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The hair strand test for alcohol detection has stood the test of time and is considered the gold standard for assessing long-term alcohol misuse. But the relatively newer method of detecting alcohol in nails is gaining attention.

The two techniques are similar in that both hair and nails are made from the fibrous protein keratin. As the nail grows, substances can pass from the blood vessels below the nail into the keratin fibres where they become trapped.

Our nail alcohol testing analyses samples for a specific long-term marker of ethanol (the intoxicating agent in alcohol) called ethyl glucuronide (EtG). These EtG biomarkers become trapped within the keratin fibres along the length of the nail providing an overview of alcohol consumption of up to 6 months.

Why choose nail alcohol testing?

Sample collection is quick and easy. The nail needs to be collected as close to the nail bed as possible. Either fingernails or toenails can be used for the test, but not a mixture. Approximately 10 mg of nail is required in total.

The sample of nail clippings would need to be collected under chain of custody conditions to support legally defensible results. This would require either an appointment with one of our trained sample collectors at a place convenient to the donor or at one of our 10 nationwide Walk in Centres.

Nail testing is ideal for those cases where hair testing is not possible (such as the donor has no or little hair, for religious reasons, and for those concerned with their appearance).

Because nail alcohol tests only detect EtG, AlphaBiolabs would always recommend that a blood test be taken to provide a greater insight into an individual’s level of alcohol consumption. AlphaBiolabs provides breath, blood, hair and nail alcohol testing. We also offer round-the-clock testing via SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring®. For expert advice or further information, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at

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