A Guide to Hair Testing for Alcohol

Get Alcohol Hair Follicle Test Answers and Treatment Options

Whether it’s part of court-mandated treatment or a custody battle for your children, many people are subject to hair testing for alcohol. A person’s alcohol consumption can be measured and monitored more accurately through this test, but they aren’t completely foolproof.

What should you know about alcohol markers in the hair? And how long can an alcohol hair test detect your last drink?

Icarus Behavioral Health can offer assistance to anyone who feels they could benefit from treatment for an alcohol use issue. From medical detox to outpatient treatment, we offer every level of care to assist you in the early days of sobriety. Keep reading to learn more about how alcohol use impacts your hair.

What Does Hair Alcohol Testing Show?

Hair Alcohol Testing

Some people may find themselves in a position where their sobriety is called into question. If your job or family situation calls for abstinence from alcohol consumption, then you may be subject to a hair alcohol test. The question is: what exactly does this testing method show and can it really detect alcohol use?

Hair tests are one of the most effective methods to examine long-term drinking habits. Urine tests can only show recent alcohol consumption, usually within the last 12 to 24 hours. The same is true of blood tests.

On the other hand, a hair test can detect alcohol consumption from the past six months. Because of the longer detection window, you get a far more accurate picture of someone’s drinking. If sobriety matters for your employment or court-ordered program, then hair alcohol tests are likely.

How Does the Hair Alcohol Test Work?

On a related note, you might be wondering exactly how hair testing works and what you can do if you know that you consumed alcohol during the past six months. They are surprisingly accurate and there are very few things you can do to fool the test. But how does an alcohol hair test work?

Fatty acid ethyl esters and ethyl glucuronide (EtG) both surface in the hair follicle when alcohol enters the bloodstream. Both fatty acid ethyl esters and EtG are only present when blood alcohol levels are elevated, marking a shift in the cells of your hair.

Particularly ethyl glucuronide is absorbed by the entire strand of hair through a process known as diffusion. As a result, long hair might show a positive result longer than short hair.

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Getting Samples for the Use of Hair Testing for Alcohol

The hair follicle alcohol test is extremely difficult to deceive, but there are some situations where you can avoid a positive result (in other words, a failed drug test).

If you have very short hair, then this testing method may not create an accurate picture. A centimeter of hair represents about one month of history. This means that you could theoretically cut your hair short to avoid the presence of a positive result.

Longer hair might show positive test results for years as opposed to just three to six months with shorter hair. When you’re ready to turn over a new leaf without alcohol, it might be time for a trim to eliminate ends that might retain some of the EtGs and fatty acid ethyl esters of past consumption.

However, the hair test isn’t necessarily limited to head hair. Those who are bald or who choose to shave their heads to eliminate the likelihood of proving they consumed alcohol can also use body hair. A test may be able to look at arm hair, underarm hair, and leg hair instead.

Hair Tests Provide Long-Term Proof of Drinking Alcohol

Hair Tests Provide Long-Term Proof of Drinking Alcohol

For the most part, the hair alcohol test is considered one of the more accurate markers of long-term substance use. They are deemed one of the most foolproof ways to test for alcohol use with minimal opportunity for interference.

It can be used alongside other types of tests such as urine and blood tests to give the clearest picture of substance use. This gives testers a snapshot of both long-term use spanning months and short-term use spanning the last couple of days.

There are lots of ways you can attempt to fool the system, but it is notoriously hard to do. It’s more likely that you will have a false positive than a false negative result.

False Positives and Negatives of Alcohol Hair Testing

While much harder to deceive than some urine tests, there are cases where false positives pop up. It’s far from foolproof, but an experienced tester can usually pinpoint the likelihood of positive testing simply by asking the right questions. For example, they might ask questions about hair products used, cosmetics, perfumes, and more.

Many of these items contain some degree of alcohol. You may not be ingesting them, but they still get absorbed by the hair follicle and can use your test to pop positive. In particular, hairspray can cause a significant finding in hair alcohol testing.

As a result, you may want to wash your hair and leave it natural when you go for hair alcohol testing.

Bleaching your hair can also interfere with the test results but in the opposite way. It strips your hair and can give a false negative result. However, most testing professionals are familiar with this tactic, turning to a body hair sample when head hair has been compromised.

How Much Alcohol Consumption Will Show Up?

Hair Drug Testing

Many people who are concerned about alcohol hair tests are required to maintain sobriety for one reason or another. It might be part of a custody arrangement or for your employer. No matter the reason, most people want to know how much they can drink before it shows up on testing.

Unfortunately, the hair sample is extremely sensitive to alcohol consumption of any kind. Even if you only have one or two drinks per week, it can still pop positive on a hair alcohol test. It’s worth noting that levels of EtG will be lower in someone who consumes alcohol in this more social or recreational way.

Binge drinking is pretty much guaranteed to show up on a hair test. A single episode of indulging in excess is enough to create a positive alcohol test result for months to come.

Your results may not be the same as someone else’s because your body processes the alcohol either faster or slower than the people around you. If you need a negative test result, abstain altogether.

How Long Does It Take to See Results of Hair Drug Testing?

Maybe you spent the night before a big alcohol or drug test drinking to take your mind off of what comes next. Positioned this close to the test itself, you may still have a negative test result for now.

Because hair grows by pushing dead cells out through the roots at your scalp, it can take weeks sometimes for these results to show up accurately. Testing officials will be able to see that you consumed alcohol weeks later, and you could show positive for months.

If you know you’ll be subject to long-term testing, it’s best to avoid alcohol in the first place. You can do this with help from a detox program or an inpatient treatment facility.

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Icarus Offers Treatment Options for Alcohol Misuse

If you know that you have to submit to alcohol testing for whatever reason, you might need help to get substance use under control. Icarus Behavioral Health offers the treatment you need to get sober and stay that way so that you never fail another hair follicle test.

Finding the Right Level of Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

If you are a heavy drinker, it might be problematic for you to stop drinking on your own at home. Many people prefer the comfort of a medical detox because we can prescribe medications to help with the earliest withdrawal symptoms. Plus, it makes it impossible for you to turn to substance use to eliminate the discomfort.

From here, our clients often transition to an inpatient or residential treatment program. This typically lasts for thirty to ninety days during which time you will reside in our innovative facility.

You can enroll in day treatment programs like partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient as you make your way back to the life you left behind. This enables you to spend all day in our facility receiving both individual and group therapy. At night, you get to sleep in your bed from the comfort of your home.

Getting Help for a Dual Diagnosis at Icarus

Getting Help for a Dual Diagnosis

Anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental health concerns are more prevalent among those with alcohol use disorder. Icarus supports dual diagnosis treatment so that you can get the help you need and pass your alcohol hair tests.

Our experienced clinicians can assess and assist you with your mental health needs using a variety of treatment modalities: cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, yoga therapy, and so many others. Your treatment plan is tailored to your unique needs to maintain sobriety.

We Offer In-Network Treatment for Many Insurance Providers

Paying for your drug and alcohol treatment program out of pocket can be expensive, no matter what type of facility you enroll in. Icarus Behavioral Health offers an in-network treatment center that can offset your costs to receive the help you need.

Our New Mexico facility accepts many major insurance carriers including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Optum, Cigna, TRICARE, and more. Our enrollment team is happy to verify your insurance benefits so that you get a clearer picture of what a stay in our rehab facility will cost. It takes just a few minutes of your time!

We can also work with you on a payment plan to help cover the remaining costs after insurance kicks in.

Up To 100% of Rehab Costs Covered By Insurance – Call Now!

Get Support at Icarus and Pass Hair Follicle Testing for Alcohol Every Time

The best thing you can do if you know you will have a positive hair strand test is to enroll in an alcohol treatment program that supports sobriety. By the time you are discharged from an inpatient treatment facility, it is possible that previous binge drinking will no longer show up on your testing.

We help prove a commitment to maintaining your sobriety and can give you a safe place to land while you learn to navigate the world without substances. Reach out to our enrollment team today to learn more about our treatment programs and verify your insurance benefits today.

All calls are confidential, so please reach out in confidence for our support now!


  1. Süsse, S., Selavka, C. M., Mieczkowski, T., & Pragst, F. (2010). Fatty acid ethyl ester concentrations in hair and self-reported alcohol consumption in 644 cases from different origin. Forensic science international, 196(1-3), 111–117.
  2. Triolo, V., Spanò, M., Buscemi, R., Gioè, S., Malta, G., Čaplinskiene, M., Vaiano, F., Bertol, E., Zerbo, S., Albano, G. D., & Argo, A. (2022). EtG Quantification in Hair and Different Reference Cut-Offs in Relation to Various Pathologies: A Scoping Review. Toxics, 10(11), 682.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Mental health issues: Alcohol use disorder and common co-occurring conditions. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
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