How does provider training vary in facial plastic surgery?

As facial plastic surgery increases in popularity, the number of physicians offering these services has increased greatly. Consequently, it is more important to understand the differences in training programs these practitioners undergo.  There are four core specialties which focus on training physicians in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery: Facial Plastic Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Oculoplastic Surgery, and Dermatology.  These are the only four medical specialties with recognized training and certification programs in plastic surgery procedures.

Facial Plastic Surgeons

Facial Plastic Surgeons begin their training with 5 years of head & neck surgery training . This training includes all aspects of facial and neck anatomy and surgery, including cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the face.  In addition, these surgeons then complete a one-year fellowship focusing entirely of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery.  Fellowships can vary greatly in focus with some which are entirely cosmetic while others have a larger reconstructive component.  Once training is complete, facial plastic surgeons must take board exams in both head & neck surgery and facial plastic surgery. Thus, all facial plastic surgeons are double board-certified.

Plastic Surgeons

Plastic Surgeons train in plastic and reconstructive surgery of the face and body.  Programs vary in length from 5 to 7 years and include training in general surgery followed by focused training in plastic and reconstructive surgery including breast, body sculpting, hand surgery, and facial surgery.  Some, although not all, plastic surgeons may do fellowships in specific areas of interest.  Plastic Surgeons are board-certified in Plastic Surgery and may also be certified in General Surgery.

Oculoplastic Surgeons

Oculoplastic Surgeons have training focused on the eyes and upper face.  These surgeons are trained in Ophthalmology and then have additional fellowship level training in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the upper face and eyelids.  Oculoplastic surgeons are board-certified in Ophthalmology.


Dermatologists train in all aspects of diagnosis and treatment of diseases and conditions of the skin.  Many dermatology programs include significant surgical components, especially related to removal and reconstruction of skin cancers, liposuction and laser surgery.  Most modern dermatology programs include training in cosmetic skin treatments including fillers and neuromodulators (such as Botox).  The board certification for these physicians is in Dermatology.

Additional Aesthetics Providers

Outside of the core four specialties, there are several other training and certifying bodies which are not equivalent to American Board of Medical Specialties certification.  These training programs and certifications are generally labelled as Cosmetic Surgery or Aesthetic Surgery and the level of training and examination may be highly variable.

Training is the underpinning of the knowledge base for your chosen aesthetic surgeon.  I recommend that you perform your due diligence to insure that your treatment is performed by the most qualified physician for your needs.

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