Fingernail Drug Test vs Hair Follicle Testing Method

Fingernail Drug Testing and Hair Follicle Drug Testing in a hospital side by side

Hair and fingernail drug testing are two of the most popular choices when administering drug tests. These options offer quick results while allowing for samples from various sources, such as hair follicles or nail clippings.

After studying the subject in-depth, I am here to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of fingernail and hair follicle drug testing. 

Quick Summary

  • Like body hair drug testing, nail testing can only detect past usage of drugs.
  • Body hair drug testing is not as reliable in determining long-term exposure to drugs compared to collecting strands of head hair. 
  • Though fingernail drug testing cannot provide the same level of detail concerning one’s history of drug use as hair testing can, it still makes for a reliable and accurate detection method.

The Difference Between Fingernail and Hair Follicle Drug Testing

A doctor explaining the difference between fingernail drug testing and hair follicle drug testing

Hair and fingernails, composed of keratin, are ideal testing sites as traces of drugs or alcohol are readily detected in them [1]

With these two body components being so easily assessable for such substances, it makes for an accurate means to determine if someone has been using or consuming any illicit drug or alcoholic beverage.

Similarly, nail drug testing involves collecting 10mg of nails as a sample and analyzing it for numerous illicit substances. Both methods can accurately detect various drugs in an individual’s system.

What Is Fingernail Drug Testing?

A doctor looking at the fingernails of a patientFingernail drug testing is a method of determining whether or not a person has been using any illegal substance. This test is conducted by taking a sample of the individual’s fingernails and testing it for drugs. 

Fingernail tests are considered more reliable than hair follicle drug tests, as they can detect usage with greater accuracy up to six months prior.

As nails grow, matter can travel through the blood vessels underneath them and get stored within their keratin fibers. 

Fingernails are four times thicker than a single hair strand, so they have much more capacity to store these substances along the nail bed.

Thus, fingernails often contain more evidence of activities or exposures than what is found in hair.

When Is A Fingernail Drug Test Used?

A fingernail drug test is used in situations where a more reliable form of testing is desired. Nail drug testing is used for pre-employment drug screenings, criminal investigations, or court hearings.

Since fingernails contain a relatively large amount of keratin and can store traces of drug use over an extended period, this testing allows for more accurate results than hair follicle drug tests.

Fingernail Testing Cutoff

Although fingernail testing has been a part of our world since the 80s, it is only recently that this form of drug detection has become more prominent. 

Unfortunately, no standardization remains in place for any industry to follow; thus, cutoff levels can vary significantly from laboratory to laboratory.

What Drugs Are Detected In Fingernail Testing?

The drugs detected in fingernail testing are Amphetamine, Benzodiazepines, Cannabis, Cocaine, Ecstasy (MDMA), Ketamine, Methadone, Methamphetamine, Opiates, Phencyclidine, and Zolpidem. 

However, it is important to note that the list of detectable drugs can vary depending on the laboratory performing the test.

Read More: How to Pass a Nail Drug Test?

What Is The Detection Window Of Drug and Alcohol Use In Fingernail Drug Tests?

The detection window of drug and alcohol use in fingernail drug tests is up until 3-6 months following the incident. Conversely, environmental exposure can be detected almost immediately through nail samples. 

Furthermore, when drugs or alcohol have been ingested orally, it is possible to detect them within 1-2 weeks of ingestion.

What Is Hair Follicle Drug Testing?

A doctor checking the hair follicles of a patient for drug testingHair follicle drug testing is a drug test that is used to detect the presence of drugs and alcohol in an individual’s system.

During the testing process, a sample of the person’s body hair is taken from the scalp or other body parts, such as the armpit or pubic area.

This body hair sample is then sent to a lab for analysis, where technicians look for traces of drugs and alcohol.

When Is a Hair Follicle Test Used?

A hair follicle test is used whenever an individual needs to be tested for recent or current drug use. Hair drug testing is often used by employers in pre-employment screenings and during employee drug testing if there are suspicions of substance abuse.

Hair drug testing may also be utilized in court proceedings, criminal investigations, and in determining sobriety levels for those struggling with addiction.

Hair Test Cutoff

The cutoff point is the decisive factor that decides if a hair sample registers as negative or positive. 

If the quantity of drugs and alcohol in your system is lower than this set cutoff, results will be labeled “Not Detected” or “Negative.” In contrast, when it surpasses the predetermined limit, you are identified as “Detected” or “Positive.”

According to the Society of Hair Testing Guidelines, cutoff levels may vary based on the type of substance being studied and the testing method used [2].

What Drugs Are Detected In Hair Tests?

A doctor looking at the hair follicles and scalp of a patientThe drugs detected in hair tests are Amphetamine, Benzodiazepines, Cannabis, Cocaine, Ecstasy (MDMA), Ketamine, Methadone, Methamphetamine, Opiates, Phencyclidine, and Zolpidem.

Like a fingernail test, hair follicle tests can also detect all types of illicit drugs and the amount and duration of the drug use.

The test results are then used to determine if an individual has been using drugs within the past 90 days.

Read More: How to Pass a Hair Follicle Drug Test?

What Is The Detection Window of a Hair Test?

The detection window of a hair test is up to 90 days following the incident. Unlike a fingernail drug test, which can detect drugs up to 3-6 months post-consumption, a hair follicle drug test is more commonly used for determining recent drug use.

“In the case of body hair and nail alcohol testing, only one long-term marker of alcohol called ethyl glucuronide (EtG) can be detected.”
National Center For Biotechnology Information


Is Nail Testing An Alternative To Hair Testing?

Yes, nail testing is an alternative to hair testing. However, unlike a hair follicle drug test which can detect drugs up to 90 days post-ingestion, a fingernail drug test is more often used to detect drugs up to 2 weeks after ingestion.

Which Is Better, Hair Testing Or Nail Testing?

Nail testing is better than hair testing because nail keratin is stronger; therefore, it can give us more accurate results than body hair. Nail tests provide a quick and discreet method for detecting single-occurrence drug or alcohol use.

Do You Need To Pass A Drug Test?

If you need to pass a drug test, either because it was an unexpected event or you are undergoing an employment screening, Clear Choice Rescue Cleanse is a detox drink that can help you cleanse your body from any drug and alcohol use. 

Rescue Cleanse has been scientifically formulated to block the metabolites detected in drug tests and flush them out of your system for up to 5 hours.



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