Plastic surgery. Cosmetic surgery. Aesthetic dermatology. You may have heard the practice called many different things. (Though, in reality, the three names I just mentioned are actually for subtly different things.) Whatever the case, we’re dealing with a practice that focuses on improving the body.

If you’re interested in seeing how these practices begin, or if you’re interested in starting one yourself, read on.

Is there a difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery?

Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are terms that are often used interchangeably. People who have dreams about starting such a surgery practice may believe that they will be offering one service under two names. But the fact is that there are differences between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery. Before you start making any hardcore business plans, it’s important to recognize this distinction. Even though the average consumer may not know the difference, many who look for such a service will.


So, let’s look at cosmetic surgery first. This is what a lot of people will think of automatically when plastic surgery is mentioned. To define it as simply as possible, I’ll say that cosmetic surgery focuses on enhancing one’s appearance. Without wanting to sound at all disparaging, this surgery is usually entirely aesthetic. Or, if you prefer, cosmetic.

Cosmetic surgery will focus on things like proportion and symmetry, and can be performed pretty much anywhere. The first thing you may have thought of was alterations to the face and head. Removing wrinkles, reducing nose size, rejuvenating eyelids, enhancing cheeks. That sort of thing. The classic “human vs aging” scenarios.


There’s breast enhancement, which I know some of you thought of first. Reduction, enlargement, lifting – anything to make the owners feel a bit better about themselves. And, of course, we can’t forget about tummy tucks, laser resurfacing, liposuction… The list goes on.


So if that’s what cosmetic surgery is, what the heck is plastic surgery? Haven’t we just gone ahead and listed all of the things you thought were plastic surgery? Well, cosmetic surgery is, technically, a form of plastic surgery. But when the two terms are used, plastic surgery refers to something more specific. It generally refers to a surgical procedure focusing on reconstruction. Defects of the face and body brought on by trauma, disease, burns, and birth disorders are generally fixed with plastic surgery. So you could comfortably call this the less “fun” one.


The two forms of surgery do seem to cross paths, at least in the eyes of the public. But here’s a good way of finding a distinction between the two using two seemingly-alike procedures. Let’s say a woman is having a breast enlargement procedure because she feels her breasts are too small. This would be cosmetic surgery.

Now let’s say a woman who has had a preventative mastectomy is having breast enlargement or reconstruction. This would be called plastic surgery, as it’s a surgical procedure aimed at fixing a “genuine” biological problem. Similarly, measures taken to reduce cosmetic surgery scars could be classified as plastic surgery.

How this affects training

One of the first things any new business owner in this field needs to know here is this. Cosmetic surgeons are trained separately from plastic surgery. It isn’t a case of someone learning how to perform surgery and then applying those skills to either one. There certainly are people who can do that, but the practice as a whole doesn’t work in such a general way.


Plastic surgery requires some training in cosmetic surgery. But it also requires training in categories such as hand surgery, congenital defect repair, and disorders. So a plastic surgeon has some degree of cosmetic surgery training. But it’s important to know that doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for a cosmetic surgeon position.

Someone who can (legally) perform both plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery will have training in both fields. So if you want to look into managing a practice that can dabble in both? Make sure you look for surgeons who have extensive training in both fields. Alternatively, you can hire multiple surgeons who have training in either field, to ensure you get a good mix. While this may be easier to accomplish, it may also cost you more money in recruitment expenses.

Starting from the ground up

If you’re looking to begin a startup in this area, then you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. That probably seems like an obvious statement, but it’s an important one to make nonetheless. The first question that might run into someone’s head would be “Are you a qualified surgeon yourself?”. Many business owners in this field do have their own expertise when it comes to plastic surgery. Of course, this is because their startup tends to offer their own services as a premium. The companies may even be titled with their surnames, or that of their business partner.


Still, even if you have the qualifications and surgical know-how, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to go. So what exactly do you need to do to get yourself ready? I’d recommend looking at the methods of other businesses. Startups in fields completely different to your own will still share a lot of practical similarities.

For example, hiring a business consultant to help with the initial steps is usually recommended. They can help you with a lot of the logistics. Billing, funding, staffing, general financial models – you can get assistance with all of these. If you’re planning on taking on some of the procedures yourself, then you’ll definitely need the help focussing on these areas. You can actually get business consultants who work specifically in medical fields. This being said, you don’t want to leave all of the logistics in the hands of consultants, completely ignored by you. Your reputation will rely on a lot of these business logistics, after all. Make sure you stay involved in some capacity.

Venture capital

Of course, you’re not going to be able to start this entire business based on your skills alone. Obviously we all wish that were the case, but this is the “coldblooded” world of business. If you want to build this business from the ground up, you’re going to need cash. Probably a lot of it.


This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you. After all, when you get down to it, a medical practice is a business like any other. You’re going to need capital in order to get everything in place. The question that might be on your mind is this. Is there anything different about getting venture capital for medical purposes?

The answer is not really, I’m afraid. There aren’t really any special avenues out there that can assist you. Nor are there any government programs for medical startups the same way there are for agricultural startups. You’re going to have to go about this in a largely traditional business manner. You need to write up an effective business plan for your practice, focusing on the services you’ll provide and the projected costs.

This business plan will be integral to your methods of raising the cash. They’re going to outline the technology and equipment you’re going to need to perform plastic surgery. Remember: you need to consider various healthcare regulations when you’re building your business plan. This could see you having to ask for more than you originally thought. Once you have a plan together, you can then begin speaking to venture capital firms or investors.


Concerning your brand

It strikes many people as strange that a plastic surgeon should concern themselves with branding. And no, I’m not talking about burn scars. (They’ll definitely have to concern themselves with those at some point.) I’m talking about creative a distinct identity and set of trademarked assets for your business. Your particular brand is going to be very important.

Remember earlier when I mentioned surgeons who start a business named after themselves? This isn’t just something the characters in Nip/Tuck did. It’s common practice, especially among ambitious plastic surgeons who want to really make a name for themselves in this field. If you are deciding to go along this route, then your branding is going to be even more important. Your very name is at stake!


Carving an identity for your business will help it stick out among the crowd. That identity is also going to affect the efficacy of your marketing. Yes, that’s right: you’re going to have to get involved in marketing just like every other business! Of course, it might be best to work with an agency who specializes in plastic surgery marketing.

The clinic itself

Finally, we can take a quick look at the actual practice you’ll be working at. After all, this business route means you’ll no longer be operating in a hospital. You’re going to need to locate a venue that fulfills several important functions.

Many clients may willing to travel long distances to get your specific services. In this sense, the location itself may not be as important as it is for other businesses. That being said, you’ll want to look into attractive business locations. After all, aesthetic pleasure is the name of this game, right? Perhaps most importantly, though, is that the building needs to meet HHS regulations.