Ask the experts: Hair testing vs. hair follicle testing

Question: What is the difference between hair drug testing and hair follicle drug testing?

hair testingCalling a hair test a hair follicle test is a common misnomer. We looked to Jarod Rowland, a scientific expert in our Lenexa, Kansas hair drug testing laboratory, to better understand hair testing terminology and the hair testing collection process.

The hair follicle is actually the pocket, below the scalp, from which the hair strand grows. An actual “hair follicle” test may be quite painful for the donor as it would likely involve plucking the hair from the scalp. Consequently, during a hair collection, the hair is cut as close to the scalp as possible, so only the strands of hair above the scalp are tested and not the actual hair follicle.

During a hair testing collection, the collector cuts approximately 100-120 strands of hair from the crown of the donor’s head. When a sample is taken from the crown, a sufficient amount of hair is available for testing without causing cosmetic affects to the donor.

Once collected, the hair strands are aligned and placed into the foil packet provided with each hair collection kit. The collector aligns the root ends of the hairs with the slanted end of the foil and then folds the foil in half to secure the hair. The foil and hair are then inserted into the hair testing specimen envelope, sealed with the Custody and Control Form (CCF) sticker applied across the flap and sent to the laboratory for testing. Upon receipt of the hair specimen, the lab breaks the seal, measures and cuts 3.9 centimeters of hair from the area closest to the root-end and tests the hair specimen for drugs of abuse.

Hair testing is the only drug testing method available that provides a detection window of up to 90 days, an effective way to evaluate long-term patterns of repetitive use. We also offer a case study, white paper and webinar to learn more about hair testing.  For more information, contact us online.

For more information about drug testing, visit our website.

Updated May 29, 2019