Unfortunately, the terms plastic surgeon, cosmetic surgeon, and facial plastic surgeon are not always interchangeable, and are often confusing. The only truly board-certified plastic surgeons are those certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons. This should be a prerequisite in choosing your plastic surgeon. The other terms are sometimes used as subtle marketing ploys by individuals seeking to attract patients for plastic surgical procedures despite not being accredited by the ABPS. "Cosmetic surgeon" is a general term often used by physicians who perform certain aesthetic procedures, and some of these practitioners are not plastic surgeons. In fact, some are even gynecologists, general surgeons, dermatologists or ear nose and throat doctors, or even cardiologists or radiologists. Many have little or no formal training in plastic surgery, and have not even done a residency in the specialty they are purported to practice! "Facial plastic surgeon", rather than being a subspecialty of plastic surgery, is an ear, nose, and throat doctor who is trying to focus on plastic surgery procedures of the facial region. Typically, they are not accredited to do plastic surgery operations on the rest of the body (i.e. below the neck). For a more comprehensive approach to plastic surgery approaches on your whole body, including breast surgery, tummy tucks, etc, a surgeon must go through formal residency training in plastic surgery. This means a plastic surgeon that has completed 6 years of training in surgery after medical school, with at least 3 of them being in an accredited plastic surgery residency or fellowship program. To settle for less is to not have a truly American Board of Plastic Surgery accredited surgeon.
More Answers from Erik Hoy, MD