The easy response is that a Facial Plastic Surgeon is a doctor that works on the face… but there is really a bit more to this answer than the obvious. Both types of surgeons can be quite good at facial cosmetic surgery but there are some reasons to choose one over the other.
The main distinction is the training that they undergo. Both surgeons do 3-5 years of training in general surgery before breaking out into more specialized education. Facial Plastic surgeons spend a minimum of one additional year studying cosmetic and reconstructive surgery though many will gain several more years of experience through surgical residency on face and neck surgery. Many of the best surgeons have advanced degrees and practice in Otolaryngology which is otherwise known as Ear, Nose and Throat or ENT. Both specialties require a lot of education and training but the Facial Surgeon spends more time focused on the head and neck area.
Once training is completed, general plastic surgeons perform work on all parts of the body including the face while Facial Plastic Surgeons concentrate only on the head, face and neck areas. What is vital to understand is that doctors become more adept at a procedure the more frequently they perform the operation. Therefore, experienced facial surgeons most likely will have performed more facial surgery – and have more experience – than general plastic surgeons who work on the entire body.
When you consider that the head contains more muscles, nerve connections and thinner, more sensitive skin than elsewhere on the body, the training and experience of a facial specialist is a key factor in the outcome of the operation. Facial surgery involves working in small, delicate, and highly visible areas where any surgical error would not go unnoticed. Even a seemingly simple technique (for a doctor) such as suturing up a wound, is far more complicated when working with paper-thin skin such as found in the eyelids or the lips. The stitches need to be very small and exact so as not to leave behind a scar. According to Dr. Michael Jasin of the Jasin Facial Rejuvenation Institute, it takes a fine hand and an excellent sense of aesthetics to create the work of art that is facial beauty.
Some people may assume the differences in training and experience would not mean as much when it comes to non-surgical procedures such as administering Botox or injecting a dermal filler like Juvederm to plump up the lips. But in order to create the most natural results, the doctor needs to know exactly how the underlying muscle tissue works during facial expressions in order to place the filler in just the right spot and in the correct amount to create the desired outcome. Injectable fillers may not pose a huge risk because they are not permanent, but who wants to live for months with evidence of bad work done to your face?
When it comes to facial surgery, do your research to find a highly experienced, board-certified surgeon that you are comfortable having work on your face. Take a look at before and after pictures of their patients, ask for testimonials, look over the doctor’s resume and make sure that you ask all the right questions before agreeing to surgery. Remember, both general plastic surgeons and Facial Plastic Surgeons can be well-qualified and do an excellent job. However, there is a higher likelihood that the doctor that specializes in a specific area or operation will have a better track record of success. It is your face, trust it only to the best.