Cosmetic Surgery is a subset of, not synonymous with, plastic surgery. Cosmetic Surgery is a specialization that is wholly devoted to the restoration or enhancement of physical appearance. The term refers specifically to elective surgery intended to enhance the patient's external appearance. Plastic surgery, on the other hand, refers to most procedures involving the layers of dermis; and more generally includes reconstruction of physical defects from birth, trauma, disease, or burn wounds. The title of surgeon, however, denotes the level of education and expertise a doctor must have to be called such - they are fully trained and qualified surgeons.
Cosmetic surgeons complete their specialty in a chosen area, which could be general surgery, obstetrics, dermatology, otolaryngology or ophthalmology. This specialized training is then followed by post-residency education, which trains surgeons in cosmetic procedures across traditional disciplinary distinctions. The sub-specialty of cosmetic surgery integrates knowledge from the various disciplines, requiring a doctor who is constantly educating himself about the interdisciplinary advancements, as well as those specific to the cosmetic surgery field.
Whereas a plastic surgeon focuses on abnormalities, reconstructing that which has been lost in an accident or defective from birth, a cosmetic surgeon takes that which is otherwise average or normal and makes it beautiful. Common cosmetic surgery procedures include facelifts, tummy tucks, breast implants, liposuction and body lifts. Plastic surgeons generally perform procedures to repair cleft palates, reconstruct broken noses, or reconstruct a breast after a mastectomy. In this way, some procedures, such as mastectomy and rhinoplasty can be either plastic or cosmetic in nature - depending on the circumstances.
Regardless of your reasoning for going under the knife, your search for a plastic or cosmetic surgeon should be restricted to board certified doctors with experience and skill. While it is easy to look up certification and years of experience, it is not as simple for the average person to assess skill. One way to do this is to view before and after pictures of the surgeon's previous work. Just as artists have portfolios and business people have resumes, doctors have documentation of their body of work (no pun intended!) to help you choose between prospective cosmetic surgery providers. If you do not like what you see, or feel uncomfortable for any reason, move on to the next doctor. This is your body, and your future; don't settle for second best when you are looking for plastic or cosmetic surgery.