Everything You Need to Know About Industrial Piercings

This '90s-era piercing is officially back.

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Industrial Piercing _ Miley Cyrus smiling

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From chunky knits to artfully teased hair, the 1990s are having a moment — and with them, industrial piercings are back in play. While there's no shortage of ways to modify your body, be it a cartilage piercing or a Gen Z-loved belly button ring, few make more of a statement than the industrial piercing.

For the uninitiated, an industrial piercing is a two-for-one piercing in which two holes (usually located at the top of the ear) are connected by a single earring. While it first rose to popularity in the early 1990s, there seems to be no better time than the present to consider getting one.

Style historian Nancy Flaherty credits body piercing artist Erik Dakota for the sudden onset of industrial piercings in the '90s. "Dakota wrote about styles of piercing in Body Play magazine, and this style of piercing has been considered one of the more popular fads for piercing enthusiasts ever since," Flaherty says. "Fads in the 1990s following the punk or goth era encouraged followers to pierce as much of the ear as possible for the right look."

Industrial Piercing
Singer Ella Eyre shows off her industrial piercing. Joe Maher/Getty Images

Of course, there are no 'right' or 'wrong' looks in fashion, and anyone with cartilage strong enough to hold a barbell earring can rock an industrial piercing. That being said, if you're still on the fence about whether or not an industrial piercing is right for you, we reached out to Jim Kelly, manager of piercing training at Banter by Piercing Pagoda, to break down everything you need to know about the industrial piercing before committing to the accessory.

What are the different variations of industrial piercings?

According to Kelly, almost all industrial piercings involves the standard forward-helix to outer-helix barbell. The key difference, he says, lies in the direction of the piercing.

"An industrial can be done vertically from the top of the helix down through the rook. Another option would be from the backside of the upper conch through the lower conch, also out of the back of the ear," Kelly tells InStyle. "All industrial piercings are dependent upon having acceptable anatomy for the piercing, but the options vary greatly from client to client."

What is the process of giving someone an industrial piercing?

Getting an industrial piercing isn't much different than piercing any other part of your ear. The deed is done with a hollow needle, and the biggest difference is that the needle goes through multiple points in a straight line, followed by the jewelry. However, Kelly notes every industrial piercing is performed slightly differently, "due to the piercer's preference and anatomy that causes different techniques to be necessary."

How painful is it to get an industrial piercing?

Pain is subjective; how painful an experience is to one person versus another really depends on an individual's pain tolerance. That being said, Kelly tells InStyle an industrial piercing is generally more painful than other cartilage piercings because it's done at a larger gauge and through multiple points at once. "It is not an extreme amount more painful," he notes assuringly, adding, "only a little bit."

Industrial Piercing
Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

How long does an industrial piercing take to heal?

The bad news: Kelly informs us that an industrial piercing takes six months to a year to fully heal. The good news: at approximately three months, it will be healed enough to switch out your jewelry.

What can you do to ensure your industrial piercing heals properly?

According to Kelly, there are four best practices to keep in mind in the healing phase of getting an industrial piercing. The first is to avoid sleeping on whichever side your new piercing is on — that is, at least until it's fully healed. The same rule applies for talking on the phone; you essentially want to avoid putting pressure on the ear with your shiny new piercing.

Kelly's third tip is to be mindful of your haircare, as well as your skincare products, and their ingredients. If something irritates your piercing, find an alternative for the time being. Lastly, be mindful when taking off your clothes. Your piercing is very sensitive, and any rough treatment of the area (including brushing over it with your sweater) can and most likely will extend the time it takes to heal.

How should you clean your industrial piercing?

In a word: Diligently. Kelly tells InStyle you should be cleaning your industrial piercing twice a day, same as you would with any other cartilage piercing. Use a gentle, wound wash saline, like H2Ocean Piercing Aftercare Spray, and do this for at least three to six months. After six months, you only have to wash the area once a day.

Industrial Piercing
Singer Zayn Malik has an industrial piercing. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for NARAS

How much does an industrial piercing typically cost?

Because an industrial piercing is technically two piercings in one, on average, it can cost around $60. However, the price will vary depending on where you go to get it pierced and your jewelry selection.

Which jewelry materials are best for industrial piercing?

Kelly says when choosing jewelry for your industrial piercing, you want to gravitate toward implant-grade titanium and 14k gold, as both of these materials are inert (meaning they stay in place), have a high alloy percentage (meaning the metals aren't mixed in with different substances to create the product), and are free of nickel or harmful metals.

"Any plastics or low purity gold, non-surgical steel, or other low-quality metals should be avoided," Kelly warns. "These can cause the piercing to get infected, slow down healing, or possibly stop healing altogether. You can also have an allergic reaction to these products even if your piercing is fully healed when you put the new jewelry in."

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