What Are the Differences Between a Cosmetic Dermatologist and a Plastic Surgeon?

female dermatologist doing botox injections to a blonde female patient

During our 20s, and sometimes even 30s, we can only notice minimal skin and body aging. However, as we start to get older, those things become more and more obvious.

What’s more, expensive facial and body creams, serums, oils, scrubs, masks, etc., can only help us to a certain degree. That is why many people consider seeking professional help.

But that is when another problem arises — the choice of a medical expert. Should we see a cosmetic dermatologist or a plastic surgeon?

What Are the Differences?

In order to make a sound decision, we first need to understand the differences between a cosmetic dermatologist and a plastic surgeon. Furthermore, we should know in which ways these two medical fields differ, as well as what their similarities are.

A Cosmetic Dermatologist

A doctor who has been primarily trained in dermatology and specializes in performing cosmetic procedures is a cosmetic dermatologist. When it comes to cosmetic dermatologists, the vast majority limits themselves to providing non-invasive skin and facial procedures. Those normally include dermal fillers, medical grade lasers, Botox injections, and numerous skin rejuvenation procedures.

Thanks to new technology such as ultrasound skin lifting, laser skin rejuvenation, laser hair removal, etc., the branch of cosmetic dermatology keeps changing and expanding. In addition, some cosmetic dermatologists even perform minor surgical procedures. Those include brow lifts, eyelid surgery, mini-facelifts, and so on.

A Plastic Surgeon

male plastic surgeon consulting with a female blonde patient

On the other hand, plastic surgeons are doctors who perform surgical aesthetic procedures and have been certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. A plastic surgeon regularly does facelifts, breast enhancements, nose jobs (rhinoplasty), as well as many body-altering procedures such as tummy tucks, liposuction, etc.

What’s more, plastic surgeons focus mainly on reshaping or reconstructing the body, while cosmetic dermatologists deal mostly with skin rejuvenation and enhancement of our natural appearance.

Also, plastic surgeons are more skillful at intense surgical procedures. In contrast, cosmetic dermatologists are more experienced when it comes to minimally invasive treatments.

Which One Is More Common?

Even though plastic surgery used to be incredibly popular a decade or two ago, things are now changing. Nowadays, more and more people opt for cosmetic dermatology instead of plastic surgery. Why is that so?

First of all, although plastic surgery promises and delivers amazing “overnight” results, it carries certain risks too. Almost all surgical procedures are performed under general anesthesia, which isn’t the case with non-invasive procedures.

Secondly, going under the knife means significant downtime. If we were to opt for plastic surgery, we would have to take at least a few weeks off. Plus, we would probably need some help around the house during the first couple of days after the procedure.

Lastly, plastic surgery is painful — there is no doubt about that. If we want to surgically alter a part of our body, we have to be prepared for a painful recovery.

For these three reasons mainly, plastic surgery isn’t as popular as it once was.

On the other hand, with constant advancements in technology, cosmetic dermatology is becoming as popular as ever.

Firstly, there are many new non-surgical procedures that we can now use to treat various body parts. In the past, we didn’t have much choice; today, however, we can get great results without going under the knife.

Also, non-invasive procedures that cosmetic dermatologists provide are far less painful than undergoing surgery. Moreover, oral or topical painkillers can help us feel minimal discomfort both during and after the procedure. Plus, we have to mention that downtime is minimal too, and sometimes even non-existent.

Finally, cosmetic dermatology offers quick and easy beauty “fixes”, which is incredibly convenient for us. We can even use our lunch break to go in for a treatment and resume with our normal activities straight away.

Which Choice Is the Right One?

If we are considering having some procedures done, we first need to take our current condition into account. Furthermore, we should definitely think about our expectations. Having our desires clearly defined in advance will save us from potential disappointment. Also, it will help us make a good decision.

We need to ask ourselves what kind of “problem” we are experiencing. Do we want youthful-looking skin? Do we want fewer wrinkles and bumps? Is our skin too lax and saggy? Or do we maybe want a fuller chest? Narrower hips? Less skin on our tummy or firmer buttocks?

Once we determine what exactly we want to change, choosing between a cosmetic dermatologist and a plastic surgeon shouldn’t be too difficult.

When it comes to major body changes — reconstruction or body sculpting, it is best to schedule an appointment with a certified plastic surgeon and discuss your options.

plastic surgeon marking womans body for surgery

However, if our concerns are mostly regarding our skin (either on our face or body), a little extra fat in some areas or if we are facing general aging issues, we should opt for a cosmetic dermatologist. Not only can they help us improve the way we look in a couple of short sessions, but they can also do that almost painlessly.

It is also important to note that the results that cosmetic dermatology treatments provide are, in most cases, just as permanent as those achieved by plastic surgery. That means that a few quick, minimally painful sessions can help us achieve long-lasting results. We might have to go to touch-up sessions every couple of months/years to maintain the results, but that is not always necessary.

Also, if a lengthy and painful recovery worries us, as well as taking a lot of time off work, cosmetic dermatology is a better choice for us.

Luckily, non-invasive treatments are very accessible and affordable nowadays, which allows us to look our best without going under the knife, experiencing pain, and taking a lot of time off.

How to Choose a Dermatologist?

When our skin is not in the best condition, we are inevitably in low spirits. Even a small bump, a spot, or some redness can ruin our day. The truth is, whether we like it or not, that we all care about how our skin looks.

It is always “out there” on display, and everyone notices it right away. So if it starts to act up, we can’t help but feel miserable. In addition, the fact that our skin can sometimes be particularly hard to “cooperate” with can make us not only feel down but frustrated as well.

When a problem occurs, of-the-counter products are typically the first things that all of us turn to. However, in many cases, these provide only a temporary relief. What’s more, if we choose a product that doesn’t work well with our skin type/problem, we can make the situation even worse.

Also, since most of us are non-experts, it can be pretty hard to determine the actual cause of our skin-related problem. That means that picking a remedy can be just as complicated.

Luckily, there are people who have studied hard in order to become skin specialists. An experienced and knowledgeable dermatologist can help us out a lot in a crisis. In fact, although many of us fail to do so, seeing a dermatologist is crucial if we want to tackle our skin-related problem in the best way.

Moreover, a dermatologist can help us even if we don’t have a specific problem. We can learn how to protect our skin from aging, sun, and other harmful elements from a professional. That will allow us to properly take care of our skin.

Choosing the Right Dermatologist

licensed aesthetician with her female patient

Not all dermatologists are the same. Also, not everyone will be our best match. While a certain specialist can help one person, they don’t necessarily have to be successful in tackling someone else’s problem.

Therefore, in order to find a perfect match for ourselves, we need to spend some time doing research. Here is what we should pay attention to.

Education and Experience

Before going to a dermatologist, we need to make sure that they are board certified, as well as experienced enough. That way, we will be able to trust them even before meeting them in person.

Doing some research can be particularly helpful. We can find resumes online, see if the doctor in question has any research published, check if they are professors affiliated with medical schools, and so on.

The more serious the problem we are experiencing, the more thorough our research should be.

Online Reviews

It is the 21st century, and the online world has never been as big and accessible as today. We can use the Internet to find information on countless topics. Moreover, we can learn about other people’s experiences, which can be especially helpful in this case.

Online reviews can help us get a better understanding of the service someone is providing. And lucky for us, people love leaving reviews nowadays. That means that we can easily conclude if a dermatologist that we are considering is worth our time or not.

In fact, by making the most of online reviews, we can quickly find out which dermatologist could be a great match for us.


We all know someone who has had problematic skin or at least a minor skin-related issue. If they managed to put it under control, we should ask them who their dermatologist was. A good recommendation is worth a lot. Plus, someone who already knows how challenging skin problems can be will be glad to help us out.

If we have nobody to ask or we aren’t close enough with that person, there is another option. Taken that we like and trust our primary care physician, we can ask them for a referral. Doctors always know a lot of other doctors.


Once we step into a dermatologist’s office, we should feel comfortable. Great doctors don’t look at the clock; instead, they show dedication to each and every patient.

Our dermatologist should listen to our personal story carefully and address our concerns. Moreover, they should explain things to us in a simple manner and recommend and discuss treatment plans.

If we notice that they aren’t listening to us, if they are hard to follow up with, or they rush us through the appointment, we should consider looking for a new dermatologist.


Thanks to constant technological advancements, the field of dermatology continues to expand and change. That means that new treatments often become available, and we shouldn’t only rely on the old ones.

Our dermatologist should be up to date with the latest innovations and treatments and recommend those if they are suitable for us. However, pushing a treatment or a product too hard can be a warning sign. If we notice that our dermatologist is more interested in our money than in our well-being, we should look for another one.

When Is the Time to Visit a Dermatologist?

Many people don’t know if they should see a dermatologist or not. Luckily, the answer to this dilemma is an easy one.

If we want to try out any form of cosmetic skin treatment or we have a specific problem, we should see a specialist.

A great dermatologist will not only give us the best advice, but they will also be able to safely and correctly administer numerous cosmetic procedures that we could benefit from.

Moreover, when it comes to wrinkle treatments, chemical peels, skin fillers, Botox, etc., it is of utmost importance that an expert performs those. When we trust our dermatologist, we can relax knowing that our skin is in good hands. Not to mention that we can expect the best results possible.


Choosing a dermatologist is a personal decision. After checking their credentials, getting referrals, reading online reviews, etc., we should schedule an appointment with the specialist we think is our best match.

But the journey doesn’t necessarily end there. We shouldn’t be afraid to “date.” If we go in for a consultation and dislike the dermatologist we have picked, there is no shame in admitting our mistake and proceeding with the search.

When it comes to picking the best dermatologist, we shouldn’t stop until we are 100% satisfied.

Once we find a skin specialist that we can trust, we can start our journey towards a better, more youthful, and more radiant skin.

If you’re looking for a team of passionate, caring cosmetic dermatologists in NYC, then feel free to contact us to book your consultation today.