Have you been thinking about getting an industrial piercing? This type of upper-ear ornament is a definite statement-maker that’s become increasingly mainstream over the past 25 years. Sometimes referred to as a barbell or scaffolding piercing, it involves the connection of two separate holes with one straight, barbell-shaped earring.
Because it’s a bit more involved than a standard earlobe piercing, it’s important to be informed about the procedure to make sure you get the look you want. To help make it easy for you, here’s everything you need to know about getting an industrial ear piercing.
Table Of Contents
- What Is An Industrial Piercing?
- How Much Does An Industrial Piercing Cost?
- What To Expect Day Of
- What To Expect After Getting An Industrial Piercing
- Potential Side Effects
- All About The Jewelry
1. What Is An Industrial Piercing?
An industrial piercing is a type of ear piercing that connects two areas of cartilage—typically the helix and the anti-helix—with a straight barbell running across the top of the ear. According to body jewelry experts, it was popularized in the early 1990s by Erik Dakota, an influential, California-based body piercer who’s also credited with inventing similar cartilage piercings such as the “daith” and “rook” piercings.
Because industrial piercings came out of the early ’90s, they’re often associated with a grunge and punk-rock aesthetic. But they’ve become much more mainstream over the past few decades and can suit almost any style depending on the jewelry you choose (more on that later!).
That said, industrial piercings do not work for everyone. This is because they are anatomy dependent, which means that your ear and cartilage need to be shaped a certain way to properly support the piercing. So it’s essential to have a consultation with a professional piercer to determine the type of piercing that best suits your ear shape.
2. How Much Does An Industrial Piercing Cost?
The cost of an industrial piercing varies depending on a couple of factors, the most important of which is the location of the piercing studio or tattoo parlor you visit. Typically, piercing studios in big cities like New York and Chicago charge more than shops in smaller, more rural areas.
But on average, it typically costs between $30 and $85 to get an industrial piercing. In most cases, studios charge one fee for the piercing, however, some like to break the cost into two charges since the procedure actually involves piercing two areas of the ear. Studios that bundle the piercings into one fee tend to be slightly less expensive.
You also have to consider the cost of the barbell jewelry you’re going to use. Simple, straight barbells made of standard metals such as surgical steel and titanium are often included in the price of an industrial piercing. But if you want to upgrade to a material such as 14K or 18K gold, or choose a barbell earring adorned with gems, diamonds, or other stones, you’ll have to pay extra.
Finally, you need to factor in the cost of cleaning supplies, which are critical to maintaining a healthy and attractive industrial piercing. Cartilage piercings are more susceptible to infection than standard ear piercings because they are positioned closer to the hair. They also take longer to heal and must be cleaned everyday with saline solution. A 4-ounce bottle or spray of saline solution suitable for piercings typically costs between $10 to $14.
3. What To Expect Day Of
Before heading off to your appointment, clean your ears gently with a warm washcloth and mild soap. If you have long hair, tie it back so it’s out of the way during the piercing procedure. It can also be helpful to wear a headband to keep stray hairs in place and/or pull back bangs.
Now comes the part we’re guessing you’re most curious about—the piercing process itself! To kick off the procedure, your professional piercer will sterilize all the instruments they plan to use, including the barbell and the piercing needle. Make sure your piercer uses a needle and not a piercing gun, as piercing guns can shatter the cartilage. An experienced, professionally trained body piercer should know this.
Wearing latex gloves, your piercer will mark the piercing locations on your ear with a surgical pen. They’ll also connect the entry and exit points with a line so you can get an idea of what the placement of the barbell will look like. If you don’t like what you see, this is the time to have your piercer make adjustments.
Once the placement is finalized, your piercer will use a 14 gauge or hollow needle to create the two holes of your industrial piercing, one at a time. You may be asked to take a deep breath between the first and second piercing to help manage pain or anxiety. Next, your piercer will insert the barbell jewelry through both piercing holes and secure it on both ends. And that’s it! The entire piercing process typically lasts no longer than a few minutes.
As for the pain, how much it hurts will largely depend on your own tolerance for discomfort. In general, industrial piercings are more painful than standard earlobe piercings because they cut through cartilage, which is firm and difficult to pierce. But the pain is over in fairly quickly—once the needle is removed and the barbell is inserted and secured, you may feel soreness around the piercing sites but no sharp pain.
Your professional piercer can recommend ways to manage the discomfort, which may include lightly applying a warm compress to the ear twice a day for 20 minutes at a time. They may also suggest steering clear of hair products that may irritate the area and cause pain, such as dry shampoo and hair spray.
4. What To Expect After Getting An Industrial Piercing
As mentioned, the worst of the pain is over once the needle has pierced through the cartilage and the barbell has been inserted into your ear. However, you may experience soreness during the healing process, which takes a substantial amount of time—typically between 4 to 9 months. It’s also important to be extremely mindful of your new piercing and take care when doing things like dressing, showering, and brushing your hair. If the piercing gets caught on clothing or snagged in your hair, it can aggravate and irritate the holes, prolonging the healing process and adding to the pain.
The best way to ensure that your industrial piercing heals as quickly and as painlessly as possible is to be diligent about following an aftercare routine. Your piercing should be gently cleaned twice a day by dabbing the pierced areas with a saline solution-soaked cotton ball and letting it air dry. You can also use spray-bottle saline if that’s easier. Always wash your hands before cleaning your piercing and try your best not to touch the piercing itself. As tempting as it may be, resist the urge to poke, play with, or remove your piercing, as this will only irritate the area and disturb the healing process.
It’s also essential to avoid putting pressure on the barbell, which will pull at the piercing and damage the healing skin. Avoid wearing things like hats and over-the-ear headphones, and if possible, sleeping on your side. If you must sleep on your side, be sure to do it only on the side of your non-healing ear.
5. Potential Side Effects
Unfortunately, it’s possible to experience issues with your industrial piercing even if you’re diligent about your care routine. Some common side effects include:
Infection: Signs of a bacterial infection typically include tenderness, intense pain, excessive bleeding, prolonged redness, swelling, burning and/or itching sensations, persistent heat or warmth, and yellow or green discharge. While some initial redness and soreness is natural and expected during the healing process, anything that’s persistent or severe should be brought to the attention of your piercer. If you experience any other these symptoms along with a fever, contact your doctor.
Small irritation bumps: It’s not uncommon to develop small bumps around your piercing sites, which typically occur as a result of minor skin irritation. If you notice them, it may be a sign that you need to step up your aftercare routine, whether that means being more diligent about cleaning or being better about keeping your hands off the jewelry. Or it could be due to the fact that you’re allergic to the barbell material, which means you should have a new one put in by a professional ASAP.
Keloids: A keloid is a type of raised scar that develops on the skin after an injury. They’re typically pink or purple in color, have a flat surface, and take 3 to 12 months after an injury to form. They can be itchy and uncomfortable and may require cortisone injections or laser surgery for removal.
Rejection: Rejection occurs when your body mistakes your piercing for a serious injury and attempts to push it out of your skin. As the piercing is pushed out, the skin behind it attempts to heal by closing up the hole. If you experience this phenomenon, contact your piercer right away. They will most likely have to remove your piercing and may recommend a different type of piercing moving forward.
6. All About The Jewelry
Once you’ve waited patiently for your industrial piercing to heal, then the fun can really begin. Of course, you still have to take care when removing your jewelry—always wash your hands thoroughly before taking out your barbell and visit a professional if you have any trouble removing it. In most cases, you should be able to easily remove the balls that secure each end of the barbell and gently slide it out of your ear.
As far as jewelry materials go, there are a number of safe options to choose from. The Association of Professional Piercers (APP) highly recommends implant-grade titanium for first-time industrial piercings because it’s free of nickel, which is a common irritant. It’s also strong but lightweight, and is available in a variety of different colors.
Surgical stainless steel is another popular material for body piercings because it’s durable and inexpensive. But it does contain some nickel, so steer clear if your skin is sensitive to it. If you want to go for gold, make sure it’s at least 14K or 18K, whether you choose yellow, white, or rose gold. Golds that are any higher will be too soft, making them prone to scratches and nicks and more likely to irritate your skin. And low-karat golds typically contain nickel, copper, and other metals that may cause irritation.
Style-wise, you don’t have to settle for a bare, unembellished barbell (unless that’s the look you want). There’s no shortage of adornments that can be added to this piece of jewelry, from precious stones like diamonds and rubies to dangling charms and feathers. There are also wavy, curly, and spiral-shaped barbells, as well as ones that feature slack chains.
And if you get tired of the industrial barbell look, you can mix it up with a pair of cartilage studs or cartilage hoops. These kinds of earrings are specifically designed for cartilage piercings—in general, you should avoid putting standard earlobe studs, posts, or hoops into your industrial piercings.