Industrial piercings have been a popular body modification choice since they were first coined in Body Play magazine in 1992. Broken down to basics, an industrial piercing is two holes connected by one piece of jewelry—typically a barbell. With so few guidelines, the possibility for customization is endless. You can go for an ornate bar or something super minimal. You can choose to include gemstones or go for smooth steel. And while industrial piercings have historically had a punk, grunge aesthetic, the personalization aspect means it can take on any vibe you want.
When considering what you want your industrial piercing to look like, it’s also important to think about placement on your ear. Industrial piercings are anatomy dependent, so what works for someone else may not work for you, says Australia-based piercer, Eden Cox.
“Most people do not have the right anatomy to get a traditional industrial piercing,” she says. “That's why it's important to research your piercer and find one that will work with your anatomy and do something suitable for the shape of your ear.
If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and getting pierced, here are some more things to consider about industrial piercings.
Industrial Bar Piercing
Placement: On the upper ear
Pain level: 5-7/10, but it varies greatly from person to person
Healing time: Typically between four to six months
Aftercare: Wash the piercing sites with sterile saline solution twice a day and allow to air dry until fully healed
What Is an Industrial Piercing?
“[An] Industrial piercing is a broad term generally used to describe any two piercings connected by a single barbell,” says Atlanta-based piercer Cozmo Faris.
Also called bar or scaffolding piercings, industrial piercings are placed on the ear and go directly through the cartilage at two separate points that are typically around an inch and a half apart. The piercing is always done with a needle, never a gun, and you should be sure you’re seeing an experienced and professional piercer—not just the least expensive one.
“There are several methods, but I would say typically a piercer would first pierce one side with a single-use disposable needle then insert jewelry into it that is long enough to support both piercings,” says Faris. “A second needle would then be used to make the other piercing, and the excess room on the jewelry would then be transferred into the second piercing, connecting them.”
Variations on the Industrial Piercing
The traditional version of an industrial piercing consists of a helix (or outer, upper ear) piercing linked to a forward helix (or inner, upper ear) piercing by a barbell. However, there are so many different variations of the piercing (an arrow, a snake) that you can completely customize it to your look — all you need is two separate points on the ear and a barbell.
Pain and Healing Time
If you’re worried about how much an industrial piercing will hurt, remember that it’s a pinch, so the pain will happen quickly and then be over in the same manner. Remember that industrial piercings have two holes, though, so you will have to deal with the pain twice. Depending on your tolerance, you may feel anything from just a little to a lot of pain.
After the needle is removed from the piercing sites, you may feel some soreness, but it won’t be a sharp or searing pain of any sort—and it’s a sign that your new piercing is already starting to heal. Piercings don’t have a set amount of healing time, though. Instead, how long the process takes really depends on each individual person.
“Estimated healing time is about four to six months; they can sometimes take up to a year to heal, though, based on aftercare and the individual client's immune system,” says Faris. “Simply put: Healthy people heal quicker.”
If you’ve gotten pierced before, you may feel comfortable with the healing process. However, industrial piercings have a particular element that makes their healing process unique: two separate holes.
“This type of piercing because it is two piercings in one typically takes a longer time to heal,” says Michele Green, MD, a New York-based dermatologist.
There are a number of things that can prolong the healing process. For one, if the piercing gets caught in clothing or hair, it can snag and cause irritation. It’s important to keep your hair out of your face and to be gentle when getting dressed to avoid any issues that would add to the healing time. Following a proper aftercare procedure is the best way to avoid prolonging the healing process in any way, as you can be sure it’ll heal properly and as quickly as your immune system allows when everything is done correctly.
Cost of an Industrial Piercing
The cost of an industrial piercing, like any body modification, will vary depending on your geographic location and the shop. Piercings will also be separated into two different charges: the actual piercing cost and that of the jewelry, both of which can range in price.
“In a quality piercing studio, there are two costs to consider. First, there is a piercing service fee; then, the cost of jewelry,” says Faris. “Separating the two costs allows the client to leave with something as simple as a basic titanium barbell or as nice as a solid gold barbell with genuine diamonds. We have dozens of jewelry options though, so ultimately the price will depend on what is selected.”
“Connecting two piercings with a single piece of jewelry isn't the easiest thing for your body to adjust to so it is pretty important to be diligent with aftercare,” Faris notes. “Industrial piercings are a big responsibility and they take a lot of care and attention for them to heal properly,” says Cox. “They must be cleaned every day with saline, must avoid any pressure on them, and the hardest part is they cannot be slept on during the healing process. They require a lot of time and patience.”
Faris notes that aftercare for an industrial piercing is similar to other ear piercings. First, a sterile saline solution is applied to the piercing site and allowed to air dry. “As with any piercing, cleaning the area twice daily is important to avoid infection,” says Green.
It’s important to remember to wash your hands before cleaning your piercing to be sure you’re not potentially transferring bacteria to the open wound. In fact, it’s best not to touch your new piercing at all. If you remove the jewelry too early, you put your piercing at risk of closing up or getting infected. Try not to poke, touch, or play with your new piercing either—it could prolong the process (and hurt).
How to Decide if an Industrial Bar Piercing is Right For You
Aside from the responsibility of aftercare, there are other things to consider when getting a bar piercing. For one, getting it removed is no easy feat, so if you think you won't love the end result in a few months, you'll still likely be stuck with it, as experts recommend waiting five to nine months before removal. What's more, you'll want to seek professional help to change out your jewelry, making it a piercing with considerably more upkeep than standard earrings.
You'll also want to think about your daily life, like what side of your body you sleep on (if you sleep on the right side, and get an industrial piercing on your right ear, it might be less comfortable for you to get to sleep at night, as you'll want to favor the other side during the healing process).
Side Effects of Industrial Bar Piercings
- Irritation bumps: Small bumps around the piercing sites are common when your new piercing is irritated in some way, whether you’ve been touching it or you happen to be allergic to your jewelry. Be sure to pay closer attention to your aftercare, stop playing with your piercing, and/or get a new barbell put in if you think it’s allergies.
- Rejection: Rejection is when your body perceives your new piercing as a threat and pushes it out of your skin. As the piercing is forced out, your body heals the skin below it quickly so it can’t be pushed back in. The only way to address rejection is to go to a professional to have it removed so as not to prolong the process.
- Infection: Infections of piercings are more common than you’d think, but they’re also easily avoided by simply following aftercare procedures correctly. Typical infection symptoms include prolonged redness, swelling, yellow or green discharge, tenderness, burning, itching, and intense pain. It’s normal to see some redness, feel some soreness, or notice some crusting of the piercing sites as they heal, but anything more than a slight annoyance could be signs of a bigger problem.
- Keloids: Industrial piercings easily cause keloid scars, says Green. These are scars that form as a response to the skin’s trauma and tend to be much larger than the initial piercing site. Aside from being annoying, keloids can be quite painful. They require major attention in the form of cortisone injections or removal of the scars via lasers or surgery.
How to Change Out an Industrial Piercing
If you want to change out your industrial piercing, it’s imperative to wait until it’s fully healed and potentially a bit longer just to be sure—anywhere from five to nine months. If you try and take it out before then, you risk the piercing healing over and having to get it redone. Removing an industrial piercing is an easy enough process that you could potentially do it at home, but Cox, Faris, and Green all agree the best thing to do is to get it removed by a professional.
“Typically, one or both ends of the barbell will thread off allowing it to slide out,” Faris notes. “Sizing is very specific for them since everyone's ears are drastically different sizes, so I would recommend getting any new jewelry sized by a piercer just to confirm you get the best fit possible.”
What Type of Jewelry Is Used For an Industrial Piercing?
“Generally, it will be a straight barbell,” says Faris. “In our studio, they would be either an implant grade titanium, yellow gold, or rose gold. The most common thickness would be 14 gauge, but 16 and even 18 gauge industrials are growing in popularity. Length [of the bar] would be dependent on the specific ear.”
A barbell is a piece of jewelry consisting of a metal bar with a small bead on both ends, each of which is removable. The barbell is inserted into an industrial piercing by creating two holes with needles and threading it through. Because all an industrial piercing requires is two holes and a connecting bar of some sort, barbells can be curved, spiral, and customized in so many other ways to suit your aesthetic. Plus, once the industrial piercing is fully healed, it’s possible to change out the barbell—though it’s recommended to have it done by a professional.
What Jewelry Materials Are Used For an Industrial Piercing?
- Implant grade stainless steel: Steel is the most common type of metal for piercings because it’s relatively problem-free and comes in a variety of colors. If you’re allergic to nickel, however, surgical steel will irritate your skin.
- Titanium: Titanium is commonly used for piercings due to it not containing nickel, meaning it’s least likely out of all metals to cause irritation. It’s also lightweight, doesn’t tarnish or corrode, and comes in various colors.
- Gold: If you go with gold jewelry—regardless of whether it’s yellow, rose, or white gold —make sure it’s at least 14 karats or higher, as 18 karat gold is too soft and will form indentations that could hold bacteria.