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Nail testing for alcohol offers a useful alternative to hair testing.

The hair strand test (HST) for alcohol detection is considered the gold standard for assessing long-term alcohol misuse. However, a sample donor may have no, or little, hair. Worried donors can go to extreme lengths to avoid, or delay, an alcohol test. They may have shaved their hair off. In addition, some donors won’t allow their hair to be cut for religious reasons, or they may have concerns about their appearance. In these cases when hair testing is not possible, nail testing for alcohol is ideal.

Like hair, 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. Nail samples are analysed 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 and can provide an overview of alcohol consumption of up to 12 months.

An advantage of nail testing for alcohol is that the sample collection is quick, easy and non-intrusive. 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 of both. Approximately 10 mg of nail is required in total. The advantage of using toenails is that there is less potential for contamination. Acrylic nails, Shellac and other forms of nail varnish would need to be removed as this may damage the surface of the nail and impact on the drug test results.

Nail clippings can be used to provide legally defensible results. In these cases, the sample of nail clippings would need to be collected under chain of custody conditions. This would require an appointment with a trained sample collector. AlphaBiolabs can arrange to send a sample collector to an address of your choice. Or alternatively, a donor can attend one of our 11 nationwide Walk in Centres.

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.

Enquire about nail testing for alcohol

AlphaBiolabs also offers breath, blood and hair alcohol testing. Round-the-clock testing is also possible via SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring®. Get a quote for nail alcohol testing here. For expert advice or further information, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at