medical degree, despite having little surgical training and no recognition by the Australian Medical Board as a genuine RACS accredited Surgeon or Specialist. If they are not FRACS (Plas) they are NOT a Plastic Surgeon.

What to look for when choosing which Plastic Surgeon

Resources and References

These icons below indicate your Surgeon is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon recognised as such by AHPRA and the Australian Medical Board. The most important one is FRACS (Plas) BUT your Surgeon should ALSO have at least ONE other icon on their BIO. Many of our Specialist Plastic Surgeons’ affiliations include:





Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (Find specialist plastic surgeons), Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (Patient Safety Regulated by Plastic Surgery Regulation Laws), Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (Information for patients), Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency AHPRA (Register of practitioners), Health Victoria (The Department of Health and Human Services)



Last updated: 24/10/2023
Author profile image
Lyshai Brombara
Lyshai - Patient Liaison Manager at Coco Ruby Plastic Surgery in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Lyshai appreciates the organisation required to get things done in today’s hectic life. Her role as Patient Experience Manager Lyshai is a great guide for your plastic surgery journey.

Specialist Plastic Surgeons and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Surgeon

With a wealth of experience and training, our Specialist Plastic and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Surgeons are dedicated to best-practice patient care and education, customising Surgery for each and every patient to best meet their needs and desired surgical outcomes.

What to do next?

Our Patient Liaison Team can assist with any questions you may have when considering a procedure. You can send in an enquiry form below or call our Melbourne Clinic between 9 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday.

Phone 1300 599 990, Email us: or Book a FREE 15-minute Phone Chat with our Patient Liaison Manager or a Consultation with a Surgeon.

Disclaimer: Results depend on individual patient circumstances and can vary significantly. Results may also be impacted by a variety of factors including your lifestyle, weight, nutritional intake and overall health. Consult your Specialist Plastic Surgeon for details. This information is general in nature and is not intended to be medical advice nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Surgery risks and complications will be covered in detail during a consultation with your Surgeon.