Cosmetic vs. Plastic Surgery – What’s the Difference?

“Plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” are often used interchangeably, which may be confusing to patients. Both “plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” are concerned with improvements to the body, but their fundamental goals may be different.

Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery is an elective plastic surgery undertaken to improve one’s physical appearance for aesthetic/cosmetic purposes, rather than out of medical necessity.
Cosmetic surgery may include major surgeries, like tummy tucks and breast augmentation, or surgeries geared towards addressing signs of aging such as eyelid lifts, facelifts or neck lifts. Sometimes non-surgical cosmetic treatments such as skin laser treatments, injectable wrinkle treatments or dermal fillers for rejuvenation of the face, are also thought of as “cosmetic surgery”

Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery goal is to improve function and/or appearance of the human body. In this way, plastic surgery is a broad term that includes both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.

Plastic surgery is often considered medically necessary if its goal is to restore and heal the patient’s tissue so that it functions correctly and looks natural. For example, removing excess eyelid skin overhanging the lashes may be considered a medically necessary plastic surgery, if the overhanging skin is obstructing vision.

What is an oculofacial plastic surgeon?

Oculofacial plastic surgeons, also called oculoplastic surgeons, are surgical specialists who specialize on the face and areas surrounding the eye. Since plastic surgery in the area of the eye can affect one’s ability to see, oculofacial plastic surgeons are uniquely qualified to perform delicate eyelid or facial surgery, and also to provide any care that the eye itself may need.

Oculofacial surgeons perform both cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery, in addition to performing numerous minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures such as Botox® injections for wrinkle reduction, and injections of dermal/facial fillers for a more rejuvenated appearance.

Training to become an oculofacial plastic surgeon is an intensive and highly competitive process, requiring four years of medical school, followed by a one-year internship and a three-year surgery residency in ophthalmology (eye surgery), and then a two-year oculofacial plastic surgery fellowship dedicated exclusively to surgery of the eye socket, eyelids, eyebrows, tear-drainage system and the surrounding areas of the face. Fellowship training positions in oculofacial plastic surgery are highly sought after; Dr. Dragan was granted one of only 14 fellowship positions in the United States when she trained. The oculofacial plastic surgery fellowship training programs in the US are governed by the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to ensure fellows-in-training receives the highest-quality training possible.

What difference is there between oculofacial plastic surgeons and other surgeons performing facial surgery?

Generally, the biggest differences between oculofacial plastic surgeons, and other surgeons who operate on the face is in their training and perspective, although all of these surgeons may have numerous and valuable skills to offer.

Oculofacial surgeons are unique because they train in microsurgery as eye surgeons first (ophthalmologists), before pursuing advanced training in oculofacial plastic surgery. During their eye surgery training, oculofacial surgeons learn microsurgical techniques while also developing expertise in the eye, visual system and surrounding tissues.

When you choose an oculofacial surgeon to perform your eyelid or eyebrow surgery, you are choosing a surgeon that has years of experience working with the eye and visual system, followed by extensive oculofacial plastic training dedicated exclusively to the eye socket, eyelids, eyebrows, nasolacrimal system and surrounding areas of the face.

Surgeons with different backgrounds and training can provide a tremendous amount of talent and experience. They may have a unique perspective that may be a good fit for your particular situation. Finding a surgeon who specializes in your issue is invaluable, as is finding a surgeon with whom you feel comfortable.

Dr. Laryssa Dragan, the resident oculofacial plastic surgeon at Cheyenne Eye Clinic & Surgery Center, is one of only 500 surgeons nationwide to be admitted as a Fellow of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons after rigorous written and oral examinations. She completed her Fellowship in Oculofacial Plastic Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, and is a former course director and instructor of the Oculoplastics Surgical Skills Course and the Endoscopic Brow Lifting Course at national meetings.

Dr. Laryssa Dragan

Whether your need is for medically necessary or cosmetic plastic surgery, or both, you’re in good hands. Schedule your appointment with Dr. Dragan.


Our Optical Department will close at 2:00 PM on November 20th to attend the memorial service for a dear friend and colleague. 

We apologize for the inconvenience.