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How Does Alcohol Enter Hair? Hair Alcohol Testing Explained (2023)

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how does alcohol get into hairPicture this: You’re standing in a room surrounded by unfamiliar faces, all eagerly awaiting the hair alcohol test results.

In short, a hair alcohol testing involves collecting small strands of your client’s hairs to detect recent consumption of alcoholic beverages. The process relies on two pathways – internal and external – which allow for certain molecules like Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) or Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters (FAEE) to be detected in the sample collected from their scalp.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about collection preparation, detection periods and limitations as well as comparing other methods with hair testing for accuracy interpretation purposes.

Key Takeaways

  • Hair alcohol testing detects EtG and FAEE markers in hair strands.
  • EtG stays in hair for 3-6 months, indicating chronic abuse.
  • FAEE levels can be 10 times higher in hair than blood/urine tests due to external exposure.
  • Washing is crucial to distinguish internal from external sources of alcohol in hair.

What is Hair Alcohol Testing?

What is Hair Alcohol Testing
Hair alcohol testing involves detecting markers like EtG and FAEE in your locks to get an insight into chronic heavy drinking over a few months. This type of testing requires you to provide context about your drug history and recent activities.

You also need to go through a lengthy process that is essential for accurate results.

The sensitivity of the test can be adjusted by raising or lowering detection thresholds. This determines how much substance is required for it to register as present in the sample. Furthermore, CDT (carbohydrate-deficient transferrin), FAEE (fatty acid ethyl esters), and ETG (ethyl glucuronide) are some common markers used during hair follicle tests when identifying trends associated with alcohol consumption.

By using this method accurately, you will gain valuable insights into whether or not there has been excessive drinking over time. It provides invaluable information on one’s lifestyle habits instead of pinpointing specific instances of use alone.

How Does Alcohol Enter Hair?

How Does Alcohol Enter Hair
Alcohol and drugs can enter the hair in two distinct ways: internally, through the body’s metabolism which breaks down these substances into metabolites; or externally, by exposure to shared environments.

Hair samples for testing must be collected with care and properly washed to ensure accurate interpretation of results.

Internal Pathway

You can internally absorb alcohol and drugs into your body, which are then incorporated into hair cells. Contextual information is essential for labs to detect biomarkers like ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE).

Sample washing helps avoid misinterpretation of metabolite traces from external exposure. Alcohol EtG testing provides insights into chronic abuse over a period of 3-6 months; however, it cannot pinpoint exact consumption times or identify low levels that court-ordered drug testing may show.

External Pathway

External exposure to alcohol can occur through shared environments, leaving traces on your hair’s exterior that last for months after contact. Studies show that FAEE levels in hair can be up to 10 times higher than blood/urine tests even 6 weeks later.

To ensure testing accuracy, sample preparation and external exposure must be considered. The detection period is also key. Most drugs remain detectable in undamaged samples, but recent consumption isn’t suitable for detection via this method alone.

Immediate drug and alcohol testing or sweat/diffusion may be better options here, depending on the context of use and the biomarker detected (e.

Hair provides valuable insight into long-term patterns of alcohol consumption rather than pinpointing specific timeframes. This information is essential when assessing someone’s behavior over an extended period.

Markers Used in Hair Alcohol Testing

Markers Used in Hair Alcohol Testing
When it comes to hair alcohol testing, two markers are used to detect the presence of alcohol in a person’s hair: ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE). These markers provide insights into chronic excessive drinking habits over several months.

Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG)

Feel the effects of excessive drinking over time, as EtG can stay in your hair long after alcohol has been metabolized. This marker is used by labs to detect chronic excessive consumption over a period of 3 to 6 months.

It enters hairs internally when broken down into metabolites and externally through shared environments. EtG testing requires sample preparation, like washing, since traces present make it hard to distinguish external from internal sources.

Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters (FAEE)

In addition to EtG, FAEE is another marker that can be detected in hair to identify alcohol consumption. It consists of several ethyl esters derived from fatty acids like palmitic and stearic acid. These compounds are produced when ethanol oxidizes within the body’s metabolic pathways and enter into circulation before being incorporated into scalp or pubic hair cells.

Environmental exposure also contributes to FAEE presence in samples as traces may remain on the exterior for some time after contact with a contaminated source. Hair treatments, such as bleaching, have limited impact on its detectability, but testing protocols must take this factor into account for accurate results analysis.

Despite having lower specificity than blood tests, FAEE remains detectable even after washing, which makes it a valuable tool in drug and alcohol testing scenarios involving longer detection periods beyond what urine or blood analyses provide.

Collection and Preparation of Hair Samples

Collection and Preparation of Hair Samples
Gaining an understanding of how alcohol enters hair is essential for the accurate collection and preparation of hair samples. Providing context is a key factor in collecting the sample correctly, as well as washing the hair to remove impurities prior to testing, which can help avoid misinterpretation.

Context Provision

Providing the party collecting a hair sample with context about an individual’s drug history and recent activities is pivotal for detection accuracy. A provider needs to give as much detail as possible – this could make all the difference! It helps guarantee reliable results from sampling, avoiding contamination sources or under-reporting of EtG and FAEE markers due to chronic alcohol use or recent consumption.

Accurate testing requires insight into these factors which only comes through thorough background information provided by the collector. Consequently, it’s essential that providers ensure they provide enough context when submitting samples for testing.

Hair Washing

Before testing, you’ll want to give those locks a quick rinse to eliminate impurities that could lead to misinterpretation. Chemical effects and external sources can both contaminate hair strands, so washing is necessary for accurate testing results.

Shampooing won’t affect alcohol detection substantially, but bleaching or other treatments may reduce contamination levels.

Hair follicle EtG alcohol tests are used in comparison with blood and urine tests as they detect chronic excessive consumption over several months rather than social drinking habits near the time of collection.

Detection Period and Limitations of Hair Testing

Detection Period and Limitations of Hair Testing
Hair testing is an effective way to detect drug use over a period of time. Drugs can be detected in hair samples for months, with the timeframe varying depending on how much alcohol was consumed and if retesting is necessary.

Detectable Drugs

Discovering detectable drugs in hair samples requires a careful assessment of external and internal pathways. Drugs and alcohol can enter the body through two means: internally, metabolized by the body into traces detected in hair follicles; externally, via residual traces left on undamaged strands from environmental exposure.

Context surrounding recent drug history is equally important for test accuracy as the collected arm/chest hairs for employees or urine ETG alcohol testing results. Hair follicle drug testing has become an accurate way to measure chronic substance use over long periods of time while also providing insight into short-term patterns not available with other methods like SCRAM™ bracelet detection every 30 minutes over 90 days.

Timeframe for Detection

Hair testing provides an overall picture of alcohol consumption over a period of 3 to 6 months, rather than pinpointing exact times. Detection rates vary depending on drug types and sample size, but accuracy is often assured as hair holds traces for up to six months.

For shorter periods, urine sample tests are more suitable, or secondary methods such as SCRAM™ bracelet, which shows a 90-day drug use history, can be used in addition. Hair testing is beneficial when it comes to complying with workplace policies and providing evidence, while monitoring programs ensure that people remain alcohol-free during their probationary period too.


You may need to retest if traces of substances linger in your hair for months after exposure. This is essential for accurate interpretation and reliable results, especially when pre-employment testing, workplace drug testing, or a comprehensive drug test are involved.

Hair alcohol tests provide insights into long-term patterns rather than pinpointing specific consumption times. It is important to distinguish internal from external sources of drugs. An order for a drug test should always take this into account so that employers can maintain their policy on having a drug-free workplace program with trusted accuracy in the results provided by an effective retesting procedure.

Effects of Hair Treatment and Contamination

Effects of Hair Treatment and Contamination
You may have heard of hair alcohol testing for detecting markers like ethyl glucuronide and fatty acid ethyl esters, but do you know how to remove these substances from your hair? Unfortunately, traces of drugs can only be removed by cutting the hair.

Bleaching has a limited impact on detectability, while shampooing does not significantly affect it either. Ultimately, this makes proper sample collection essential for accurate interpretation when it comes to drug use in the recent past.

Removal of Substances

Traces of substances can only be removed from hair by cutting it, so bleaching has a limited impact, and shampooing won’t make a difference.

To ensure accurate detection periods and results when testing for drugs in hair samples, preparing the sample is key. Washing with chemical solutions eliminates external contaminants like ethanol traces that could contaminate the test result.

Besides washing to improve accuracy, qualitative markers are also used to detect drugs in custody or child protection required drug testing scenarios. Qualitative marker tests provide an additional layer of assurance compared to more traditional methods such as urine tests or breathalyzers and help verify whether a substance was ingested internally or externally exposed on purpose or not.

Impact of Bleaching

Though bleaching may seem like an easy fix, it has a limited effect on removing traces of alcohol from your hair. When used for same-day service or court-ordered alcohol testing, this method can be unreliable – leaving you vulnerable in liability situations as well as with federal and state laws.

Hair removal is often necessary to accurately interpret lifestyle patterns; however, shampooing does not significantly affect detectability either. For drug-free workplace and other requirements, it’s important to understand the effects of bleaching when trying to remove alcohol traces from hair samples collected for testing.

Shampooing and Detectability

No matter how often you shampoo, traces of alcohol remain detectable in hair samples. Hair growth means drug absorption and environmental exposure can be detected over a period of months. To ensure accurate sample collection, labs wash the hair to remove any impurities that may skew results.

The effectiveness of conditioning or bleaching has limited influence on detectability; however, illicit drugs are still traceable even after treatment such as shampooing is done for up to 3-6 months depending on how alcohol gets into hair using markers like ethyl glucuronide (EtG) and fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE).

Comparing Hair Testing With Other Methods

Comparing Hair Testing With Other Methods
Greeting and welcome! Understanding how alcohol gets into hair is key to comparing it with other methods of testing. The SCRAM™ Bracelet is one such method that offers more detailed and real-time information, specifically detecting even low consumption (1-2 units) while helping monitor patterns post-fitting.

It further helps in monitoring abstinence/social drinking, which Hair Testing cannot detect.

SCRAM™ Bracelet

You can accurately monitor alcohol consumption over a period of 90 days with the SCRAM™ bracelet. It offers more detailed and real-time information than hair testing, allowing you to track drug patterns as well as detection thresholds for substance traces.

This provides insight into an individual’s overall alcohol lifestyle that isn’t possible with other methods such as blood or urine tests. The SCRAM™ bracelet also helps monitor consumption post fitting, even detecting low levels (1-2 units) of drinking that aren’t detectable by hair testing alone.

So, while hair testing reveals long-term patterns in excessive drinking, the SCRAM™ allows for more precise monitoring of recent activity – empowering individuals to take control over their health and wellbeing.

Detection of Low Consumption

Unlike other methods, the SCRAM™ bracelet can detect even the smallest sips of alcohol over a 90-day period. This gives you insight into any slight fluctuations in consumption. It’s worth noting that there are gender differences and lifestyle changes that can influence results.

Furthermore, hair testing isn’t suitable for detecting substance use the week before collection, but it reflects an individual’s overall lifestyle, including low consumption patterns. On the other hand, blood and urine tests are better for shorter detection periods.

With the SCRAM™ bracelet tracking every 30 minutes over this time span, it reveals any irregularities clearly and accurately.

Use for Abstinence Monitoring

While hair alcohol testing is not suitable for tracking abstinence or social drinking, SCRAM™ bracelets can detect even low consumption and help you monitor your patterns post-fitting.

With its accurate monitoring capabilities and adjustable detection levels, this device offers a viable alternative to traditional testing methods that have their own limitations when it comes to sample preparation and contexts around abstinence.

Furthermore, the ability of SCRAM™ bracelets to offer real-time data on usage makes them valuable in providing evidence of either sobriety or relapse over the course of an individual’s recovery journey.

Therefore, if long-term trends are less important than immediate feedback from consumption habits, then a bracelet could be the ideal solution.

Accuracy and Interpretation of Hair Alcohol Testing

Accuracy and Interpretation of Hair Alcohol Testing
Accurately interpreting hair alcohol testing requires a proper sample collection and washing process. The party collecting the hair must provide context, such as drug history and recent activities, while labs need to wash samples before testing to avoid misinterpretation.

Sample Collection

Gathering an accurate hair sample involves providing context of the donor’s history and activities. It also involves washing the hair to remove any impurities. This helps ensure accuracy when detecting alcohol markers like EtG and FAEE in the sample.

Hair removal or bleaching has limited impact on detection, while shampooing does not significantly affect detectability either.

To guarantee a valid result, labs must take into account factors such as how much time passed before testing after collection. This can help confirm if results are due to internal or external exposure sources accurately.

Sample accuracy is paramount for reliable interpretation. Context provision combined with a thorough washing process provides key insights into long-term patterns of chronic excessive alcohol consumption over 3 to 6 months instead of pinpointing exact consumption times post-collection period.

Washing Process

Before testing for alcohol markers in hair, it’s important to clean the sample thoroughly. Product selection is key; the wrong product can affect results and interpretation of patterns. Labs use special chemicals that regulate levels of external contaminants while preserving internal traces from absorption into hair cells.

This helps detect true consumption over a set period and avoid misinterpretation when interpreting results or detecting patterns.

Hair samples are also washed before analysis so as not to contaminate test equipment with other substances present on the exterior surface, allowing accurate assessment without interference from environmental factors like smoke or dust particles in the air.

Benefits and Limitations of Hair Alcohol Testing

Benefits and Limitations of Hair Alcohol Testing
Discover the advantages and drawbacks of using hair alcohol testing to gain insights into long-term excessive drinking habits.

Hair analysis offers a detection accuracy that traditional urine or blood tests can’t match, providing an overview of chronic consumption over 3-6 months. It’s also used to identify environmental exposure from shared environments without access to internal pathways such as ingestion or injection.

While it may not pinpoint exact times when substances were ingested, it is reliable for detecting social drinking and heavy use over time periods more accurately than other methods.

On top of this, recent substance use isn’t detectable with this method so alternative options like SCRAM™ bracelets are better suited if necessary information needs immediate identification.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How reliable is hair alcohol testing?

Hair alcohol testing is reliable in detecting excessive drinking over a few months. It provides insights into long-term consumption patterns, making it an invaluable tool for understanding chronic use.

Its accuracy depends on proper sample collection and context provision to ensure correct interpretation of results.

Hair alcohol testing may have legal implications, depending on the situation. The results of tests can be used in court proceedings, such as child custody cases or insurance claims. It is important to understand the specifics of your state’s laws and regulations when considering hair alcohol testing to ensure you are within legal boundaries.

What is the cost of hair alcohol testing?

The cost of hair alcohol testing varies depending on the laboratory and type of test performed. Generally, it is more expensive than other tests like breathalyzers or urine tests but provides a longer-term picture of consumption.

Does hair alcohol testing indicate the amount of alcohol consumed?

Hair alcohol testing indicates chronic excessive consumption, but not exact amounts. Satirically put, it’s like trying to count stars in the sky – impossible! Knowing patterns of long-term use is invaluable, though, empowering one to understand and liberate from unhealthy habits.

Are there any health risks associated with hair alcohol testing?

Hair alcohol testing can be a powerful tool to detect excessive drinking habits, but it comes with certain risks. Picture your hair like a sponge – any foreign substances that come into contact with it will stay put, even after washing and bleaching.

This means the test could pick up traces of non-internal sources if not properly handled during collection.


You’ve probably been wondering: how does alcohol get into hair? Through hair alcohol testing, we’ve learned that alcohol enters hair through both internal and external pathways. The markers used to indicate alcohol use, like Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) and Fatty Acid Ethyl Esters (FAEE), are absorbed by the body’s bloodstream and incorporated into hair cells.

Context provision and hair washing are essential steps for accurate testing, as traces of drugs can remain detectable for months after exposure. Comparing hair testing with other methods, we can see that it provides long-term patterns rather than pinpointing exact consumption times.

All in all, hair alcohol testing is beneficial for identifying chronic excessive alcohol consumption over a few months, with the key advantage being that it provides insights into long-term patterns.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and beard care expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of men make their beards look better and get fatter. His work has been mentioned in countless notable publications on men's care and style and has been cited in Seeker, Wikihow, GQ, TED, and Buzzfeed.