What Is the Difference Between Cosmetic Surgery and Reconstructive Surgery?

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What Is the Difference Between Cosmetic Surgery and Reconstructive Surgery?



a woman lying down about to receive an injection in her forehead

Cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery can be misconstrued as one in the same. Yet, there are notable differences between these surgery options. If patients know how cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries work and which options are available, they can choose the right procedure to accommodate their treatment goals. To understand cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery, let’s examine both surgery options in detail.

What Is Cosmetic Surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is used to enhance a patient’s appearance, and it can be performed on different areas of the face, neck, and body. A cosmetic procedure is elective, and it is not intended to correct facial or body defects that occur due to disease, burns, or other trauma.

The goal of a cosmetic procedure is to improve the aesthetic appeal, symmetry, and proportion of the treatment area. In addition, a cosmetic procedure can be performed by doctors across a variety of medical fields, including plastic surgeons.

Types of Cosmetic Surgery

Common types of cosmetic surgery include:

1. Facelift

Drawing of females with a Midfacelift

A facelift reduces visible signs of aging in the face and neck. The surgery is used to enhance facial contours and correct loose facial skin. Facelift surgery is also performed to improve facial symmetry and tighten the facial muscles, resulting in a revitalized facial appearance.

Following facelift surgery, patients reduce or eliminate the appearance of facial expression lines that can make them appear older than their actual age. A facelift can be used to correct jowls, the loss of chin and neck contours, and creases that form between the corners of the mouth and base of the nose.

2. Mid Facelift

A drawing of a woman's face with red arrows pointing outward

A mid facelift is used to revitalize the appearance of the cheeks and lower eyelids. The surgery is intended for patients who want to elevate the cheeks and keep the neck and skin under the chin intact. In doing so, a mid-facelift enables a patient to treat visible signs of aging in the nose, eyes, and corners of the mouth.

3. Rhinoplasty

A drawing of a nose with a red cerated line running along it

A rhinoplasty involves reshaping or resizing of the nose to enhance the facial appearance and improves facial symmetry by ensuring a patient’s nose appears proportional in relation to the eyes, cheeks, chin, and other facial features. Rhinoplasty surgery can be used to treat a hump on the nose (dorsal hump), a bulbous nasal tip, a nasal bridge that is too high or too lower, or other nose characteristics that negatively impact a patient’s appearance.

Different types of nose surgery are available, such as teenage rhinoplasty and ethnic rhinoplasty. These nose surgery options are tailored to specific groups of patients based on their age, unique facial features, and other factors.

Along with a rhinoplasty, revision nose surgery is recommended if a past nose job did not deliver the desired results. If a patient undergoes a nose job but is still not satisfied with the facial appearance, a revision nose job can be performed.

4. Neck Lift

A drawing of a face with a red cerated line highlighting the neck

A neck lift is used to treat visible signs of aging in the neck and jawline. The procedure corrects muscle banding in the neck, along with fatty deposits under the chin and in the lower face. Neck lift surgery therefore enhances facial contours in the neck and face, resulting in a rejuvenated facial appearance.

5. Lip Lift

A drawing of lips with red arrows

A lip lift is used to improve lip fullness. The surgery involves the removal of tissue from under the nose to reduce the amount of visible pink lip. With a lip lift, a patient can improve lip volume and give the lips a vibrant, youthful appearance.

6. Brow Lift

A drawing of an eye highlighting the brow above it

A brow lift is used to reposition the forehead muscles and tissue. The procedure corrects sagging skin in the forehead and addresses a heavy, sagging brow. Furthermore, a brow lift raises a patient’s eyebrows, as well as treats deep furrows.


7. Fat Transfer to Face

A drawing of a body showing where fat can be harvested from

Fat transfer to face is a surgical procedure in which fat is removed from a patient’s abdomen, flanks, hips, or other parts of the body and injected into the face. The procedure allows a patient to use fat from various parts of the body to improve facial fullness and volume. Plus, fat transfer to face surgery can be used to correct forehead lines, thinning lips, tear troughs, and other visible signs of aging in the face.

8. Chin Augmentation

A drawing of a neck with a red dotted line for the chin

Chin augmentation involves the insertion of a small implant in the front of the chin bone. The procedure enables a patient to increase the length of the jawline and correct a weak chin.

9. Eye Bag Removal Surgery

A drawing of an eye with redlines below showing where the bags can be removed

Eye bag removal surgery is used to correct sagging eyelids, wrinkles or dark circles that form around the eyelids, and large under-eye bags. These issues can cause a patient to appear tired and worn out. However, eye bag removal treats the area around the eye muscles and eyeballs to rejuvenate the appearance of the eyes.

10. Otoplasty

A drawing of an ear with a red dotted line

Otoplasty surgery is used to reshape, resize, or reposition the ears. Patients can undergo otoplasty surgery to correct ears that appear disproportional to the head or stick out too far from the head. An otoplasty can be performed on patients after the ears have reached their full size and does not impact hearing.

Cosmetic Surgery Candidate

The ideal candidate for cosmetic surgery has:

  • Maintained a stable weight for a minimum of six months
  • No history of smoking or plans to avoid smoking and other nicotine products for a minimum of four to six weeks before and after treatment
  • Established realistic goals for treatment
  • Understands the risks associated with treatment
  • Any chronic medical conditions under control

Cosmetic surgery candidates are evaluated prior to treatment. If a candidate qualifies for cosmetic surgery, a personalized treatment plan is developed.

Cosmetic Surgery Risks

Risks associated with cosmetic surgery include:

  • Anesthesia-related complications, such as pneumonia and blood clots
  • Build-up of fluid under the skin
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Numbness
  • Permanent nerve damage

The risks of cosmetic surgery are explained before treatment. If cosmetic surgery is deemed too risky for a patient, treatment alternatives can be explored.

Cosmetic Surgery Alternatives

Non-surgical alternatives to cosmetic surgery are available to help patients improve their appearance without going under the knife. Cosmetic surgery alternatives include:

1. Botox

Graphic of a person getting botox

Botox is one of the world’s most-popular cosmetic surgery alternatives, with millions of Botox treatments performed annually. During a Botox procedure, a patient receives injections of the botulinum toxin, which smooths fine lines, wrinkles, and furrows in the face. The results of a Botox treatment become visible within days of treatment and last up to four months.

2. Facial Fillers

Drawing of a face with a red syringe

Facial fillers are injectable medications used to treat fine lines and wrinkles in the face. Popular facial filler treatments include Juvederm, Restylane, and Sculptra, and they are used to address visible signs of aging in different areas of the face.

3. Microneedling

A drawing of a face with a red wand near the face

Microneedling involves the use of tiny needles that are inserted into fine lines and wrinkles in the face. The needles stimulate production of collagen and elastin to rejuvenate the facial skin.

4. Laser Skin Resurfacing

A drawing of a face with a red laser pointed at it.

Laser skin resurfacing involves the use of DOT Deka laser skin treatments to correct facial scars and wrinkles. The treatment resurfaces facial and neck skin and improves skin tone, texture, and pigmentation.

Is Cosmetic Surgery Right for You?

Factors to consider before undergoing cosmetic surgery include:

1. Expectations

Cosmetic surgery is not intended to help patients achieve the “perfect” appearance. Instead, cosmetic surgery patients should expect gradual improvements in their appearance. Patients should also expect post-treatment instructions that must be followed to achieve the optimal results of cosmetic surgery.

2. Cost

Cosmetic surgery is not covered by insurance, which means a patient has to pay all fees associated with treatment out of pocket. Before cosmetic surgery, a patient receives insights into all costs of treatment. The cost of cosmetic surgery can vary based on the area of the body being treated, where the procedure is performed, and other factors.

3. Risks

Cosmetic surgery should only be performed by an expert surgeon who can minimize risk. Patients must also keep in mind that cosmetic surgery does not offer guarantees. In addition to the risk of cosmetic surgery complications, there is a chance that a patient won’t be satisfied with the results of treatment.

4. Recovery

The recovery timeline for a cosmetic procedure varies based on the treatment. Cosmetic surgery patients often require weeks, months, or years before they see the full results of a procedure. Patients will also need to schedule follow-up appointments with their surgeon to ensure their cosmetic surgery recovery stays on track.

What Is Reconstructive Surgery?

A patient in an operating room getting ready to receive treatment

Plastic and reconstructive surgery is used to correct birth defects, trauma, and other medical conditions. Reconstructive surgery enables a patient to restore function to different parts of the body. Also, most health insurance plans cover the cost of plastic reconstructive surgery.

Types of Reconstructive Surgery

Common types of reconstructive surgery include:

1. Rhinoplasty

A rhinoplasty is both a cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. When performed as a reconstructive procedure, a rhinoplasty treats a nose injury or trauma that hampers a patient’s ability to breathe through the nose. Rhinoplasty surgery can also be completed in conjunction with sinus surgery to help relieve breathing problems and chronic sinusitis.

2. Eye Bag Removal Surgery

Drawing of Eye Bag Removal Surgery

Eye bag removal surgery is used to remove excess fat or skin from under a patient’s eyes. If a patient’s eye bags hamper vision, eye bag removal can be completed to correct this problem. Like rhinoplasty surgery, eye bag removal can be performed for cosmetic or reconstructive purposes.

3. Septoplasty

A drawing of an eye with a red arrow pointing to the skin below the eye

A septoplasty is used to straighten bone and cartilage that separate the nostrils. Patients can undergo a septoplasty if they experience a deviated septum in which the space between the nostrils hampers their ability to breathe through the nose. Without septoplasty surgery, these patients can experience a sinus infection.

Reconstructive Surgery Candidate

To determine if a patient is a good candidate for plastic reconstructive surgery, several factors must be considered, such as:

  • Patient’s overall health
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Impact of surgery on other parts of the body
  • Surgery recovery time

Reconstructive surgery is only recommended if it is believed to help patients achieve their intended results without putting their health and safety in danger.
Reconstructive Surgery Risks
The risks of reconstructive surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Bruising
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Slow wound healing
  • Anesthesia issues

The risks of reconstructive surgery are discussed before treatment.

Reconstructive Surgery Alternatives

If a patient does not qualify for reconstructive surgery, alternatives can be discussed. The alternatives to a plastic reconstructive surgery vary, but a surgeon can offer insights into any procedures that can be used in lieu of a reconstructive procedure.

Is Reconstructive Surgery Right for You?

Deciding whether to undergo a reconstructive surgical procedure can be difficult, so a patient should explore treatment options with a surgeon. This allows a patient to learn about different types of reconstructive surgeries, how they are performed, and how they can help the patient achieve the best-possible results.

What Is Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgery is an umbrella term that encompasses both cosmetic and reconstructive surgical procedures. Cosmetic plastic surgeries are used to bolster the appearance, while reconstructive plastic surgeries treat defects of the face or body that impact function.

Cosmetic Surgery vs. Reconstructive Surgery: Which Option Is Better?

Clearly, there are many differences between cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries. Regardless of which type of plastic surgery a patient undergoes, there are factors that must be considered to ensure the patient can avoid risk. These factors include:

1. Board Certification

Working with a surgeon who possesses certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is paramount. ABPS certification verifies that a surgeon has received extensive training and possesses the necessary expertise to perform a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure safely.

ABPS certification is not always required for cosmetic surgery. For example, some physicians promote themselves as cosmetic surgeons, but they have not received plastic surgery training from an accredited program. In these instances, physicians can perform cosmetic surgery, despite the fact that they lack comprehensive training and expertise.

2. Health

Health is crucial when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries. Because, if a plastic surgery puts a patient’s health at risk, treatment should be avoided, and alternatives should be considered.

To determine if a patient is healthy enough to undergo a plastic surgery, meet with a surgeon. At this time, the surgeon can perform a full evaluation to find out why a patient is considering a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure and if the treatment can be performed safely.

3. Mindset

A patient’s approach to cosmetic and reconstructive procedure can have far-flung effects. If patients know what to expect leading up to a plastic surgery, they can plan accordingly. As a result, patients can put themselves in position to enjoy the full benefits of a cosmetic or reconstructive surgical procedure.

Patients should remember that a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure is a life-changing experience. The time leading up to surgery can be stressful, and it can be beneficial to discuss all concerns and questions with a surgeon before treatment. Patients should also consult with family members, friends, and other loved ones who can provide additional support throughout the course of a cosmetic or reconstructive surgery program.

4. Recovery

The recovery time after a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure has a significant impact on the overall results of treatment. By setting aside time for recovery, patients can increase the likelihood of achieving the optimal plastic surgery results.

For patients who decide to undergo a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, find out how long they will need to be away from work, school, or other everyday activities during recovery. Then, plan for the recovery period. Ensure there is sufficient time available to recover from a plastic surgery. That way, when the plastic surgery recovery period arrives, the patient can focus on what is most important: doing what it takes to fully heal from surgery.

5. Cost

The cost of cosmetic or reconstructive procedure can be prohibitive at times, but options can be evaluated to help defer treatment costs. For instance, some surgeons provide plastic surgery financing to help cover the cost of a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure.

Assess all plastic surgery costs closely prior to treatment. Finally, it is critical to note that the most affordable surgeon does not always provide the top level of support. By evaluating a surgeon’s expertise and experience, a patient can look past the cost of treatment to find the right surgeon to perform a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure.


Dr. Azizzadeh consulting a patient

Cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries are available, and both can help patients in a variety of ways. Ultimately, the decision to undergo a cosmetic or reconstructive surgery can be difficult, so it is vital to partner with a surgeon who can provide expert insights into all available treatment options.

Dr. Babak Azizzadeh of the CENTER for Advanced Facial Plastic Surgery is globally recognized for his facial plastic and reconstructive surgery expertise. He collaborates with patients and helps them identify the right treatment option to meet their requirements. With his approach to cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, Dr. Azizzadeh delivers exceptional treatment results. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh, please contact us online or call us today at 310-657-2203.

Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh Today

Dr. Azizzadeh offers in-person and virtual consultations to people who are considering a cosmetic procedure. To find out more, please contact us today at 310-657-2203 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Azizzadeh.

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