Aesthetics vs. Plastic Surgery: The key differences

Although face and body augmentation procedures are more popular than ever before, there is still a level of confusion among the UK public surrounding the differences between aesthetic treatments, plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery. Although both have an end goal of enhancing the targeted feature, there are several distinct differences between the two.

This blog post will break down the definition of each term and the benefits of choosing the popular aesthetics alternative to surgical procedures.

What is plastic surgery?

Plastic surgery’s definition is a surgical specialty involving the restoration or alteration of the body and can be separated into two main categories — reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery.

Plastic surgery corrects dysfunctional body areas and is often used to treat body and facial defects such as trauma, burns and disease. The end goal of plastic surgery before and after is to restore regular function and appearance to the body. It is an invasive surgery that cuts or punctures the skin by inserting instruments into the body. Specific examples of this type of surgery include:

  • Skin grafts – to treat fire or acid-related injuries.
  • Birthmark removal – to remove birthmarks that reduce a patient’s quality of life or have caused health issues.
  • Breast reconstruction – to replace tissue lost after a mastectomy.
  • Scar revision surgery – to alter the appearance of a scar and restore function to the affected area.

The defining factor of plastic surgery is that it is intended to treat medical issues and does not involve treatments that are for aesthetic purposes. Reconstructive plastic surgery is usually carried out free of charge in the UK by the NHS.

What is cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is an elective treatment that patients undergo to alter their appearance for cosmetic rather than medical reasons. Like plastic surgery, this specialty is invasive and involves puncturing the face or body. Because of the elective nature of this type of surgery, it is improbable that treatments will be available on the NHS (unless the area is affecting the patient’s health), and costs for procedures can be high — often running into thousands or even tens of thousands of pounds. Examples of types of cosmetic surgery available include:

  • Breast augmentation – breast tissue is either removed or enhanced using implants.
  • Tummy tucks – excess skin is removed from the abdomen area to improve its appearance.
  • Hair transplantation – to replace missing hair on a patient’s body. Hair is moved from an area of thick growth to a bald spot.

Cosmetic surgery procedures can be performed by doctors from a variety of medical backgrounds, including plastic surgeons.

What is aesthetics?

Aesthetics is often referred to as ‘cosmetic treatments, but this should not be confused with cosmetic surgery. Aesthetic treatments are non-surgical procedures intended to combat signs of ageing and enhance patients’ natural features. The targeted area is injected rather than cut, which means that results are temporary, and depending on the procedure, the results are likely to last between 3-18 months. Most of these treatments are performed on the face, neck, and decolletage and aim to rejuvenate and refresh the skin. Examples of aesthetic treatments include:

  • Lip augmentation – Aims to increase lip fullness and plumpness through enlargement using fillers.
  • Non-surgical rhinoplasty – Alters the shape of the nose without the use of surgery.
  • Botox© – Temporarily paralyses facial muscles to smooth out wrinkles and create a more youthful appearance.
  • Tear trough filler – Adds volume beneath the eyelids and improves the appearance of dark circles.

Benefits of aesthetics over cosmetic surgery

Aesthetics has become one of the most popular beauty trends of the past decade, and for good reason. When undertaken by a qualified medical professional, these treatments are a fantastic alternative to expensive invasive surgery that involves extensive recovery time and irreversible results.

Here are some of the benefits that you can enjoy from choosing aesthetics for cosmetic enhancement:

  • Little to no recovery time – Surgical procedures can often result in days or weeks of pain post-procedure, often with the need to schedule time off work to make a full recovery. With aesthetics, downtime is minimal, and patients can often make a return to their regular life immediately after receiving treatment.
  • Low risk – The chances of complications occurring are much higher for invasive surgery, and there is always a risk of a reaction to anesthesia, excess bleeding, or nerve damage. Aesthetic patients tend to experience little more than a slight tenderness and bruising that lasts no more than a few days.
  • Minimal discomfort – Most aesthetic procedures are completed within 10 minutes, and the injections themselves are at most a little uncomfortable. Following surgery, individuals will often have to take several different medications to aid recovery. With aesthetics, post-treatment pain is unlikely and can be overcome with over-the-counter painkillers.
  • Lower cost – While it’s not uncommon for patients to spend thousands on surgical treatments, aesthetics procedures are much more wallet-friendly, making them more accessible to those on a budget. Although injectable treatments require regular top-ups, these are optional and can be booked at appropriate intervals to fit the individual’s budget.

Interested in booking an aesthetics treatment?

If you’re interested in booking a cosmetic procedure without the time or monetary commitment of surgery, aesthetics may be perfect for you. At Acquisition Aesthetics, we work with medical professionals, including doctors, dentists and nurses, providing them with gold-standard training in injectable treatments such as Botox© and dermal fillers.

Our model patients can benefit from our award-winning expertise at a fraction of the price you’d expect to pay in an aesthetics clinic, as all procedures undertaken at our training venues are supervised by an accomplished member of our faculty. 

To learn more about the treatments available to our model patients and how to book, call us on 0203 514 8757 or email

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